Left Hand brewmaster Ro Gunzel kindly took time out from his busy day to give us a thorough tour of his brewery.
One of the more interesting nuggets we gleaned from Ro: the yeast used to brew Left Hand's exceptional Polestar Pilsner was a culture he had successfully conditioned himself prior to his employment at the brewery. He also explained that the water used by the brewery is unusually soft, perfect for brewing pilsner, but needing the addition of various minerals to effectively brew other styles of beer.
Left Hand’s 60 barrel brewhouse was installed between 2008 and 2009. It’s quite the monolithic beast, requiring a good climb to reach the touch-screen controlled brew platform.
Advancement Through Technology
Left Hand brewmaster Ro Gunzel championed the addition of this top of the line German-made BrauKon SmartBoil 68 barrel wort kettle. He said it allows finer control of boils than in many other kettles on the market and was more than worth the significant investment.
The grain mill
Another piece of German hardware that Ro is pleased to have acquired is this Kunzel grain mill. He explained that this particular brand of mill provides him with a lot more control over the milling process than many cheaper options.
Left Hand will soon be installing a centrifuge, which will take over much of the work of this impressive looking filtration system.
Nitro Milk Stout has become such a hot commodity for Left Hand that much of the brewery's capacity has been dedicated to its production. The brewery is currently in the process of rolling out 12-ounce Nitro six packs to select markets in some of the 26 states and 10 countries where it has distribution. On the day we visited, most of these tanks were full of Milk Stout.
As demand increases, Left Hand's property is rapidly becoming a sea of tanks. In 2009 the brewery installed five massive 180 barrel fermenters, have since installed three 480 barrel fermenters and is currently awaiting the delivery of another three more 480s.
It's Not All Nitro, though
Hidden away in a few quiet corners of the brewery are stacks of wine and bourbon barrels. Some contain a few projects Left Hand worked on with a local homebrew group, while others contain Wake Up Dead Imperial Stout, and some top-secret sour projects. Shhhhh!
Ready to Go
Left Hand to has a massive inventory of the new Nitro on hand, ready to ship.
A Special Sip
The highlight of the beers we tried at Left Hand was Beer Week Sauce, an American porter conditioned with ground coffee. The beer had the aroma of cold brewed iced coffee and the flavor to match. A visit to Left Hand is also not complete without trying Nitro Milk Stout and Polestar Pilsner fresh at the source. Both are truly exceptional examples of their respective styles.
The tap room
The brewery tap room has 22 taps and 2 cask engines pouring year round-beers, seasonal options, and special tap room-only brews. Growlers, six packs, and bombers are available to go. The brewery maintains a thick book of local eateries that will deliver to the tap room to fill your belly while you drink some fresh beer.
Hall of Fame
In 18 years Left Hand has built quite the impressive medal wall. The brewery has won more than 15 medals at Great American Beer Festival and 8 medals at the World Beer Cup alone.