We hand-built the Vinegar Brewery on our homestead during the summer of 2015. It was a big job (and expensive), but we were excited to finally take the most important step toward our dream of starting Rockbridge Cider Vinegar.
The brewery has a large covered area where the ripe apples are unloaded, washed, and sorted. This helps us begin the work in any kind of weather.
The brewery has three rooms. The Pressing Room is unheated (quite chilly in the Fall and Winter). This is where we grind and press the apples. We are inspected every year by the Virginia Department of Agriculture, so every surface is washable and regularly disinfected. All the equipment and utensils are either stainless steel or glass.
The Cider Room is where the apple juice is fermented into hard apple cider. The sugar in the sweet apple juice is converted into alcohol by the addition of a premium Champagne Yeast. The cider room is kept at a temperature of between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, because I've found that the yeast is happiest at that temperature range.
The Vinegar Room is the third room in the brewery. This is where the hard (alcoholic) apple cider is slowly transformed into apple cider vinegar. We add our own secret blend of “Mother of Vinegar” to the vinegar vats. Over several months, the alcohol is completely transformed into vinegar. I keep the temperature in the vinegar room between 80 and 90 degrees. “Mother of Vinegar” requires a very warm temperature to do its magic. I'll share more about the vinegar brewing process in a future blog.
In 2017 we added solar panels to the roof of the vinegar brewery. Now most of the electricity we use in the brewery comes from a renewable source. We all need to do our little bit for the planet, don't we? We have already out-grown our brewery. So, we might be adding to it in the future. Stay Tuned!