ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Albany's first craft brewery will open in early fall, although the grand opening probably can't come fast enough for Pretoria Field's brewer and COO Chris Willis.
WALB's Melissa Hodges was there on Tuesday to view the progress of the highly-anticipated brewery and even got to see a critical and expensive piece of machinery unveiled for the first time.
"It's like unwrapping a Christmas present," said Willis, an employee from Brewfab, a Tampa, Florida based company as he removed the tightly wrapped cellophane packaging protecting a custom-made control panel.
Described as "beautiful", Willis said it will "run all the different bells and whistles and pumps and valves," although Willis noted the majority of the brewing process is manual.
Brewfab built four custom fermenting vessels for Pretoria Fields, three are 60-barrel tanks.
The smallest is a 30-barrel tank. "Just as an idea as a unit of measurement," offered Willis. "A barrel is about 31 gallons, so if you are looking at that 30 barrel tank you are looking at 930 gallons of beer."
"I can't tell you how exciting (this is). Of course, I am getting sort of in the twilight of my career, but doing a project like this has been a real blessing, we are combining the old with the new," said President of LRA Constructors Ben Barrow.
LRA is the firm handling the renovations of the historic downtown buildings that will soon occupy the new Pretoria Fields Craft Brewery, Tasting Room and Gardens
30 to 40 people are working on the job site and the contractor said it will stay busy.
"It will be, right until it opens, which is looking to be the end of September, first of October until it is completed," said Barrow.
Earlier, Pretoria Fields leadership hoped to open the brewery in September.
Unfortunately, delays due to massive storms earlier in the year putting a strain on available labor, coupled with the usual challenges when working on a historic project, have delayed the project by about a month.
For Willis, and the entire Pretoria Fields management, brewing the first batch of craft beer can't come fast enough.
"When the tanks started to fill in, I think it dawned on everybody, everybody got excited, (and said) we might actually make some beer here," said Willis.
And they will have a lot of brewing to do to fill those gigantic tanks.
But before that, the team has to first clean and disinfect the tanks, a process called a water brew.
They hope to be brewing actual beer sometime in mid-September with fresh beer ready for an October opening.
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