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Stirring the mash
Stirring the mash

A day of craft brewing at Turkey Hill

Maris Otter malted barley
Maris Otter malted barley

Recently I was fortunate enough to spend the day with a fellow homebrewer from my local club, the Black Hops Unit of Centre County, at a commercial brewery located 90 minutes due east of State College in the town of Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. Turkey Hill Brewing is located next to the Inn at Turkey Hill and the Brewmaster is Donny Abraczinskas.

An early 5:15am start was called for in order to reach the brewery by 7:30am for mash-in which had already begun by the time we arrived. Turkey Hill Brewing have a 7 barrel system which comprises of the following:

  • 210 gallon Mash Tun – with Grist Hopper, which holds approx 400 Lbs of grain, suspended above it.
  • 270 gallon Brew Kettle – steam jacketed.
  • 1 BBL experimental fermenter
  • 2 x 210 gallon conical fermenters – one used for lagers such as Helles, Dunkels, Oktoberfest, Vienna Lager and the other used for Belgian beers such as Blondes, Dubbels, Saisons.
  • 3 x 210 gallon flat-top fermenters – used for ales such as Pale Ales, IPAs, Scottish Ales.
  • 8 x Bright Tanks – located in the Cold Room for ageing, force carbonation and serving beer to the two bars.
  • Hot Liquor Tank – constructed from a large re-purposed dairy tank.
  • Glycol Chiller – serving the jacketed fermenters and Plate Wort Chiller.

Mashing & Lautering


Water had been pre-heated in the Boil Kettle overnight and was then pumped into the Mash Tun whilst mixing it with the crushed malted barley as it exited the Grist Hopper.

The beer being brewed was Journeyman IPA which is a staple of the brewery and has a massive 685 Lb grain bill so additional sacks of grain were being milled and augured up to the Grist Hopper during mashing-in.

City water is used for the beers at Turkey Hill Brewing with the only modifications being charcoal filtering, the addition of calcium sulphate to the mash, and chlorides added to the boil. The latter is not added to the mash because experience shows that they do not dissolve fully and carry over to the boil. These additions help accentuate both the hops and the malt in the final beer.

 Various fittings, tools & gaskets
Various fittings, tools & gaskets

Once mashing-in was complete it was left to rest for about an hour at 150 deg F to allow the enzymes to convert the starches into fermentable sugars. The grain bill comprised of the following malted barley:

  • Marris Otter
  • Pale
  • Crystal 30L
  • Victory/Biscuit
  • Munich

In addition to the above there was also some corn sugar added to help attenuate and dry out the beer a bit more than the malt bill alone would allow.

Recirculating the mash
Recirculating the mash

After the conversion was complete hot water was pumped in from underneath to float the grain bed and it was then recirculated to mix the mash and ensure conversion was completed throughout as well as set the grain bed in order to act as a filter.

The recirculation was continued until the inline sight glass showed a clear liquid then the next stage was to fit a fly-sparge arm and begin the sparging process of rinsing the sugary solution into the Brew Kettle.

Whilst filling the Brew Kettle a sample was taken every 50 gallons to check the specific gravity using a refractometer that measured readings in Degrees Plato.


Sight Glass whilst transferring the wort to the Brew Kettle
Sight Glass whilst transferring the wort to the Brew Kettle

In order to help reduce the length of the brew day heating of the wort began once the Brew Kettle was partly full which meant once sparging was complete it did not take long for the wort to come to a vigorous boil.

A handful of hops were added to the boil to help the foam or ‘hot break’ dissipate. According to John Palmer in his book How To Brew the foam or hot break is as follows:

The foam is caused by proteins in the wort that coagulate due to the rolling action of the boil. The wort will continue to foam until the protein clumps get heavy enough to sink back into the pot. You will see particles floating around in the wort. It may look like Egg Drop Soup.

Once the initial boil was complete the first bittering addition of Columbus hops were added which then provided time for the emptying of the Mash Tun and subsequent cleaning to begin. The spent grains were shovelled into 7-8 large plastic trash cans and placed outside for a local farmer to come and collect then use as quality cattle feed.

Boiling the wort
Boiling the wort

With 15 minutes remaining for the boil Whirlfloc and Yeast Nutrient were added followed by a flavoring addition of Falconer’s Flight hops.

  • Whirlfoc is one of the brand names for Irish (or Carrageen) Moss which is an algae that is dried and added to the boil in order bind together the proteins in the wort and help them drop out of solution once the boil is complete.
  • Yeast Nutrient is added to assist with the healthy propagation or growth of the yeast during fermentation.
  • Falconer’s Flight is a blend of hops.

At the end of the boil a flame-out addition of Falconer’s Flight hops was added for aroma. Most of the hops used at Turkey Hill Brewing are in pellet form which helps improve freshness.

Whirlpool, Cooling & Pitching

Plate Chiller and wort aeration
Plate Chiller and wort aeration

At the end of the boil the wort in the Brew Kettle was recirculated to cause a whirlpool motion which is a commonly used technique to help gather the sediment of used hops and ‘cold break’ in a cone in the center of the vessel. Cold Break is the coagulation of proteins aided by the Whirlfloc addition that help with clarity of the final beer by reducing the potential for ‘chill haze’.

Once the whirlpool motion had finished after about 20 minutes the hoses were reconfigured to direct the wort through the Plate Chiller that uses both cold water and glycol to reduce the wort temperature from around 190 deg F to 65 deg F.

Yeast Propogator & flat-top fermenters
Yeast Propogator & flat-top fermenters

As the wort exits the Plate Chiller it passes through a sight glass where it is oxygenated through a diffusing stone that is hooked up to an O2 tank. The wort then enters the fermentation tank and fills from the bottom-up.

The yeast being used for this batch of Journeyman IPA was the Conan strain as used by The Alchemist out of Vermont. The yeast had been stored and propagated in a converted 15.5 gallon Sanke keg. This was then pitched into the bottom of the fermenter tank using CO2.


Jim emptying the Mash Tun
Jim emptying the Mash Tun

As a homebrewer I am used to the need for cleaning and sanitizing of equipment and commercial or pro brewing is no different other than it is on a much larger scale and although automated to a degree with the use of powerful pumps it is still a lot of intense hard work.

Once the grains had been removed from the Mash Tun it was hosed down with water and then the filter plates were removed for cleaning and the inside of the vessel was washed and rinsed. Once clean it was all reassembled.

Conical fermenters
Conical fermenters

After the Brew Kettle had been emptied this was cleaned internally using caustic solution being recirculated via the pumps and the same happened with the Plate Chiller. After caustic cleaning both were rinsed thoroughly. Then the outside of everything was washed with soap and rinsed with water.

With the fermenter and hoses they were cleaned and then ‘burnt’ using 200 deg F water as a means of sanitizing everything that would come into contact with the cooled wort.

Finally the floor of the brewery, which sloped on both sides to a long channel and drain, was washed and rinsed. All of this meant that at the start of the next brew day the whole of the brewery was clean.


Cold Room with Bright Tanks
Cold Room with Bright Tanks

During my visit to Turkey Hill Brewing I was fortunate enough to be able to sample a number of their beers including some interim tests of their barrel ageing program. The beers sampled included:

  • Scottish 60/- (60 Shilling) – this beer was undergoing the final stages of carbonation during my visit and was then put on tap. It had a very smooth mouth-feel and a malty, nutty, slightly caramel flavor.
  • Bière de Garde – quite a rare beer to find commercially in the USA and this one had a great mouth-feel and maltiness. This example was fermented with a Munich lager yeast and is proving very popular with the customers.
  • Columbia County Common – brewed with Mosaic hops and named after the PA county in which Turkey Hill is located.
  • Remember the A.L.A.M.O. Alt – a great German style with this one having an ABV of 5.9%.
  • Super Moon Saison – has an ABV of 6.6% and bitterness of 32 IBUs.
  • Sour Saison w/ Raspberry – initially you get sourness on the nose from this beer but the taste has a nice balanced raspberry fruit flavor.
  • Journeyman IPA – this is the beer we were brewing and it was currently being served via a hand-pull beer engine out of a Firkin which gave it a smooth mouth-feel and rounded out the hop bitterness nicely. It had also been dry-hopped with Cascade and Simcoe. The beer we brewed during that day was also going to be dry-hopped once fermentation was complete.
  • Brett Beer – this beer was a Pale Ale fermented with 100% brettanomyces giving an ABV of 6% and bitterness of 43 IBUs. It was also dry-hopped with East Kent Goldings.
  • Wholly Trinity Tripel – this sample was from the barrel ageing program and had Brett added. It was placed in the cask back in April and had some vanilla from the oak. Next year it is due to be bottled in 750ml bottles which will be cork ‘n’ caged – a definite sipping beer!
  • Rolling Fog Barley Wine – this is a seasonal beer with casks being released over the coming months. A Barleywine is one of my favorite styles of beer and this one blew me away with a smooth rounded flavor plus was well balanced with 85 IBUs and about 10.5% ABV.
  • Pale Ale – this sample was from the barrel ageing program and had Brett Lambicus added.
  • Farmhouse Kölsch – another sample from the barrel ageing program that has had Brett added.
Oak casks for barrel-ageing
Oak casks for barrel-ageing

Additional beers sampled included a Saison made with orange blossom honey and barrel aged. Fog & Flame which is a Dry Irish Stout that is on Nitro and had locally brewed Espresso coffee added post-fermentation. Finally, Tim, who was a volunteer at the brewery brought in a homebrewed Milk Stout that had won a local homebrew competition and the recipe is due to be brewed at Turkey Hill.

Also in the barrel ageing program is a cask of Belgian Dubbel that has the sediment from 25 different commercial bottled beers added to it. As you can probably tell Turkey Hill like to experiment with beers and also seem to be doing a great job of introducing the local area to new beer styles with some 40+ different beers having been brewed over the last 3.5 years.

Range of beers on tap
Range of beers on tap

I would like to give my many thanks to Donnie (Brewmaster), Jim (Assistant Brewer), and everyone at Turkey Hill Brewing Company for making me feel so welcome and allowing me to experience a full commercial brew day. I would also like to thank Chris, my fellow homebrewer, for facilitating this opportunity.

If you are in the Central Pennsylvania area I highly recommend visiting Turkey Hill Brewing and sampling their beer. Their contact details are:

Turkey Hill Brewing Company
991 Central Road
PA 17815

Tel: 570-387-8422


If you have any comments or questions on this article, please do not hesitate to leave them below.

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