The image first surfaced on Facebook back in November. It was clearly a device of some kind, but the picture didn't reveal much other than the familiar logo of the Franconia Brewing Company, which adorned a front section molded into the shape of a giant keg. A makeshift tap handle and spigot completed the look, these fashioned from a table leg and a reused air conditioner part from an 18-wheeler.
Behind all of this sat what looked like a row of storage cabinets. However, their contents were a mystery, as was the purpose of the unit as a whole. Owner Dennis Wehrmann remained tight-lipped, leaving fans of the brewery to conjecture as to what the structure might be. Guesses ranged from a porta potty, to a delivery mechanism capable of shipping beer to the space station, to a beer time machine. Personally, I secretly held out hope it was some sort of beer shower, though I also wondered if a bit of plastic tubing might convert it into a space-age beer bong. Not surprisingly, it didn't turn out to be any of these things.
The item in question is, in fact, an energy transformer, and it's the cornerstone of Franconia's push to take sustainable brewing to a level previously unheard of in the state of Texas. Built by the Perfectly Green Corporation, their "Intelligent Energy Allocation" technology is able to capture energy from a variety of sources, which is then combined and re-distributed to supply a customer's needs. A Wednesday afternoon unveiling was the official debut for the McKinney-based provider, as Franconia is Perfectly Green's first commercial account.
Phase 1 of the project, consisting of the power delivery system and a solar carport, is now fully operational. Though more work is planned, the carport's solar panel array is already gathering enough energy such that Franconia is now a completely self-powered brewery. Further build-outs will seek to harness thermal, as well as additional solar energy, to allow the brewery to actually sell electricity back to the power company. Look for these additions to be part of a new outdoor beer garden, which will have the added bonus of providing weekend visitors with an enhanced tour experience.
The changes are all part of what's turning out to be a banner year at Franconia. Saturday tours are approaching record numbers, and excitement continues to build around the brewery's 5th Anniversary. Limited-edition brews created to commemorate that milestone were announced last month, with the first of these "five beers for five years" selling out in a matter of weeks. That beer, an Oatmeal Stout, was the initial offering in a series of brews which represent a temporary break in Wehrmann's long-standing German traditions.
As you may recall, we previously hinted at the makeup of future beers in the lineup, suggesting we might see brews with American, Belgian or French influences. Indeed, currently in the fermenter is a Double IPA (brewed exclusively with American hop varieties), to be followed by Franconia Dunkel re-imagined as Belgian tripel, and a wheat beer fermented with champagne yeast (i.e. the French brew). As for the fifth beer, and the culmination of Wehrmann's decision to go against the grain for one year only, the style and recipe of that brew is still yet to be determined.
Are there any more surprises on the horizon for the growing brewery in McKinney? Maybe, but that's a story for another day.