Mark Zappasodi and Scott Van Campen are neighborhood friends from Staten Island. Zappsasodi is a home brewer and Van Campen is a metalworker and artist. Over a couple of beers, they brewed up an idea.
“What if we made this weird sculpture that made beer?” Van Campen said, owner of New York Custom Fabricators.
Nine months of Sundays, and a grant from the Staten Island Council on Arts and the Humanities later, they rolled out a steampunk-inspired, fully functionally brewery on wooden spoke wheels fabricated from recycled steel, aluminum, stainless steel, and wood. They call it “brewing as art.”
The hulking contraption is a beauty to behold and made me appreciate the art and science that goes into making beer.
“I like the (steampunk) aesthetic,” says Van Campen, who said he gets some of his inspiration from an old locomotive repair yard near his shop. “I like the old Victorian, industrial look.”
The structure can brew 10 gallons of beer and can be transported anywhere–like World Maker Faire. The structure will be on display at the Faire on Saturday, Sept. 29, but probably won’t be brewing because the need for water can make a muddy mess. The brewery-on-wheels makes beer, but doesn’t dispense it. However, Zappasodi and Van Campen will be pouring beer out of a modified whiskey barrel at a pre-event party on Friday night.
The gravity-fed system starts with a hot liquor tank that pours propane-heated water over another tank of boiled grains, aka mash. The resulting wort (unfermented mash) is transferred into a third tank, hoisted by a hand-cranked pulley, cooled, and poured into a glass carboy for fermentation. The handle for the pulley crank is made from a curly maple tree harvested on Van Campen’s property in upstate New York.
“People don’t expect it to be functional,” said Van Campen. “ But it’s a real teaching tool.”