Saturday, December 5, 2009

Bottles in time for Xmas?

Yesterday we bottled. Two halfie kegs became about fourteen cases of 750ml (25.4 oz, or as the TTB required us to state on the bottle, "One pint, 9.4 fl. oz.") of flip top, reusable bottles. They are carbonating in the glass right now, though I doubt they are doing so very quickly even though they were primed with lager yeast. Gotta get them in a small, heated space for about a week.

The first bottle run went as expected: it took too long! But we had to arrange all the right parts, boil everything, then boil what we forgot. Measuring the priming sugar; finding the goldern priming sugar (I know it is here somewhere!). Ed had to tinker a bit with the bottle washer. He sorted the easy to clean from those destined to be recycled (I had brought out the graveyard of homebrew bottles to test the wash method). But at the end of the day, we knew that next run will be way faster and easier.

I first seriously started looking into using reusable deposit bottles for our beer after our participation in the Green Renaiscance Festival this year. We were going to pour our beer into corn cups, but I had heard that the corn poly plastic was not as eco-groovy (™ , Bob Ornelas, 1994) as claimed. Turns out that they only break down in a "commercial composting environment" and that they do so more slowly than other compost, delaying the composting company's ability to turn around and sell their product to farms. City of Portland basically forced the companies that take the curbside compost to accept the corn cups as part in parcel, but they would not take ours as we were from "out of town" e.g. Saint Helens. Nice woman with City of Portland (forgot her name) gently chided me that "use once and destroy" was not really sustainable, anyways.

So out on Krugers Farm, Suz tried using mason jars with some success, some failure. We are going to try again next summer, with better a return plan in place. People loved both that they got to drink out of glass instead of plastic, and that we were making an extra effort to do business in a more responsible manner. Also, there was something in the way that they carried themselves when they brought the jar back and put it into the bus tub for reuse.

Kegs are great. When treated right, a keg lasts (nearly) forever. They are 100% reusable, right down to the keg collars that we scrub clean and re-lable, and the plastic caps we scrub off the Sharpie™ markings. With one keg sale, 124 pints of our lovely ale moves from brewery to site of consumption. Cost-savvy beer lovers can glean free or cheap fridges from Craigslist or such and buy beer in bulk for a garage fridge.

Kegs suck. They are big and heavy. Our keg army is a mix up of three different styles, each of which has its perks and drawbacks, and takes different setups to clean and fill. Competition for tap handles at bars and restaurants is fierce, and you have to deal with the politics of distribution, old loyalties, and whether or not a relatively unknown brewery’s keg is going to move quickly enough to justify its space, especially if the venue only has a few taps.

A bottle just takes up a few inches on a store shelf. Bottle shop patrons love new things. Hmmm…

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