Posts Tagged ‘bottling’

bottling barrel aged wild beers

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015


wow, has it really been a year since my last post? these past twelve months have flown by as the phantom carriage has grown and expanded.  we took on a head brewer, an assistant brewer, a bar manager, and a graphic designer, and our employee count is now in the double digits.  since we have a great team in place, I feel comfortable jumping back into blogging and plan on monthly updates that focus on different wild beer production implementation aspects.

  • specifically, I hope to highlight instances where our team was able to apply a DIY homebrewing approach to the professional arena to achieve one or more benefits (e.g., improved quality, money savings, etc.).
  • for example, one of our team’s recent goals has been the bottling of our beers.  however, off-the-shelf bottling solutions easily run thousands of dollars, and appear to use a trough system that seems to expose beer to oxygen during the bottling process.
  • luckily, commercial brewers utilize a forum similar to  while researching bottling implementations I came across a post describing a home built rig capable of counter pressure bottle filling (which minimizes oxygen exposure) which cost a fraction of the pre-fab systems.  the next week BL and I put our rig together with a morebeer order, a sawzall, a drill, and some elbow grease (morebeer sells a similar rig for a pretty steep markup here).
  • after some successful practice runs, we got the team together and ran more than a thousand bottles of non-barrel aged beer through the system.  once we had our setup dialed I started tinkering with our barrel aged offerings, which require a little more care to bottle condition.
  • more specifically, the high gravity and significant age of our barrel aged wild beers necessitate the addition of yeast during bottling to ensure adequate carbonation.  I have done this successfully many times in the past at home, and slightly tweaked my implementation to give even our double-digit ABV beers the best chance of carbing up in the bottle.
  • before bottling day I whipped up a large yeast starter and calculated my priming sugar amounts to achieve my target volume.  since we currently only bottle one oak barrel worth of beer at a time, I primed a half barrel sanke keg with the sugar solution, filled the keg halfway with beer, added a portion of my yeast starter, and topped off the keg with beer.  once the keg was full, we hooked it up to our bottling line, bottled and capped, and refilled once the keg was empty (the keg was only refilled two more times).  keg filling can even be performed in parallel with bottling to save time, although once you start getting into higher volumes it becomes more prudent to bottle straight off of a brite tank.
  • building our own bottling line has really simplified the bottling process while maximizing the quality of the beer in the bottle.  I only wish I had one of these suckers when I was bottling at home, especially since a two-head system will only run you a couple hundred bucks!

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bottling the basque cider, holiday gift suggestions

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

with the holidays in full swing and an unrelenting stream of work rolling in, it’s been hard to find time to set aside for a little zymurgy-related activities.  however, I did manage to set aside a couple of hours to bottle up my first attempt at a basque cider.

  • despite the healthy pellicle that formed on this batch, the resulting cider was remarkably smooth, with a slightly tart finish.  there was also a much more noticeable apple flavor when compared to earlier batches, which I am assuming is the result of using montrachet yeast instead of champagne.
  • the earthy lambic-like notes that I had noticed during fermentation had mellowed as well, and the cider was left with a subtle funk aroma that was in line with a year-old bottle of basque cider I had tried.  it almost seems as though the funk mellows with time in cider, instead of increasing as with some of my long-term beer experiments.  In addition to corking the cider, I also carbed and capped a few bottles to see if the fizz brings out any other desirable characteristics.

while I was bottling the cider, my mind started wandering onto the topic of holiday gift giving.

  • first and foremost, I am a big fan of giving homemade items as gifts – anything from pickles and beer to loaves of holiday bread and needlework lets the recipient know that some time, effort, and care went into the end product.  another benefit of giving homemade is that your gifts are usually less expensive to put together.
  • however, even when lack of time (or motivation) strikes, you can still come through with a thoughtful gift for the beer lover in your family by presenting them with a tasty beer and  food item pairing.  For example, it doesn’t take too much effort (or money) to score a nice obscure belgian (pannepot grand reserva, perhaps?) or fancy american sour (supplication, anyone?) and pack it with a savory chunk of creamy, palate-coating cheese (a little humboldt fog, maybe?) – in fact, one trip to a well-appointed whole foods would do the trick, and makes for a great after-work indulgence.  just an idea…


bottling the imperial espresso stout

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009


christmas is upon us, and while brewing my partial mash IPA I decided to bottle a case of my imperial espresso stout as a gift for my pops.

  • CB was over and volunteered to help out.  I’m glad he did, since the whole event turned into a fiasco.
  • when I originally brewed this stout, I pitched a smack pack of wyeast 9097-PC Old Ale Blend that never seemed to take off, so I repitched with a vial of white labs high gravity ale yeast and kegged after a primary of over a month.
  • evidently, the brett in the original smack pack must have kicked in after kegging and went to town over the next 7 months.
  • I should have known that something was wrong when I went to charge the keg with a little CO2.  as soon as I stuck the ball lock on the gas in post, it popped right off.  I just shrugged it off and proceeded to plug in my cobra tap into the beer out post.
  • in true overcarbed fashion, as soon as the ball lock was seated, the keg pressure blew open the cobra tap and thick stout foam violently shot out of my attached bottling tube.
  • luckily, the whole assembly was in a bucket of sanitizer, so the mess was minimal, but if I had just hooked up the keg to my kegerator was I had originally planned, it would have been catastrophic.
  • after forcing the ball lock off after a couple seconds of panic, I tried purging the keg, which resulted in a blast radius of foam a few feet in diameter.
  • finally, CB came up with the idea of hooking the cobra tap to the gas in post.  we did, and after 5+ minutes of foam constantly pouring out of the tap, the keg was in equilibrium and ready to bottle.  phew!
  • however, the beer ended up tasting great and the brett gave it a little earthy funk that fit in with the roasted malt and heavy dose of espresso.  I think JF will enjoy this pitch-black brew after work or as a nightcap.
  • MERRY XMAS EVERYBODY! enjoy some great brews with some great company!

blowing off some foam in the keg

bottling the stout

the end result