By Chris Jennings
As the holiday season rapidly approaches we are reminded of the tedious task of gift giving. Deciding who does and doesn’t receive gifts, how much to spend on these gifts, and which credit card to put them on can be a daunting task. Instead of waiting in the holiday traffic and lines at stores, relieve some stress by cracking one of your tasty homebrews; then package up a few six packs and send them to everyone on your holiday list.
Most of us have bottled our beer at some time or another during our homebrewing adventures. Most of the time bottle conditioning is the easiest way to package our beers and ensure proper carbonation levels before consumption. The process happens just after fermentation is completed. We transfer our flat beer into bottles, add a tiny amount of sugar, cap the bottle, and allow it to sit at room temperature for a week or so; pretty much until it is the carbonation level you want upon opening and testing a few sample bottles. Once the beer is properly carbonated, you can package it and send it all over the country.
If you keg, bottling is still possible through a few different means. When coming out of the keg into a bottle, the beer should already be at the appropriate carbonation level. You then need to have sanitized bottles ready (as many as you wish to fill), a picnic/cobra tap, a 3/8 inch bottle filler, and all the connections to attach that tap to your keg. Once the tap is connected, you can jam the bottle filler into the opening of the picnic tap and you now have a bottle wand. The bottles should be pre-chilled in your freezer so that they are colder than you beer. This reduces foaming when filling the bottles. You also want to turn the gas pressure on your CO2 cylinder down to around five PSI. After setting this up, open the tap, depress the bottle filler in the bottle, and fill the frozen bottle from the bottom up. Finally, cap the bottles and ship them to friends and relatives.
There are also any number of bottle filling devices at your local homebrew shop or on the Internet. However, these options can be expensive and should be researched greatly, especially if you only plan on bottling a couple of times of year.
Now that you have your award-winning brew in bottles you should come up with some fancy labels to impress your friends and relatives with. These personalized labels can really make the gift appear thoughtful and unique. Most home brew shops carry bottle labels of some form that you can design and print out at home. If you aren’t artistically inclined or just don’t have the time there are several websites, like Grogtags.com, that will allow you to design labels from their built-in templates and then ship them to you. Once you have your personalized labels in hand you can put them on your bottles and prepare to ship them everywhere.
You can just toss you brews into a box and hope for the best. But after putting a lot of time and energy to get these brews tasting perfect, you don’t want some guy dropping them off a loading dock and screwing up the holiday season with the shattering of your beautifully labeled bottles. To avoid this tragedy you first want to wrap each bottle in a plastic bag of some kind. This will be the last line of defense so if a single bottle breaks the contents won’t soil the box and prompt the shipping company to dispose of the entire thing. With each wrapped bottle you should package them so that they are not in direct contact with the outside of the box or with each other, so add lots of packing peanuts, bubble wrap or both. Now that you have them secured and ready for their journey, take them to your local parcel service for shipping. It’s important to note that sending beer through the United States Postal Service is a felony and you should use an alternative method.
Bottling and shipping your tasty homebrew doesn’t have to be limited to the holiday season. You should ship your beer to far-away friends and relatives as often as possible. You can also use these methods to ship your brews to distant home brew competitions and amass more awards and glory for your growing homebrewing habit.
Boarfish Brown Ale [AG]
Boarfish Brown Ale [Extract]
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.