Thursday, August 30, 2012

Pry-off versus twist-off bottles? What's your preference?

Well, after several years of asking our bottle supplier to give us the option to switch to pry-off bottles instead of the twist-off ones we are currently using, he has come through.  So I'm putting it out there to all of you - what's your preference?

A little history:  when we first starting bottling, our bottling line was set up for the shorter Heritage style bottles and couldn't be changed to a different size.  The closest bottle supplier could only get us twist-off bottles, so that is what we have been using.  Freight is a huge cost for bottles, and so we couldn't easily get the pry-off kind from another supplier.

But now our new bottling line can handle both kinds, and our supplier can get the pry-off bottles for us.  The benefits to the beer are that over time, less oxygen can leak past the caps on pry-off bottles versus twist-off bottles - Sierra Nevada did the research that led them to make the switch to pry-off bottles a year or so ago.  Also, our homebrewer friends have made it clear that they prefer pry-off bottles for reusing for their homebrew.  The cons?  Well, obviously you have to have an opener to get the bottle open - but most of the time, if we are capping on foam at the bottler, it's pretty hard to twist off our caps anyway.

So, anyway, what are all of your thoughts?


Thanks for all the comments!  Pry-off bottles were your overwhelming choice!  They are ordered, and we should be making the switch in a month or so.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Bigger bottles...

We recently began packaging Sue in 750 ml (25.4 oz) bottles, starting with the batch that is hitting the shelves this week.  Why, and why now?

Well, when we first began bottling Sue, we were limited by our old bottling line (the infamous Meheen) to only one size bottle we could run.  So, we came out with Sue in our four-pack Brewmaster's Reserve.  We also were using that Brewmaster's Reserve 4-pack for our seasonals, but since in TN high-alc beer is sold in separate stores from regular beer, having two different beers in the same 4-packs was not a problem.  However, as we branched out into Alabama, and recently in Mississippi - states where all beer is sold in the same stores -  we couldn't keep putting two different beers into the Brewmaster's Reserve packs.

After seeing the great reception we got from our Fortuitous in the 750's, I decided to purchase the changeover parts so that our new bottling line could be set up for bigger bottles.  With the bigger bottles, which will be sold individually, we won't have to come up with a new 4-pack carton every time we want to bring out a new limited release.  The 4-packs are expensive and the minimums runs are large.  Now, we can simply get a label done and run with it.  So our regular seasonal beers, like the Rye Saison, will continue to be in the 4-packs, but our high-alc beers and limited releases will be in the bigger bottles.

So we are excited about the bigger bottles!  We will be able to do a lot more limited releases, without sinking a ton of resources into packaging.  Sue will be a regular in the big bottles, and we plan on releasing some of this year's Bells Bend Preservation Ale, a fresh hop ale brewed with hops grown right down the road at Sulphur Creek Farm in Bells Bend, in the 750's later on this fall.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Hop Time!

It's getting to be that time again!  Yeah, football season is starting soon, but that's not what I'm talking about. This time of year, brewers get excited about just one thing - fresh hops!  This past Saturday, the Yazoo crew  joined some folks from Sulphur Creek Farm in Bells Bend to pick hops for our annual Fresh Hop ale.

The hops we picked were of the Cascade variety, and were planted about three years ago.  Earlier this spring, the folks at Sulphur Creek expanded the hop trellis area and planted a local variety of hops, that were sourced growing wild at another local farm.  The owner of that farm said the hops have been growing wild on his property for years.

The Cascades planted a few years ago were ready to be picked - the drought in June had been pretty hard on them.  But the local variety exploded into new growth once the rains came back in July, and we decided to let them continue growing for another month or so.

The hops picked Saturday went into a brewing tank on Sunday morning, and are happily steeping all of their resiny, oily goodness into a batch of beer.  Once the rest of the hops are picked, in about a month, we will do the same with them, and then blend the two batches together into one big Fresh Hop ale.

We're planning another big party again once the beer is ready.  And if all goes well, we plan on bottling some of this Fresh Hop ale in the big 750 ml bottles.  A local artist out in Bells Bend is working on a great label for the bottles.  So stay tuned!

Here are some great pics of the harvest, thanks to Paul Schatzkin!