A year after a very successful hand bottling project with Pliny the Elder, we finally got it together to get together for another chance to bottle an unbottled product. This time, we picked two sixtels of East End Brewing Company beers – Cherry Grisette and Black Strap Stout – and worked under the blessing of brewer Scott Smith (as long as we make it clear to those who share it that East End is not bottling this stuff.)
It was just the right size of a group to get the job done without falling all over each other. Matt was a great host to the bottling crew and took care of keeping things sterile and on schedule; Mike came up from Collegeville with the tools, expertise and CO2 we needed; Jason came down from Hazelton with bottles to fill and beer to taste; D and I headed over from the west and supplied the sixtels. We gathered in Paradise, PA where shoofly pie and Amish buggies abound.
We began by sanitizing the bottles and caps, and getting the sixtels connected to the CO2 and the Blichmann beer gun. Then, working like a well oiled machine, we dumped the sanitizer from the bottles, pre-capped to keep sanitary, filled, capped, washed, dried and boxed four cases of 12-oz bottles. Everyone had a role, and sometimes we switched our roles, but we got the job done pretty quickly. And thank goodness – as the outside temperatures dropped from 42° F to 28° F the biting wind made it difficult to function.
With the exception of an incredible amount of foam in the Cherry Grisette, things went very well. Mike kept adjusting the CO2 with the thought that our set-up was the problem, and then I had a flashback to our January 12 visit to East End. The Grisette that day was so very foamy at the brewery – so much that we had to wait for our glasses to settle before tasting – and this was surely from the same kegging. Instead of adjusting the gas, we adjusted the filling technique, and things really smoothed out after that.
We took a break over homemade pizza before moving on to our second bottling, and we had time to warm up over a few good beers. I’m sorry that I didn’t write them all down, however, among the interesting homebrews that we had were a Rogen Weizen from Matt, Jeremiah’s Imperial Stout (made with cinnamon and apple; over 13%) and Dark IPA from our own Brutal Deluxe Brewing; among the professionally brewed beers were Hammerin’ Ale from Bavarian Barbarian and Season’s Wheatings from One Guy Brewing Company.
A few notes on a few of the beers:
- Our Dark IPA turned out really great (in my humble opinion.) We made it using a technique called hop bursting (or late hopping) where we added no bittering hops; only hops from the aroma hop addition to the end of the boil (one addition every five minutes.) It had a great dark color, and a big burst of hop flavor reminiscent of Olde Frosty from Selin’s Grove Brewing Co.
- Hammerin’ Ale was a really nice shade of amber. The flavor reminded us a lot of a hopped-up Yuengling Lager (but it isn’t a lager) with the malt character and hop flavor strong enough to give this ale life, but remaining well balanced. It’s more of a session beer than the big hop ales I usually lean toward, however, I liked it enough to get this growler for us and another for my parents.
- Season’s Wheatings pours a deep brown copper with an attractive tan head, and filled my nose with spicy sweetness (I think my first words were, “red birch beer!”) It has an intense spice combination of ginger, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. The ginger lightly burned in the throat. At 9%, this could be dangerously enjoyable. At the risk of comparing all of Guy’s spice beers to tea, this one reminded me of the seasonal Gingerbread Spice tea from Celestial Seasonings.
When we returned to the bottling, the Black Strap Stout went so much better. The temperatures kept dropping, and the wind picked up considerably with wind chills probably in the teens, so it was good that we could move quickly. While we cleaned up, we noticed that exposed beer and water froze within minutes.
Despite the cold, it was a great time and now we have some great beer to add to our [endless] collection.