Chief Bottle Washer

Kind of the running gag in the beer business is that only about 10% of the effort goes into making beer. By far the vast majority of time goes into cleaning. There there are tax forms and other business paperwork then, after about 100 hours or so of doing something else, if you’re lucky, you can spend a day making beer.

Not to complain — I actually enjoy all the different aspects of this — but it really is surprising how, from everyone else’s perspective, they say “oh, you make beer?” and I’m, like, “well, a little. Mostly, I wash things.” I’m thinking of having my cards changed to reflect my title as “Chief Bottle Washer”. 🙂

Today was a bottling day. As a just-getting-started nano-brewery, this is one of our many processes that are still largely and very-noticeably not-automated. So we cleaned & sanitized 12 cases of bottles, plus a couple cases of 22oz to keep around for …uh… “quality control*”. Then all the caps, and the (by hand) bottling equipment. And all the lines and gaskets involved. Then we got to start bottling.

*Seriously, though — I’m not going to try to sell beer that I wouldn’t drink myself! And I need to make sure that it holds up if kept in the fridge for a while. (I actually think our beers tend to taste a bit better after a couple of months of aging. But I digress…)

Bottling is actually kind of fun; even when it’s fully manual. At our scale — just doing 12 (++) cases in an afternoon — it’s big enough that it’s kind of “a production”, but small enough that it’s not totally overwhelming. But again big enough that we’re both pretty tired at the end of the day and can look at a big pile of boxed beer ready to go to market, and that’s a nice feeling.

Oh yeah: and labeling. When we first started out (ok: we’re still just starting out, but when we were even more just starting out!), we weren’t sure what would sell and what would be “experimental”, nor how much turn we’d have, etc. So I had the clever idea that I’d get my bottle labels with a big blank spot where I could just write in what the beer was. Plus, that would help emphasize the “hand crafted” aspect of our operation, which seemed like a plus. (Pro tip: don’t let a nerd do your marketing! 😉 ). Anyway, that’s all well & good, and it’d kind-of fun and I get to practice my penmanship and etc., etc….

…But 12 cases is a lot of labels to write!

(NOTE: We put all the beer in boxes today, but I’ll write the labels and affix them some other day.)

(ALSO NOTE: Pretty Purple Porter (#5) is popular enough that I’m now ordering pre-printed labels for that. So now the hand-written ones are destined to become valuable collectors items; hurry, get yours before they’re all gone!)

Anyway, it was a very fun — but also very tiring — day of “making beer”, even if no actual beer got made, and most of the day was spent cleaning things. Because that’s what “making beer” is all about: cleaning.

Stay friendly, my thirsts!

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