Alright folks, you remember this question don't you? Well all that happened the other day and this morning I had a meeting with the sensory specialist and now I am here to relay the answer. Now the answer to this wonderful beer in bottle question is relevant to the corking line so I figured I would tie in the whole thing and have yet another installment of Let's go to the... And today we are headed to the corking line. What exactly is the corking line you may ask? Well it is a filler line designed to put beer into slightly larger bottles and then put a cork in it (so to speak) and then tie one of those wire thingies to the outside of the cork and bottle in order to prevent the cork from blowing out unexpectedly. What beer do we put into corked bottles may be another question that you may have, and the answer is not very many. For a number of years we put La Folie into this type of bottle, but no longer (that is a different post for a different day). Nowadays the corking is very limited, and in this case limited to special arrangements.
Our sensory specialist Lauren Salazar has a good friend out in the Chicago-Land area named Mitch Einhorn. Mitch and his brother Cliff own a bar called the Twisted Spoke (along with a couple of other establishments named Lush). This year is the Twisted Spoke's 10th anniversary year and Lauren really wanted to help them celebrate. So Mitch came down to NBB HQ and started talking about a blend. Lauren set a bunch of beer in front of him and he started to mix, and what he came up with was this: Some sour beer from a couple of our Foudres (big oak barrels), and some sour beer that we had aging in an apple whiskey barrel (the fine folks over at Leopold Bro's down in Denver gave us a few barrels to do some experimentation with, and it's working), then he threw in some Transatlantique Kriek that Lauren had laying about, put in a little Abbey, and topped it off with some Trippel. And there you have Twisted Spoke's 10th Anniversary Ale. The blend seems wild, but holy smokes does it taste good.
When the mix was figured it was put into this:
The blend came to rest in this giant tank and spent a few days marrying. All those beers needed to relax together (watch a little sports on the TV maybe?) to aid in fighting off stratification and layering. After a few days of hanging out it started it's journey towards the bottle, but along the way a lot is happening. And my favorite step was rinsing out the bottles before the fill:
It is clearly Crafty's favorite step as well. We want those bottles to be extra clean and ready for the beer, so you flip it over and press it onto the spout and blamm-o you have a clean bottle ready for the beer. The bottle then heads over to the filler (and when I say "heads over to the filler" what I mean is that the person who rinsed the bottle puts it up-side-down on a drying rack, and this drying rack is in reach of the person running the filler and then they reach out and grab it) and when the filler operator is ready for the reach they then grab it and plug it into the filler head that is spring loaded. They can put up to six bottles on the line at one time at one time, as seen in this picture:
Now let me insert a brief aside here, This part of the operation (the filler) belongs to another local brewery and they let us barrow it. I want to extend a heart felt thank you over to the folks at O'Dell's, we couldn't have done this without you.
But back to the matter at hand. It is here that these bottles are filled by gravity. The big tank with all the beer in it is hooked up to this filler by way of a hose that fills the top container of the filling machine, then gravity is unleashed as the bottles are pushed up onto the filler heads, when the beer hits the right fill level gravity turns off (is that even possible?). Once the bottles are filled up they need a cork, so the filler operator takes the bottle off the machine and hands it to the person working the corker. This person lays the bottle into a machine, and then they put a cork in the top of the very same machine and boom.... something happens behind a steel screen that you can't see through, but when the bottle drops back down it has a cork in it. Then the corker person hands the bottle to the guy on his right, then that guy sticks the bottle into a similar looking machine. But this machine wraps the cork and bottle with one of those wire things that keeps the cork from blasting out of the bottle. Here is a look at the interchange:
Left is corking, right is wire-thing implementation. It is from here that the wire installer hands the bottle over to a person dunking it in water (to de-sticky-ify the beer off the outside of the bottle) and then drying it with a towel. The bottle then gets loaded into it's case box and it is ready to ship over to the Twisted Spoke for enjoyment of their fine, taste conscious customers.
Now this was a very small batch, only 6 hectoliters (that is only 5.1 barrels (or the equivalent to slightly more than 10 half barrel kegs)) not very much beer at all. But it is going to be just enough beer for all you folks in the Chicago area to head over to the Twisted Spoke, wish them happy anniversary, and enjoy a glass. So get over there soon (in the coming weeks) and try yourself some, you won't be disappointed. And for the rest of you folks not in the Chicago-land area please except my deepest, most heart-felt apologies that you won't be able to imbibe on this wonderful beer, I truly am sorry (or maybe go to Chicago and find yourself some).
There it is folks, Let's Go to the Corking Line... I hope you had a nice time reading and maybe you learned somet6hing that you didn't know this morning.
And as a last bit of Info I say this: THE TOUR DE FAT IS IN FORT COLLINS TOMMAROW!!!!!!!!!
Hopefully you have your costumes ready and your bike all polished up because the parade leaves at 10am from in front of the brewery. I will see you there (I will be the guy dressed up like a unicorn being eaten by a giant snake (it's complicated I know, but it looks sweet)).