Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Homebrew Presentation, It Goes a Long Way.

Sometimes it's not what's in the bottle, it's how the bottle presents itself.  Are the labels off?  Is the cap on straight?  Any signs of rust?  How's the fill level?  These are all honest questions to ask yourself before handing anyone a bottle of your homebrewed Beer or Mead.  Lets start the new year off right and forget your promises to hit the gym and focus on something important.  The hobby you love. 

A lot of thought goes into the way I package my homebrewed.  While I have no intentions of selling my homebrewed beer and mead, I do want it to look professional.  The level of cost(s) and how you get there is really up to you.  (All of the ideas below are gauged at homebrew that is NOT meant for competition.  For comps, a new bottle and some blue tape on top is about perfect IMO.)

Lets start at the top, with the bottle caps.  The availability of custom printed bottle caps is only getting better with many vendors now offering custom printed bottle caps.  I ended up purchasing mine at GrogTag for a couple of reasons.  They ship close to San Diego, so transit time is minimized and the website is easy to use, plus (I didn't know this until after ordering) reorders are a breeze.  With one click reordering via a reorder email they send out after your purchase.  Cost was not a factor on my bottle caps since I wanted quality and these caps are top notch.  Most of these end up on my meads, so longevity/durability was a big factor in the cap selection.  Not having bulk discounts is disappointing but you know what you are getting.  Mine ended up costing about .20 a bottle cap.  Which I understand seems like a lot of cash for "Just a hobby",  however the lasting impression these custom bottle caps give to your beer or mead is priceless. 

For bottles, I started off with any bottle I could get my hands on, which lead to a confusing mess of different sized bottles clogging my shelves.  A couple years back, in a small homebrewer type rage, I started tossing out any size bottle other than a couple predetermined sizes. I ended up with 4 types.  That's it, no matter what you think, you should never reuse that bottle of Fat Tire, with New Belgium molded down the side.  It looks tacky.  That unwashed label?  Clean it and take it off period.   

  • Green 10oz Sangria bottle: This bottle is for meads and/or ciders only.  These are from Mexico, which shows 10.5oz on the label.  The American Sangria bottles show 11oz on the label, I don't know if they are really different or something lost in translation, but .5oz can add up when we are talking meads. FYI, Never put any liquid in a green bottle that has or will have hops.  It will skunk your homebrew.  
  • A 12oz Sierra Nevada bottle: These are easy to acquire, labels come off easier than anything on the market and the cost is lower than new, clean 12oz bottles at the LHBS.  I use these for sour beers, that I plan to age.  Plus they fit in the shelves I made in the garage. A big plus for these bottles is the cost.   I try to never send these bottles into competitions. 
  • The Bruery 750ml bottle: This is my favorite style of bottles.  Its a solid, beautiful thick bottle for aging sour and bottle conditioned beers. These do require a bigger 29mm cap vs the standard 26mm cap.  A $5.00 attachment which connects to your capper.  Also I haven't found a custom printed bottle cap for this larger size yet, so if you do, please let me know in the comments.
  • New 12oz Classic Homebrew bottles:  Beers headed to competitions.  I haven't judged, might never will...but I feel like if you are going for a top level competition, pulling out a Sierra Nevada sized bottle tells everyone that this is used.  Even though, it might be the best cleaned bottle in the competition.  

I've started avoiding writing on the top of the bottle caps.  The main reason is after a couple months, I've forgotten what "BHG" stands for.  Add this along with the other abbreviations I've used and its becoming hard to identify beers.  Now this may just be a fault with me then pair it with the large amounts of homebrew I brew and bottle....but I needed a solution.  Back to Grogtag again.  But I didn't want a traditional beer label.  I wanted something smaller and settled on Grogtags "Neckers" They are about 1/2" tall and 3" wide.  As you can see above.  I wanted something simple that I can use on multiple beers.  The only downside to these labels is my handwriting, which could use some work.  I place these differently on each bottle.  As you can see on the right, on meads I place them upright and for the larger 750ml bottles they go below my etched hop circle logo as seen in the picture below.  (label isn't shown)

Now etching bottles, which I go into deeper on this post, Etching Take #2 can add another level of credibility to your homebrew.  Plus when you etch a bottle you are more likely to get that bottle back.  Which is important when using these nice 750ml thick bottles.  With each bottle being sourced from a $20.00 bottle of something awesome.  You don't want to lose track of this bottle. 

You need to maintain a consistent bottle fill level.  This is something that can knock you down a couple points in competitions or when passing along multiple bottles to friends.  People notice this.  Create a system for consistent filling.  I always use the Blichmann Beer Gun which maintains a solid fill level.  A low fill to me looks amateur... this already tells my subconscious that this beer will taste bad.  Im my example below, the bottle on the front right, second to the end drives me crazy.  This bottle would never be passed out along side the one next to it.  The fill levels are not the same.

You want people to enjoy your homebrew for what it is, not what it could be.   Understanding a lot of this information is above and beyond what most people will do for there beer, I get that.....however please don't show up to a bottle share with a half washed off bottle of homebrew and expect me to praise it, your already behind the curve.


Thanks for Commenting, Prost!