Category: beer bottles

New Beer New BottlesSome of you might still remember the three…

New Beer New Bottles

Some of you might still remember the three Rs of conservation – reduce, reuse, recycle. I distinctly remember Tweety Bird explaining it to me in grade school. The idea is to waste less, reuse what you can, and recycle what’s left. Lots of breweries like to tout their sustainable practices. New Belgium, for example, prominently features their energy use, waste, and emissions on their website. Lots of breweries boasted about the lower energy costs of aluminum cans. Cans are lighter to transport and easier to recycle. Of course, aluminum is harder to mine, but that’s another matter.

Double Mountain went in an entirely different direction when they began bottling beer, reusable bottles. If you return Double Mountain bottles to the brewery or most retailers, they will clean and reuse them. But only about 15-20% of bottles were actually returned. It was better than crushing and recycling, but not entirely reliable. To grow the reuse program, Double Mountain partnered with half dozen local breweries and the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative to introduce a statewide system for collecting and cleaning reusable glass bottles. 

It’s a far simpler system. Instead of returning bottles separately from other recyclables, the new bottles can go directly through the Bottle Drop to be sorted. washed, and sent back to participating breweries. The heavy weight glass can be reused up to 25 times. Breweries have been slowly rolling out the new bottles all summer in 500 mL sizes, and now twelve ounce six packs. Like Double Mountain’s new pale ale. A dry, mellow beer with a nice melon-y sweetness. 

KopstootjeThe kopstootje is the Dutch equivalent of a…

Kopstootje

The kopstootje is the Dutch equivalent of a boilermaker, but instead of a shot of whiskey and a beer, it’s a shot of jenever and a beer. The jenever, a kind of gin, is poured in tiny tulip shaped glasses right to the brim. In order to drink your shot and not spill all over your shirt, one must bend over and slurp it. Thus the name: kopstootje means “little headbutt” in Dutch. 

Usually, the beer is a basic lager, to emphasize the floral flavor of the jenever. But since 2011, Upright Brewing has been making the occasional kopstootje beer with spices found in Dutch gin – allspice, aniseed, angelica root, cloves, bitter orange, ginger, and of course juniper berries. They’ve served these beers at special jenever pairing events around town, but they haven’t seen wide release, until now.

Last year, the brewers squirreled away some kopstootje in local Vermouth barrels. The result is spiced beer with a balanced tartness and a dry tannin finish. We don’t have any proper Jenever in the house, so we paired it with a few scoops of raspberry and hibiscus coconut yogurt from Eb and Bean.

Kopstootje opens with a lemony farmhouse scent. It’s tart, but with spicy undertones. Raspberry with floral hints around the edges, and a creamy coconut body. Wait. That’s the ice cream. Kopstootje is harder to pin down. The spice is subtle; it’s impossible to draw out any particular flavor from the mass. It’s just sharp and then the acid is sharp. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the beer immensely. The flavor just isn’t as complex I would expect. 

2018′s First FadBombers are terrible. Twenty-two ounce bottles…

2018′s First Fad

Bombers are terrible. Twenty-two ounce bottles were ubiquitous among craft brewers for years despite the facts: they’re ugly and they’re oddly sized (is it one serving or two?) 

So why were so many beers sold in bombers?

For one thing, they were uniform. You can shelve twenty-twos anywhere – corner stores, supermarkets, liquor stores. Twenty-twos fit right in with the malt liquors. 

Second, ten years ago, it was hard to sell a single twelve ounce bottle of beer. You could do it, but the mixed six-pack was still new. Bombers allowed prospective customers to gamble on a single bottle instead of a whole six-pack. 

And lastly, was the price. The cost per ounce of a single bomber is often significantly higher than the same beer in a six-pack. A five dollar bomber is equivalent to a sixteen dollar six pack. Sixteen bucks for a sixer isn’t unheard of in 2018, but try getting someone to pick one up at the 7-11. It’s not happening.

So we had bombers and we had six-packs and a few uppity breweries putting out fancy wine bottles. 

In about 2012 brewers finally embraced cans – which are easier to recycle, and lighter to ship. When sixteen ounce cans hit the scene, it was suddenly possible to buy a single pint of beer for a reasonable price. Sixteen ounces fits nicely in any glass without the need to refill. (Personally, I feel cheated by twelve ounce bottles.) 

But switching from bottling to canning is expensive. So what were the older breweries to do? The people demand smaller, cheaper sizes. 

Enter the five hundred milliliter bottle. Walking through the grocery store the other day there was a sudden gut of these perfectly pint sized bottles – just under seventeen ounces, svelte, and classy. Selling beer five ounces less at a time brings down the per bottle cost, making glass bottles competitive again.

I think we have to thank our friends in Hood River for the trend here in Oregon. Double Mountain started using reusable European bottles about four years ago, and across town, pFriem followed suit just a few years later. So far in 2018, I’ve seen Buoy, Laurelwood, Ex Novo, and Mazama using these new bottles. Gigantic and Fort George are using them for their more exclusive, barrel aged beers. Let’s hope the trend continues.

2018 is the year of smaller, better bottles.

Wax or Cork?This week on Twitter, beer writer Jeff Alworth has…

Wax or Cork?

This week on Twitter, beer writer Jeff Alworth has been hosting a discussion on wax dipped beer bottles. It’s a conversation prompted by the usual holiday flood of waxy bottles that require three tools and a lot of perspiration to open. 

Jeff seems to hate wax. For one thing, waxed caps are difficult to open, and for another they have no practical purpose. A wax covered cap does not keep oxygen out of the bottle any better than a naked cap. The only thing wax dipping does is signal that the beer inside must be very special.

Jeff suggests some alternatives to clunky wax. One, use nice labels – gold ink, textured papers, etc. Two, find a more pleasing bottle shape – twenty-twos are big lumps of ugly. Or, three, replace the wax with a cork. I am all for good label design and nicer looking bottles, they totally signal value and fanciness, but I think the cork and cage sends a very different signal than wax.

Think about it. What sorts of beers would you expect to see in a wine stoppered bottle? Now what’s behind all that irritating wax? In my mind they are very different beers.

The first beers I ever saw topped with champagne corks came from Belgium – large format Chimay bottles, Saison Dupont, Boon Geuze. I expect a certain type of beer behind that cork, dry, balanced, possibly sour.

Waxed dipping seems to have started with big imperial stouts and barleywine – the Abyss, Mirror Mirror, Massive! When I crack open all that wax, I’m expecting something thick, boozy and, more often than not, barrel aged. 

Of course, there are beers that break these molds. Upright dips their Fantasia sour blend in white wax and North Coast puts a cork in their barrel aged Old Stock barley wine. But I feel like the trend holds true. 

I think the real issue is cost. Anyone with a little time on his hands can melt wax. Corks require special equipment. But which do you prefer? A hand-dipped wax cap or a fancy cork with wire cage? And what does each symbolize to you?