Bottle Care For Brew On Premises Customers
The following instructions and guidelines have been developed specifically for Brewer's Apprentice customers that have brewed on premises.
1) New Bottles
Each batch of beer is 15 gallons. The standard size bottle used in our facility is 22 oz amber bottle. These are sold by the case with 12 bottles per case. We also offer a 12 oz. amber bottle upon request and are sold by the case with 24 bottles per case. If you like unique, specialty bottles are available upon request. We ask that you discuss your needs with our staff at the time of brewing so they are on hand for your bottling date
When you come to The Brewer's Apprentice to bottle your beer, you will need to sanitize your new bottles before you can use them. We will bring the bottles to your station and show you how to use our bottle sanitizing machine. All new bottles sold at The Brewer's Apprentice are guaranteed from defects.
2) Used Bottles
Bottles may be reused provided they are in suitable condition for reuse. That means you will need to ensure they are clean on bottling day. The machine in our bottling department is a bottle sanitizer, not a bottle washer... so please, if there is any gunk, dirt, mold, bugs, cigarette butts or other form of soil in your bottles, do not bring them for bottling ... our machine will not remove it! We'd also like for you to keep in mind that we guarantee the quality of every beer brewed on premises, however, if in our professional opinion your bottles are not suitable for use and they are used, that will void our guarantee.
To ensure your bottles are always ready for reuse we recommend the following... The moment that you pour your homebrew from the bottle into a glass, immediately turn on some hot tap water and fill the bottle with it; then turn the bottle upside down and make a quick circular motion with your hand... this will create a whirlpool within the bottle which will remove most, if not all of the remnant beer "stuff". If you think there may be anything left, repeat this procedure one more time. When the bottle is clean, put it back into its case, upside down. This will prevent dust, bugs, etc., from getting into the bottles and keep them clean as they sit in storage.
If you didn't clean your bottles with the method above, they will probably wind up with hard deposits, mold, mildew, etc. Unfortunately, the only way to clean them at this stage is with good 'ol elbow grease. You will need a large laundry sink or some type of large storage container that holds at least 5 to 10 gallons of water. You will need to buy a cleanser/sanitizer such as One-Step, B-Brite (both of which we sell at the store), or OxyClean. Add 1 tablespoon of any of these cleansers per 1 gallon of warm water, and mix well. Submerge all of your bottles into the cleansing/sanitizing solution for, at least, 30 minutes. Any of these cleansers will remove most of the dirt from the bottles after 30 minutes. Empty the sink, drain the bottles, and rinse them well. Give a final inspection with each bottle. If you still see any dirt within a bottle, you will have to use some warm water and a bottle brush to help dislodge any remaining deposits. Don't forget to put the bottles back in their cases upside down.
One final note on cleaning your used bottles... NEVER use a dish washer... It simply will not clean the bottles properly. If you use a dish washer, there are no guarantees that your beer won't get infected!
3) Storing Your Beer
Once you have bottled your beer at The Brewer's Apprentice, you'll want to make sure to store it properly. If your beer is force carbonated, ideally, you want to keep it in a nice, cool basement or in a refrigerator. The best temperature range is 38° - 55°. Keeping it within this range will help ensure that your beer is the best that it can be for as long as possible.
It's okay to store your beer at room temperature for the short term, but if you plan on ageing it for a long time (anything past 6 months), it will age more rapidly and it will have a shorter shelf life. Most brewers don't mind this, as they drink 6 cases of beer well before 6 months is up!
If you choose to have your beer bottle conditioned, you will have one extra step to go through before you put your beer into storage. When you bring your bottle conditioned beer home, you will need to keep it around room temperature (68°) for, at least, 2 weeks. After 2 weeks have past, open one of the bottles. Listen for the classic "phhfffsssst!" sound that you're used to hearing whenever you pop open any good bottle of beer. If that sound is there, then pour the beer and look for carbonation... if the beer is obviously carbonated, taste it. If you're happy with the carbonation level, then you can now store the beer however you wish... in the basement, in the fridge, or continue to keep it at room temperature. Remember that there is a natural, organic process happening in each and every bottle of bottle conditioned beer, so it won't always behave the way you're hoping for... Sometimes it will carbonate faster than 2 weeks... sometimes it will take a month or two. Please note: because bottle conditioned beer is out of our control once you take it home, we do not guarantee bottle conditioned beer that is brewed on our premises. If you want your beer guaranteed, but you still want the extra flavor of bottle conditioned beer, we now offer a service where we don't filter your beer, but still force carbonate it... so you get the best of both worlds, no flavor is lost, it will age very much like a bottle conditioned beer, and your beer is instantly carbonated! If you want this service just ask us to "No Filter, Force Carbonate".
One final note on storing your homebrew. NEVER store your homebrew in the garage! Keeping your homebrew in the garage is nearly the same as keeping it outdoors. The yeast, and/or other ingredients within your beer will not be able to deal with the wild fluctuations in temperature as day turns into night, as night turn into day, as the sun beats down and turns your garage into a sauna, or as the cold of winter attempts to freeze it. In short, the garage is the worst place to store homebrew.
4) Aging Beer
Despite what a lot of larger breweries tell you, you don't have to drink your beer as quickly as possible. "Born On Dates" are a gimmick used by companies that want to move lots of beer, and move it fast. But you are a homebrewer... you've produced a beer that is better than most commerical beers, and you're just starting out. Even the lightest of homebrews will get better with age. Pilsners and lagers will develop better and better flavor for 3 to 6 months after bottling. Then they will plateau for another 3 to 6 months... giving you up to a year to enjoy your homebrew. If you brew bigger beers, they can develop even more flavor and age even longer. As a general rule, the more alcohol and/or hops a beer has, the longer it can age. Barleywines, some IPAs and stouts, etc., don't even hit their full potential until they've aged 6 months to a year!