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On swing-tops

It didn’t take long after I started brewing beer before I discovered the joys of swing-top bottles. As I’m sure happened with many new brewers, my first batch (or two?) was bottled exclusively with capped bottles, and the process was slow. I’m fairly certain my first bottling night back in 2007 was about four hours long. Today, that same bottling night is probably about half that in time; and although much of that increased speed can be attributed to a better understanding of the processes involved, some of it is also because of the number of swing-top bottles (mostly Grolsch and Christoffel) that have found their way into my bottle collection one way or the other.

A tip I’ve learned from my new brewing buddy: If you have a local bar or pub that serves beers with swing-top bottles, talk to the manager about buying the swing-top bottles. Some are bound to let them go for the return price. That will increase your swing-top bottle collection quickly and reduce the number of bottle caps you’ll need come bottling day.

Experimental homebrewing

As I’ve written about in the CABA Times, one of the things I enjoy about homebrewing is the experimental nature of the hobby (and the hobbyists). Many brewers like to brew to style, and more power to them, but outside of a couple of reasonable attempts to brew to style, I mostly aim for whatever seems like a good idea at the time — and sometimes those ideas lead into such things as my infamous 2007 Christmas ale or my clone of CABA President Kevin Tighe’s jalapeno ale.

The most recent homebrewing experiment I’ve been involved with is with a new homebrewer who has taken an interest in historical beers, as well as in using ingredients from his garden. Looking into his herb garden and doing some research into historical beers, he discovered that prior to the use of hops as a bittering agent, brewers would use whatever they could get their hands on. The one that caught his interest was sage, an herb that is growing out of control in his garden.

This has rekindled my interest in historical beers. Since I started homebrewing three years ago, the one historical bittering agent I’ve really wanted to use is heather (so perhaps you can expect to hear about a heather ale experiment in a future blog post or CABA Times article).