There is a romance to buying a Belgian or other sour beer and seeing it packaged with a cork and cage. As you unwind the wire cage, and then try to get a firm grip on the cork to remove it from the bottle, you can feel you are about to enjoy a premium product.
Beers like Dawson’s Kreik and The Sour-Chris are beers worthy of being cellared. These are beers that should improve and change over time. When it came time to bottle, I didn’t want to just throw them in a nondescript bottle with sharpie marks on a bottle cap. It is time to grow up and start corking some of my beer.
|This is the exact model of corker that I bought.|
One small piece of equipment required to cork bottles is a device called you guessed it: a corker. Modern Homebrew Emporium rents floor corkers; the cost is only $5 for three days. My original intention was to rent a corker. Instead, I decided to bite the bullet and buy the corker outright for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I am happy I don’t have to drive to Cambridge in the middle of the week to return the corker. Secondly, I see myself using it enough to justify the cost.
|750 ML Belgian “bulb”-style bottle. You can see the stopper on the
corker in the background.
The Portuguese Floor Corker I bought was designed primarily for wine. A wine cork is driven all the way into the neck of the bottle. A beer cork needs to stick out like a champagne cork. To stop the corker from driving the cork in all the way, I attached a rubber stopper on to the plunger to restrict the movement of the arm. Removing the partially-corked bottles was a little awkward, but other than that corking my bottles was a breeze.
|Champagne bottle, corked, caged, and labeled.|
Hooded wires or cages are needed to keep the cork in place. Otherwise the pressure from the CO2 in the bottle will dislodge the cork. After the first couple of bottles I had a good feel for how deep to push the corks, how tight to wind the wires, and how to make sure the wires are tucked under the lip of the bottle.
When it came time to bottle Dawson’s Kreik, I knew I wanted to use champagne bottles. With thicker glass than a regular beer bottle, it can withstand additional pressure allowing a higher level of carbonation. After 14 months of aging, the last thing I want is a bottle bomb. Champagne bottles have the added benefit of being able to take a cap as well as a cork.
I had the shop order two cases of champagne bottles. When only one case came in, I bought a case of Belgian beer bottles. These bottles have the “bulb” type top and don’t take a cap, but if I keep brewing Belgians and sours I can easily reuse and cork them.
In a lot of ways there is more to the hobby of homebrewing than just brewing beer. Coming up with creative names and packaging can also be an integral part. My corked, caged, and wired bottles look amazing.
As I fulfill one of my Brew Year’s Resolutions, my new toy will be put to use again soon!
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