Ask Mr. Know-It-All

03/10/2014 10:25 PM | Deleted user
Ask Mr. Know-It-All
by Mr. Know-It-All

QUESTION:
There is this great, rare beer on tap that isn’t sold in bottles. I’m going to get a growler of it to save and drink in small amounts over time. Obviously, every time I open the growler, I’m going to lose carbonation, introduce oxygen, etc. Do you have any suggestions in this situation?

ANSWER:
You are in luck; I have the perfect solution! I’ve used this technique many, many times in the past, and I’ve never had oxidized beer, carbonation loss, or infection issues. <knocking on wood>

You will want to bottle the beer from the growler. Huh, you can do that?! Yes, you can, and safely too. The trick is to do everything as cold as possible and extremely clean. Here is what you’ll need (and all of these items can be found at your LHBS - Google it):
  • A growler with cap;
  • A bottle capper;
  • Some Oxycap brand bottle caps (this is important, keeps the beer safe from oxygen);
  • 5-12 oz bottles (or really any size you prefer, just as many as needed to handle 64oz.);
  • StarSan in a spray bottle (this should be a standard tool in your arsenal already);
  • A spring-loaded bottle filler with a 3/8” OD (outer diameter);
  • About 2 1/2 feet of tubing with a 3/8” ID (inner diameter); and
  • (optional) Nitrile gloves, as so to prevent contact with the StarSan.
INSTRUCTIONS:
  1. Start by sanitizing the growler and cap with the StarSan sprayer (10 sprays should do). Close the growler and shake well; you can leave the StarSan in the growler until you get it filled. You don’t need to fill the growler with StarSan; that few tablespoons of spray will do the trick- trust me.
  2. Get your growler filled, but know that it is imperative that you ask the bartender to only pour out the little StarSan that’s in the growler but not rinse the growler. After filling, ensure the cap is as tight as possible, and head home as soon as you can.
  3. Once home, you’ll want to put the growler in the freezer. (“Wait, did he just type that?!”) Yes, I did. You’ll only want to keep it in the freezer about 45-60 minutes tops (depending on how good your freezer works). The trick here is to get the beer cold enough to start forming ice crystals, but not freeze - THAT WOULD BE BADCAUTION, SCIENCE: Why are we doing this? A gas (CO2) stays suspended in liquid (beer) more stably the colder the liquid is. Thus, if you don’t want to lose carbonation, chill the beer as best you can. More science, liquid expands as it cools, so that’s why we need to be careful here.
  4. While you’re waiting for the ice crystals to form, fit one end of the tubing over the end of the bottle filler until it’s covered only about 1/2-inch. It should fit snugly. If it’s a tight fit, use a little StarSan to help.
  5. If you’re using gloves, don them now; spray them with StarSan. Sanitize your tube works completely by spraying inside and out. Make sure you depress the spring loaded end to let the StarSan run into it.
  6. Clean and sanitize your bottles and Oxycaps. It’s okay to have the caps sit in a dish with StarSan too. I also use a bottle drying tree, remembering to sanitize the tines first.
  7. RDWHAHB. Are the ice crystals formed yet? Good; time to do this thing!
  8. If you’re using gloves, don them again; spray them with StarSan. Double check the sanitization of your caps, bottles, and tube works (spray again if needed; I for one am very “OCD” about “beer clean” - Google it).
  9. Uncap your growler and dip the non-bottle filler end into the bottom of the growler.
  10. Now the next part is up to you starting the siphon. There are multiple ways to do this. Some prefer the sanitize-lips-and-tongue with-vodka way… just remember that the filler is spring loaded, so you’ll need to depress it while starting the siphon.
  11. As swiftly as you can, do the following: fill-cap-repeat. Do not fill-fill-fill as you’re going to lose that precious carbonation you’re trying to preserve. Remember, as the beer warms, CO2 comes out of suspension way more easily.
  12. Done? Great! RDWHAHB and clean everything for the next time. 
Depending on the beer you’re trying to save, it will stay quite nicely in those bottles. I’ve had beer that I’ve kept for over 7 years taste quite lovely with the age allowed in them. Keep in mind that aging successfully typically works with naturally protected beers such as sours, high ABV, high IBU, and pasteurized (blech) beers.

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