I recently was given the honor to do a days work at one of North Carolina’s best breweries. They needed help getting some bottling done, and since I have years of experience at bottle lifting, I was ‘hired’. The Mash House has been bottling their beers for a couple of months now, so they were certainly prepared for my level of expertise.
The day for me began at 6:00am with a nice leisurely drive down the country roads of 40 and 95 leading me to the heart of Fayetteville. Zach (Brewmaster Zach Hart) and Zay (Brewer Laxavier Ray) were already working when I arrived. Zach and I started getting the bottling line assembled, preparing for the day.
Because of my a fore mentioned skills, I was given the job of ’swamper’. The swamper deals with the wet end of the line. Cleaning and sanitizing the bottles. I think that I would have enjoyed being the ’swamper’ more if they had just given me a better name. Like ‘Mr. Clean’, or even ‘dampy’… Maybe when I go back I’ll suggest that.
Zay was gone most of the morning delivering the fine Mash House beers to the places where you purchase them. Zach’s friend Craig showed up as the second volunteer. So there were three of us running the entire Mash House bottling line. Craig’s job was on the ‘dry’ end of the line. We just called him Laverne. He made sure that the caps were on properly and he commented on the straightness of the labeling machine (aka Zach). Zach stood in the middle and ran the actual bottler. He showed remarkable patience when it tried to break. He was able to repair it, and he captained us to victory.
The whole experience was very revealing to me. I would never have imagined that a bottling system could be so simple. It really was very similar to a fancy homebrew setup. It is amazing to think that one of the best IPA’s that we have access to in the triangle is being bottled by hand.
Seeing the process in action really shows that every Mash House bottle is craft brew. Next time you see that six pack of Mash House at Whole Food’s take note. Make sure you remember that there is a good chance the person who applied the label to that beer also created the recipe, brewed the beer and washed the bottle.
Remember that these people are working hard to bring you what they think is a solid product. They could stop at kegging. But they go the extra step to insure that their product is available to as many people as possible.
Zach has promised me that the next time I go help them, I’ll be promoted from the swamping position. I’ve got my eyes set on the ‘malt shoveler’ position. I hear it’s a real cushy job.