Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Keg thieves, take note

So, my sister Jen sends me a CNN article the other day about breweries getting their kegs stolen and I had to laugh. Not because getting your kegs stolen is at all funny — we’ve spent a whole lot of money on kegs, and we have a tough time getting them to come home.

I actually laughed because the timing was funny, since we’ve been on a mission lately trying to mark BEAU’s on them better so that hopefully we don’t lose too many. We’ve tried a whole bunch of ways, and nothing worked exactly the way I wanted in terms of how long it took, or how much it cost.

At first we thought we’d make a template and paint the kegs, but the paint killed the template real fast, and it took way too long to do. Then we got these reversed out stickers made up that said Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co. 1-866-585-BEER. They looked sharp out of the gate, but the stickers took a ridiculous amount of time to get onto the kegs, and after one wash they read: eau’ ll N tur l Br wing o. 1- 6- 85-BEE.

So to look less like a burnt-out sign for a cheap o-tel, we got bigger stickers that just said Beau’s. They were ugly, and still took forever, and still didn’t stick properly. Then we got a real eye-opener when we bought some used kegs from Church-Key. They all came with the same stickers we used, which of course we wanted to replace with out own. Turns out that with a $2 scraper, you can have 30 kegs logo-free in less than 5 minutes. Nice to know.

So we went back to our original paint idea, after getting inspired by the spray paint that our CO2 supplier uses to mark up its kegs. Surely this must be possible, we told ourselves. A trip to Zellers is what sealed the deal. In their crafting section they have a tool for scrapbookers that cuts shapes into cardstock. It’s by a company named Fiskars, and it’s called a Shape Template.

I figured if it could cut cardstock, it might cut through a thin plastic so I bought some. Put the template inside a letter stencil and trace the edges with the little Shape Template cutter over the plastic, and presto! I have a plastic stencil that says Beau’s.

With a little bit of practice using red spray paint (I would have failed miserably as a vandal) we got the kegs nicely marked up.

All in all, I think I paid $500 for all the stupid stickers that don’t work, versus about $65 (including spray paint) for this tool that actually works. Whether we keep more of our kegs now still needs to be seen, but at least whoever takes them will have to invest in more than $2 for a scraper.

At the request of an anonymous reader, here's one last shot of the boys ready to go into action. Don't forget, you can personally help them make a speedy trip back home for a refill!

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Doctors are In!

Job perks are cool. When a cousin of ours installed some shelving for a certain well known potato chip manufacturer, any boxes of chips that fell while being put onto the new shelves couldn’t be sold. He had boxes and boxes of slightly crushed chips in his apartment. What a cool perk, I thought back then. A few years later, a friend of mine who worked at the beer store was able to bring home a mix-and-match six pack every Friday night, from cases that were damaged (i.e., one of the six bottles broke). I held such a perk in the highest esteem.
At a brewery, these perks come to you in the form of partially full kegs. Usually, they are kegs that we ran out of the batch of beer filling. We can’t sell these to accounts, and there’s no point pouring them down the drain… so we drink them. Sometimes a growler’s contents doesn’t hit the fill line either… staff drinks those too.
Partials are a lot of fun, and there’s an art to picking the best ones. We have a little corner of the cold room set aside for partials, where the caps bear cryptic codes to indicate their contents. Okay, so they’re only cryptic because of Steve’s awful handwriting… otherwise, they tell you which batch they’re from, and sometimes, why they’re in the partial corner.
So, you pick it up and give it a swish. How partial is partial? Usually fuller is better, but we have some pretty steep stairs down to our kegerator… so manageability is also a concern. And fresh is good, but to keep the stock rotated, we try to grab the oldest one there. You know, “Taking one for the team. Hic.”
Anyway, a few weeks ago I put in an urgent call to Steve. A partial that had tasted good the night before now tasted watery, and bitter. Concerned, the good Dr. Steve made a house call to diagnose the problem. Turns out this particular partial had had foaming problems, resulting in low carbonation. Turned up the CO2 (Stat!), and she was all back to normal. “That’s why you carbonate beer,” we learned. When bragging to Dr. Phil Beauchesne later, he agreed with the diagnosis, but gave a cautionary warning. “Don’t leave the CO2 up too high, or you’ll get headaches.” Dr. Tim also stopped by that evening to administer first aid, but a quick sample indicated a full recovery.
Cheers! Jen “Beau” James