Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Beer-In-A-Box

I'm still working on New Jersey Breweries; got one of the very last interviews today at River Horse Brewing in Lambertville (where new owners with new money are starting to rev up this brewery; could be some interesting stuff coming in the near future). But last week I ran up the Delaware River to Milford and talked with Tim Hall, brewer at the Ship Inn.

The Ship's always been a favorite for their cask Ringwood ales, and I've got a lot of fun stuff to share on it -- in the book. But at the end of the interview we did a quick run of the beers, including an ESB Tim had in the tanks, which was excellent: lively, fruity, just beer near the peak of condition. He said that if I liked it so much I should take some home. I think he really wanted to show off their new package: beer-in-a-box.

This is much like the wineboxes: a plastic bag full of beer inside a cardboard box. The boxes come in two sizes: 1.25 and 2.5 gallons. In this case, Tim tapped the still-fermenting beer right out of the tank into the bag for me. He filled it, capped it, and tucked in the little spigot to replace the cap when I was ready to drink. "Just keep it cool, and keep an eye on it," he said. "If it gets too full of gas, let a little off."

I had to do that once, but otherwise, just let it sit until today, when I tapped it before dinner. Man, does this ever work great! For a night, I've got about a gallon of great real ale in my house! It's fresh, lively, fruity, and has a deliciously bitter finish. Best of all, it's got that fine, light carbonation I highly prize in cask ale.

I don't know of any other place that's doing this, but if you get to the Ship, do it. Get the cask in the box, take it home and enjoy it. It's not cheap, but remember: it's more than twice your regular growler fill, and most brewpubs won't even fill a growler of cask ale. This rocks.

Which is why I had to blog about it, even when I'm this busy. Back to work!

23 comments:

Loren said...

Triple Rock in Berkeley, CA does too. One of the oldest brewpubs in America to boot.

Good to see this idea making rounds, finally. Since glass seems to be the NEXT thing in short supply for brewers.

brewer A said...

Did you take a picture of it or have any details of the brand name?

Lew Bryson said...

It's good to hear, except...I had this thought: are people gonna get pissed because it's disposable? I mean, it's not exactly green, is it?

Stan Hieronymus said...

Lew - We saw something similar at what was then the Eldridge Pope brewery (Thomas Hardy's) in 1994. I think they were available only at the brewery, but for both consumers and trade.

(If a pub didn't move at least two firkins of a brand a week, ensuring it would be fresh, EP cut them off.)

Stonch, are you lurking? Anybody doing this in the UK now?

And, Lew, I agree on the green count. New Belgium provides plastic cups for the Telluride Bluegrass Festival that can be recycled, so it must be do-able.

Lew Bryson said...

It's called the "Cheer-tainer," made by CDF Corp., out of Plymouth, Mass. I'd put up more, but their site seems to be down at the moment (probably the tsunami of traffic driven by my mighty webposting...). They seem to be legit, been around since 1971.

Ed Kelley said...

Bag-in-box system

The Cheer-tainer® is a patented, flexible package that comprises a gusseted, form-fit, multi-ply bag with a choice of fittings for manual or automated filling and dispensing of liquids. The fitted bag is contained in a corrugated case that has an opening to accommodate the fitting. Available in a selection of sizes and in several film types, the bags can be supplied with or without the case. The system is an alternative to the cube-shaped inserts commonly used with photochemicals, food and beverage products and other pourable liquids that require packaging in the 5- to 20-L range. It lacks internal folds that can trap residual product and does not require inflation prior to filling.

CDF Corp., 800/443-1920. www.cdf1.com


Here you can find a picture :

http://www.packagingdigest.com/article/1227.html

Stephen Beaumont said...

When Ontario's Wellington County Brewery started up way back in 1985, their plan was to do cask-conditioned ale for home consumption in boxes like you describe. Problem was they found the yeast to be a little too, shall we say?, energetic, and rather than shipping boxes of beer, they were soon saddled with a large number of balls of beer. Plan B was enacted shortly thereafter...

Jeff Renner said...

William S. Newman Brewery, a pioneering micro in Albany, NY (established ~1981), did something like this. Bill sold his beer either in kegs or in one or two gallon (I think) heavy-duty plastic cubes, kind of like the ones campers use for water.

I stopped at the brewery on a trip east in fall 1982, I think, and had a great tour and visit with Bill and his wife, and took a cube with me. It worked great.

A quick google search shows that Lew blogged the brewery this summer and a commenter mentioned the cube:

http://jbojangles.blogspot.com/2007/08/history-lesson-william-s-newman-brewing.html

Jeff Renner
Ann Arbor, Michigan USA
"One never knows, do one?" Fats Waller, American Musician, 1904-1943

John Hansell said...

Good Lord. Twice the size of a growler? Well then, man. Pour me an imperial pint of the stuff and figure out a way to send it to me through my laptop. Can you attach it as a file, perhaps? I'm gettin' thirsty reading about it.

Jessie Jane said...

I wrote about a larger-scale version of this produced by a German brewery. It was being touted as an alternative to keg shipping (my article was about when the whole brouhaha over keg thefts was at its height).

It's a promising system, and is not necessarily as eco-unfriendly as one might think.

First of all, if you're talking about multi-serve containers, you're already eliminating packaging (up to 24 bottles depending on the box size).

Secondly, if the boxes are made FROM recycled plastics and cardboard, and can then be disassembled to be recycled again, you're being more efficient than glass (which requires more energy input to recycle than paper). Although glass bottles can be reused without recycling (which homebrewers and some smaller breweries do), this practice is probably much less frequent than then bottles ending up in the recycling bin.

Finally, a 1-2.5 gal. plastic/cardboard container will weight less to ship than glass (and may very well take up less space, requiring fewer trips to ship larger quantities), all of which saves fuel costs. Of course, this savings wouldn't be as significant for local suppliers.

So anyway, yeah—cool idea! Sorry for the treatise; this is the kind of thing that rings my bell.

If you're interested in my take on the large-scale beer-in-box system, it's at:

http://barstories.blogspot.com/2007/07/beer-in-box-answer-to-keg-theft.html

——Jessie

Stonch said...

Polypins are certainly nothing new. In fact they're very common over here in the UK.

Here's a company in Kent (or South East London if that's the way you want to play it) that sells polypins of ale from many different breweries, and will deliver anywhere in the country for just £10!

http://www.thebitterend.biz/

Lew Bryson said...

Polypins are certainly nothing new. In fact they're very common over here in the UK.

Evidently not over here. Real ale's not as common over here...maybe you hadn't heard?

They're not getting a very good reaction from the green types; any counter-arguments? (Other than my favorite: "But it tastes good.")

Jessie Jane said...

"They're not getting a very good reaction from the green types; any counter-arguments?"



See my comment above?

Lew Bryson said...

I like your arguments, used some of them over on BeerAdvocate; just wanted to hear what the call was from the UK.

bill mc said...

Lew, did you find that Trap Rock Brewery & Restaurant was.. shall we say ..."suffering from an identity crisis?"

When I was there a few years ago, they were nice enough and the beer was good, but it seemed they were a bit on the upscale side for a brewpub.... maybe even bordering snooty...?

Lew Bryson said...

Didn't get to Trap Rock, Bill. I'm co-authoring this one with Mark Haynie, and we split the breweries. I'm doing A-B, Flying Fish, Triumph, Ship Inn, Egan & Sons, River Horse, and Laird's Distilling (had to add something to make the book bigger!), Mark got the others. So...can't really say about Trap Rock, althought you're not the only person I've heard that from.

Harry Spade said...

This is a great idea, plain and simple. I'm going to be about 30 minutes from Milford over the Thanksgiving holiday, so this might be a worthwhile side-trip.

Jess said...

I also replied about the Wm. S. Newman BC's use of a similar package back in the early-mid-1980's over on Beer Advocate, but the subject's been on my mind since, especially regarding Newman's use of "No Deposit, No Return" on the label of his containers (even tho' he'd refill the empties but I can't remember if there was a "discount"- but I imagine there'd have to be one for most people to bother).

New York state enacted a Mandatory Deposit Law around 1984 and Anheuser Busch put out an interesting booklet explaining the law with suggestions for it's various licensed customers. One interesting suggestion was:

"Some retailers can use draught as a take-out package to *increase* beer sales as a result of mandatory deposits. Your A-B wholesaler will be happy to provide you with complete details on draught profit and merchandising opportunities and how to enter this new sales area."

Now, I don't remember ANY bars that I frequented at the time selling "draught to go" so the program might have died quickly, but I wonder exactly WHAT package A-B would have "offered (sold?)" it's retailers.

In NJ before a liquor law changed, bars could not sell packaged goods after the legal hours for liquor stores ( 10 pm and which at the time, also included Sundays)- so "draught-to-go" was quite common, sold in white, round cardboard, waxed "containers" that had slip-on lids (similar to the lids on soup containers some chinese joints use- air or beer tight, they weren't). These were simply called "containers" (as in, on a Sunday afternoon "Hey, go down to the gin mill and buy a dozen containers!")

Eventually, a few bars went to plastic and the package even continued in some bars after the laws changed (some small bars just didn't have the room for "take out" beer in throw-away bottles or cans, since their main packages had been deposit "bar" bottles and draught.)
Lots of "old timers" (yeah, even older than me) in NJ still speak lovingly of how beer never tasted better than straight out of "container", sitting in the back seat of a Studebaker.

Stephen Beaumont said...

...but it seemed they were a bit on the upscale side for a brewpub.... maybe even bordering snooty...?

I don't know Bill, so I have no idea what his criteria for upscale may be, and I've not visited the brewery in question, but I am led to question the whole idea of a brewpub being considered too upscale. This is the kind of reverse snobbery we heard a lot when beerbistro first opened, with some people complaining that the restaurant was too high end for beer (white tablecloths, oooooooh...), as if a commitment to good beer and beer cuisine automatically meant that there should be dirt on the floor, sports on the tube and grunge in the bathrooms.

Don't get me wrong; I love many down-to-earth beer places, dba and Toronado most definitely included, but I also like brewpubs and beer bars that aren't afraid to explore the finer side of the dining and drinking experience, like SF's Thirsty Bear and Portland's Higgins.

Lew Bryson said...

That's fascinating, Jess. The only 'container beer' I remember even seeing was back in the 1980s when I was working at Ft. Knox; Knox sat in the middle of Hardin County, which was dry, and the next county over was wet. Naturally, the first quarter-mile of road at the border was lined with bars and liquor stores, and one place sold draft beer by weight. They'd weigh your container (whatever you brought; I used to re-fill 1.75 liter vodka bottles), fill it, then weigh it again, and charge you by the pound. Never saw anything like that elsewhere.

Wonder if that 'container' thing is where the line in Springsteen's 'Jungleland' comes from: "Barefoot girl sitting on the hood of a Dodge, Drinking warm beer in the soft summer rain."

Thanks.

Lew Bryson said...

Stephen, Bill,

I absolutely agree with Stephen, Bill. I think that brewpubs need to be of a variety of types, white linen, poolhall, BBQ joint, fishhouse, pizzeria, etc., as opposed to the damned tarted-up Appleby's I see at too many of them.

Brewpubs can be all sorts of places. I remember Valhalla, in Pittsburgh, used to catch hell from some for being not very kid-friendly at all. Well, you know, I've got kids, and I don't think that's all bad. Some places should be adult places, both fancy adult places and rougher adult places.

Brewpubs can be, should be, representative of a wide range of food and fancy, just as beer can be. If Trap Rock isn't the kind of restaurant you like -- and it sounds like it wouldn't be the kind of place I'd go to hang out and have a few beers on a rainy afternoon, though I might happily go for dinner -- go to another one. Choice is good.

Lew Bryson said...

Y'know, Stephen...

Bierbistro was cool, and all, truly a dining highpoint, but, um, I do remember sitting at the bar with you and John, cold beers in hand, watching sports on the plasma...Women's curling.
O Canada...your chicks have 18 kilo stones...

Anonymous said...

Well, it's been some time since I paged the whole way down the blog to see what was going on, and damned if this isn't a great thread! I visited Newman's in the early 80s but never saw the cube. Bummer! Lew your story about beer by the pound is Xlent!

My earliest growler tale centers around Duffy's Tavern, a beautiful stone stagecoach inn that still pours beer, "on the diamond" in Boalsburg, PA. For a while in the late 70s they'd fill clean plastic gallon milk jugs with draft from the bar. There were two choices, one of which was Stroh's (huge at the time) and another I can't remember. First time I ever saw draft to go, and this topic brought it all back.

Thanks, everybody!