After putting in the time, talent, and passion to create a special beer, brewers will often turn to special packaging for their creation. Be it an anniversary beer, a collaboration, or one that is designed to age or be shared at a special occasion, the presentation matters.
Most often these special beers will be bottled, casting aside the ubiquitous aluminum can to denote a bit of pomp. To go that extra mile, many will choose to wax the tops to add to the experience.
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A thoughtful approach to waxing bottles is critical. It is expensive and time consuming, labor intensive, and needs to be done properly to achieve desired results.
Matt Morris can attest to that. He is the senior manager of warehouse operations for The Bruery and Offshoot Beer Co. in California and works with his team dozens of times a year to properly wax bottles of special offerings, from imperial stouts to barrel-aged offerings, to enobier.
“First off you need a wax melting pot,” he says, mentioning a website that is oddly specific: waxmelters.com. The brewery uses the Primo 25 model, which holds 3.5 gallons of melted wax. Pellets can be obtained from brewery supply companies and are usually sold in primary colors in bead form. Creating specific colors for certain bottle releases takes some trial and error, and often receives input from the brewery’s marketing team. Once a wax color ratio is approved, it is important to maintain it as the tank empties and requires replenishing. Scented oils can also be added to the wax for an extra olfactory touch.
Morris also suggests dipping a bottle and keeping it near the wax station to provide visual accuracy that the color is staying on point for the duration of packaging. Because of the amount of bottles that the brewery wax dips over the course of a year, it has dialed in on metrics and best practices for achieving uniform success and staying within a budget.
“The cost of wax should be factored into the cost of a beer before you get to the dipping phase,” he says.
The Bruery has discovered that it takes about 50 pounds of wax to cover 600 cases of beer. 375ml and 750ml bottles actually use the same amount of wax, the brewery has discovered via weight testing. For those formats a worker will dip the cap area into the wax, let it rest for a minute and then dip the bottle again to the mid-neck point. A case of beer takes about seven minutes to properly wax.
For corked wine bottles the brewery will press the cork a little deeper into the neck, creating an abscess that must first be filled with wax, which can be applied with an applicator, spoon, or dropper. After that wax has set, the rest of the neck can be dipped.
Making sure caps are properly secured and not leaking any beer, and that the bottles are completely dry before dipping. Liquid in the wax creates bubbles and requires time to remove. Keeping the wax at a temperature between 170°F and 175°F keeps it from being too thin or overly thick.
The job of waxing bottles, which for most breweries remains a manual labor job can be time consuming and mind numbing, but the end presentation and the customer experience is often worth the extra effort.