Diamond Bear Brewery doesn't have more than three or four employees, so when it's time to bottle they call in their part-timers and put out an email asking for volunteers to help with the bottling line. I've been on the email list for about a year, but they almost always bottle on weekday afternoons, which makes it hard for us to participate.
But this week they put out a call for volunteers for Friday evening, and Bryan and I snapped up the first two spots. The bottling was rescheduled for Sunday afternoon at one, which was also fine.
The four employees who actually knew what they were doing ran various parts of the machinery - Jason fed the bottles through the elevator and the first big conveyor. Switt babied the part of the mechanism that funneled the bottles through a corkscrew and down toward the sanitizer. Jesse, the brewmaster, ran the bottling machine itself, adjusting the pressures for the filler and poking a screwdriver into the capper periodically to keep it running smoothly. Wes ran the labeling part of the line.
And then the bottled beer made another turn and headed toward us, the volunteers. Bryan and I pulled bottles off the line and put them in cases. Brad helped with that, too, and also recapped the bottles that came through topless. We sorted out the bottles without labels to send back through to Wes again. We separated the short-fills. And we boxed up case after case of Southern Blonde, and Irish Red, and Presidential IPA. We sent the full cases down a roller table to John, who glued the boxes shut and stacked them.
Jesse had a lot of trouble with the bottler today. At first we thought it was that the Blonde was too foamy, so boxed the 20 cases of short fills to be sold at a discount, and let the rest sit. We tried the Irish Red, but it was even worse: six big 50-gallon garbage cans full of short-filled bottles. Finally, Jesse realized that the machine behaved differently when it was super-hot, and adjusting for that made things work better. And suddenly, the beer came out perfectly and the sell-for-money cases rolled down the table.
It was fun, but a damn lot of work. The temperature in downtown Little Rock was 103, which made it even hotter in the bottling room. And when the machines were all working right, things moved really, really fast.
During a supper break, I dropped off two overstuffed cases of IPA off at the polo court. And when we left about midnight, we had another case in the truck, along with two big trash cans filled to the top with Irish Red.
The Beer Fairy visited several of our friends last night, leaving boxes of beer for Allison and Jared and Michael and Brian, building a porch railing out of beer for Pete, and leaving a case on Britt and Debbie's porch too before heading home.
It's Monday morning, and I'm at work. My index fingers are swollen and scratched up from handling the capped bottles. I've taken two showers and washed my hair and changed my clothes, but somehow I still smell like a brewery. I'm hungry, and really tired. But it's a good story, isn't it?