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Brewing Better Beer – The Art of Packaging

blank bottles on the allagash bottling line

The goal of packaging beer is this: get the freshest possible beer to a beer drinker. While it may sound rudimentary, it’s something our team works tirelessly to improve.

If our quality control measures on our packaging line were an iceberg, the following list would be the top of the tip. Rather than list every single thing, we’ve pulled out some of the more visual ways our team makes sure that beer moves faultlessly from our tanks to a package to your hand to your stomach.

Allagash Brewing Company bottling line
  • Line operators always personally inspect our cans, bottles, and kegs. For bottles, a few of the many things we’re looking for include: a level finish on the top of the bottle for a good seal; that we have the correct bottles (we’ve never released a twist-off bottle in our 23 years, but still receive a couple every once in a while); a whole range of defects including warped bottles, cracked glass, debris in the bottles, and more. We even use our noses. Recently, we found that a pallet of very green wood had filled empty bottles with condensation and a dense, woody aroma. We didn’t use those bottles.

 

  • We rinse all bottles with sterile water, despite the fact that they come in clean. We want to be certain there’s nothing in our bottles but empty space.

 

  • On our bottling and kegging lines, turbidity meters check for the correct level of haze in our beer.
allagash kegs
  • For our bottles that are sealed with corks and cages, we test the torque at which it takes to remove a cork from the bottle as well as the cork depth, both of which influence how hard it is to get the cork out. These tests make sure that it’s easy (but not too easy) to pop a bottle open.

 

  • We bottle condition our beer. To bottle condition, we add a small portion of sugar and yeast right before the beer is packaged, so that it carbonates up to its desired level inside the bottle (or can, or keg) itself. Our lab monitors extract and cell counts on all beer, so that we can be sure it’s at the correct level of carbonation.

Test bottles make sure the bottling line’s x-ray is working correctly.

  • On the bottling line, an x-ray looks for various bottle flaws: low fills, missing or ripped labels, glass fractures, missing caps, and more. If any of those flaws are detected, the line automatically kicks that bottle into a separate area. Every half hour we run a series of intentionally messed up bottles through the x-ray, to ensure it’s on point.

 

  • Another x-ray checks for missing or broken bottles once they’ve been sealed into a cardboard case. We run checks on that device every half hour as well.

Now that you’ve dipped your toe into packaging, our next blog will jump into one of the deeper ends: TPO (Total Package Oxygen).

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