Anyone who has attended a sports or charity event knows the soul-crushing frustration of long beer lines. But what if a device could make those lines a distant memory?
That’s the idea behind Bottoms Up, an innovative beer-dispensing machine that fills from the bottom of the cup, limits foam in the glass, and in just one minute, can produce up to 62 16-ounce beers.
Pouring beer the regular way with the tilted glass to manage the head? “I’ve seen a very skilled person do seven (in a minute),” said Josh Springer, inventor of Bottoms Up and president and founder of GrinOn Industries based in Indianapolis.
A Bottoms Up unit costs about $3,600, which is a hefty upfront investment, but Springer says “it’s affordable because of what it does for you.”
Each cup that comes with the dispensing system has a metal ring crimped into its bottom. Placing the cup on the dispenser breaks the ring’s magnetic seal and allows beer to enter through a hole. Removing the cup from the dispenser causes the ring to reseal. “You save substantially on waste,” Springer said. “The national average is 70 percent of the beer makes it into the glass. Ours is closer to 100 percent.”
Springer’s inspiration from Bottoms Up came “in a daydream,” he said. “I stood up, stopped every conversation and I said, ‘You know what would be cool? A pitcher of beer that would fill up from the bottom.’”
Sales are taking off. The company started in a 150-square-foot shed. Now they have a 26,000-square-foot plant.
Don’t expect to see Bottoms Up at your favorite brewery tasting room or serious beer bar – at least not yet. That’s mostly because the machine uses plastic cups. Springer says they are working on a glass version, as well as beta testing pitchers.
Locally, they’re using Bottoms Up at Suzie Burger on P Street in midtown. “We really like it. It’s a fun system to use,” said manager Brian Spence.
Crowlers catching on
One contraption that seems to be catching on with craft breweries is the crowler. Sure, it’s not the greatest name in the world, but neither is “growler.” This is an aluminum-can version, and it’s half the size of the standard 64-ounce glass growler, which lets in light and doesn’t provide an optimal seal, meaning spoilage is an issue.
Berryessa Brewing started using them a few weeks ago. The cans are sealed (or seamed) on site immediately after filling. They’re smaller, cheaper, easier. The beer stays fresh longer. And people seem to love them.
“They are selling like hotcakes,” reports Lori Nicolini Miller of Berryessa Brewing. “We are pre-filling an allotted amount for weekends of whatever the brewers are racking up that week – meaning the freshest beer – and selling them out by the end of the weekend, so every weekend is different. It’s going great.”
The crowler was created by Oskar Blues Brewery of Colorado in partnership with Ball Corp.
As many in the industry know, growlers can be a major pain. Some breweries are fussy about filling growlers from a different brewery. Many brewers worry that these glass containers are not sanitized properly when people bring them in. That could lead to contamination/spoilage, which can hurt a brewery’s reputation. None of that happens with the crowler.
As for the name, no one says you have to utter it. “We are just calling them 32-ounce cans,” Nicolini Miller said in an email.
Three cheers for new website
There’s a terrific new local beer-focused website called Hops About Beer. It’s the work of beer enthusiast Zach Clevenger, who happens to have a secret weapon. I noticed as much when I read a recent post that contained a recipe for a treat called Track Seven Nukin’ Futz Chocolate Cupcakes.
The recipe seemed unusually professional. Turns out, Clevenger’s wife, Alison, is the head pastry chef at Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates, home to some of city’s finest chocolates, macarons, cakes and ice cream sandwiches. They’ve been married since October and Zach, who works in information technology, started the website in May.
While Zach gives his tasting notes and ratings for various beers – recently, he praised Bike Dog’s Mosaic Pale Ale and raved about Knee Deep’s Breaking Bud IPA – Alison is going to be handling recipes for the website. They sound like a formidable team. In the weeks ahead, watch for more beer reviews, thoughts on beer pairings and beer-friendly recipes from Alison and well-known local chefs she knows.
Zach tells me his favorite brewery of the moment is West Sacramento’s Bike Dog, both because its excellent lineup of beers and because it lets him bring his dog inside the tasting room. As you read last week, Bike Dog is getting bigger. It recently took over the space next door, which means more room for dogs and their beer-drinking owners.