Small Batch Brü

Recipes, techniques and tasting notes

guy filling bottles

Competition Brewing Series: Bottling

In previous posts, we’ve talked about why we submit our beers to competitions and we’ve discussed judging feedback and how to plan ahead.

The shipping deadline for the competition you’re entering is getting closer and, if you’re kegger, it’s time to put that beer into bottles. If you’re a bottle conditioner then you get to skip this step.

Bottling For Competitions

You want to send in the best representation of your beer. So, sending in beer that has been bottled for 6 months (excluding aged beers, of course) probably won’t get you great feedback.

My preferred method is to use the Blichmann Beer Gun. The best part about the beer gun is that it gives you the ability to purge each bottle with CO2 and then fill it. These are the steps I take when using my beer gun:

  1. Make sure your bottles are CLEAN and COLD.
    • Don’t use detergent if you clean your bottles in the dishwasher. Use the “sanitize” cycle if your dishwasher has this setting.
    • Place them in the fridge or freezer. Cold beer hitting warm bottles will give you foam.
    • Pull one bottle from the fridge at a time.
  2. I put my beer gun in the fridge as well to get the filling tube nice and cold.
  3. Run some star san through the filling tube to ensure your won’t shoot contaminants into your bottles.
  4. Turn your CO2 pressure down to 4-6 psi. This reduces foaming.
  5. Insert the beer gun into the bottle at an angle and shoot about 10 seconds of CO2.
  6. Release the CO2 trigger and pull the liquid trigger.
    • Fill until there’s beer running out of the top. The filler occupies the perfect amount of headspace.
  7. Shoot a burst of CO2 into the headspace.
  8. Cap as fast as you can.

Bottle Some for Later

I like to bottle a few extras and sample them on the day that the judging is happening. Make your own notes while you’re tasting. This should be pretty close to the same beer that the judges are tasting. When you get your scoresheet, open another one and taste it as you read through the remarks.

Keep Your Beers Cold and In the Dark

Of course, keep your bottled beers cold and away from light until you ship. You can’t be sure how the competition organizers are storing your beer once it arrives, so keep it as fresh as you can for as long as possible. You just have to hope that there is consistency in the way that the organizers store your beer. IE – everyone’s beer is kept cold or everyone’s beer is kept warm.

If you’re a bottle conditioner then I recommend just cracking one open to taste and check the carbonation level before shipping it off to the competition.

Next in the series, we’ll discuss how to package and ship your beers off to their respective competitions. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me or just comment below!