Everyone who has ever worked for us will have an opinion about this contraption. Love it or hate it, like the orange forklift, this invention of Henry’s is still with us after 10 years. Henry built it to help us bulk fill growlers for our opening day in July 2013. We thought it was a temporary, short-term solution. We wanted to counter pressure fill growlers in order to keep the beer fresh longer, and it also allowed us to fill growlers directly from the brite tank before kegging the beer, saving a step and lots of time.
Counter pressure filling involves purging the bottle with carbon dioxide and then pressurising before filling. This ensures the beer isn’t exposed to oxygen during packaging (so it stays fresh longer) and the pressure reduces the foaming of the beer significantly so less beer is wasted. This is how our automated bottling machines fill bottles to ensure optimal freshness. Engineering at its finest! Henry’s hand bottling version is made of copper tubing and valves mounted on some plywood from the hardware store, with a spring-loaded support for the bottle to help maintain a seal while filling.
Shortly after we opened, the NSLC decided to list the Vicar’s Cross in 650 mL bottles. This was great news for us - a second listing and an opportunity to be bold and give the craft beer lovers of Nova Scotia a double IPA they would remember. The problem for us: we didn’t own a 650 mL bottling machine. So, we made some adjustments to Henry’s growler filler and figured we could just fill them by hand.
We had no idea how many people were going to love the Vicar’s Cross.
By the fall of 2013 we were spending 16 hours a week standing at the hand bottlers (by this point we had two). It was a thankless, tedious task. We listened to a lot of music. We even watched the 2014 Winter Olympics. It was insane. We would ship 3072 bottles at a time, that we filled 2 at a time by hand.
So…the day in 2014 that we bought our automated Meheen 650 mL bottle filler with help from our friends at Farmworks was a great day. (If anyone is interested, we are now selling that Meheen at a great price!)
We still use the hand bottlers to pre-fill growlers for sale in our Shelburne retail store. We’ve never found a better solution.