Last year I got sick of recycling beer bottles, and the tremendous waste associated with this. Recycling glass is better than throwing bottles away, to be sure. But fifty years ago (or today, in almost any other country) bottles were regularly cleaned and reused. Why not now?
Some consider the “give a hoot, don’t pollute” ad campaign, and its modern “recycle” replacements to be nothing more than a giant exercise in externalizing costs. Companies reduce the cost of their products by using inexpensive disposable/recyclable containers, and forcing taxpayers to pay for their disposal. After moving to disposable packaging, companies had so much money left over they could afford TV ads to tell people not to throw trash on the ground.
It turns out that in some cases, bottles are still reused today. I started making an effort to buy my beer in refillable Growlers (half gallon jugs) as often as possible. I rode my bike to East End Brewing Company on growler days, and filled up at D’s occasionally out of convenience.
But growlers have their own problems. The beer is relatively expensive: you nearly pay bar prices, at D’s. And you need to refill them fairly often. This led me to consider filling one of my soda kegs (aka “Cornelius Kegs” or “Sixtels”) at EEBC, but I never got around to it.
Then, I tried Session Ale #21: “Grisette.” This is a small (low alcohol) Belgian style beer. It is excellent! It’s spicy and flavorful, and doesn’t send me under the table (or my foot into my mouth?) too quickly.
Both of my homebrew kegs were empty, so I got one filled with Grisette (well, Marla did: thanks!) and it has been great. The beer stays carbonated (with some help from my CO2), and I won’t need to refill it often. Even better, a 5 gallon keg costs as much as 5 half-gallon growlers, so it costs as little as an average beer in a case (in Pennsylvania, anyway).
For anyone who brews beer, I definitely recommend considering kegging your beer instead of bottling it. It’s faster, more convenient, and when you use CO2 to dispense your beer, it stays fresh almost as long as in bottles. I bottled my Gruit, the first bottling job I’ve done in a long time, and it was no fun at all: label removal, bottle washing, and then floor washing after the mess of filling everything up.
The main downside of kegging is the startup cost. Luckily, Dad found some kegs at a scrap metal yard around the time they were being phased out in soda vending locations, and bought them by the pound. But knowing what I know now, I’d still invest in kegs if I had to buy them.
And as a side perk, you can probably get your keg filled at a local microbrewery, for only slightly more than the cost of brewing a batch.