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Bottling our first beer!

Slow Order Barrel-Aged Stout in Bottles

300 Suns Brewing Slow Order Barrel-Aged Stout

Slow Order Barrel-Aged Stout

When we first opened our doors, and even before, bottling wasn’t even really on the to-do list.. We mentioned it from time to time in meetings, or in passing. Occasionally we would brave an utterance of “someday we might put this into a bottle.” It was a very distant hope.

The business of starting and running a brewery with a tasting room and now a small kitchen has always and probably will always take precedence in our list of priorities. Our love of this industry stems from wanting that connection to our customer which is so direct in the tasting room. Bottling our beers and sending them out into the world for STRANGERS to drink seemed so…well….not the intimate, connected, craft beer drinking experience we were after.

But eventually it was our customers that pushed us. It became a regular occurrence to hear “when are you going to be in my local liquor store?”

So, here we are. We took a leap. And let me tell you it felt like a big one at first. How in the heck are we going to afford the equipment and staff to get beer into a bottle, labeled and out to stores?

Turns out, it is actually a lot of work, but achievable. And, like everything we do, we wing it a little, beg and borrow what we can, ask a lot of questions before we start, and then we  build whatever else we need as cheaply as possible without sacrificing quality.

Our Slow Order Barrel-Aged Stout is aged in barrels that were purchased for us by two of our very generous customers (we call them “the Mike’s”). The barrels became available at a time that Mark was fighting the worst of his cancer, Dan was struggling with getting up to speed at the brewery and we were short handed and funded because of this. The Mike’s offered to buy these barrels for us. Let me type that again because of the amazing statement it is. These two customers BOUGHT the barrels for us. For nothing in return other than their names on the barrels. This is an amazing world folks.

The Two Mikes

The Mikes…(L and R, middle is our nephew, he isn’t in this story, nor is his name Mike, but he is a good kiddo)

So, we went about the business of using these glorious Whiskey Barrels that the good people at Woods High Mountain Distillery were gracious enough to sell us when they were done with them. And voila, out popped the delicious Slow Order Barrel-Aged Stout in 22 oz. bombers.

Okay, there was a lot more to it than that. Including, how does one exactly get the beer from the fermenter to the barrel to age? Or from the barrel into the bottles? People have done this before right? Right?

In any case, with lots of advice from others in the industry…ok let me stop there to mention…DO YOU KNOW HOW KICK ASS THIS INDUSTRY IS? We didn’t know exactly what we were doing. Granted we kinda knew what we were doing but there’s always this doubt. And it is little things like – “Oh, you should probably label those beers BEFORE the beer goes in them” – that are the things that you just don’t think about until you are in the thick of it. There are also big things we learned that I won’t share here because I don’t want to BLOW YOUR MIND with my new extensive bottling beer knowledge but lets just say it is an amazing industry we work in that we could get this kind of advice. Anyway, with lots of advice, we got started getting ready to bottle. (THANK YOUs to Gemini Beer Company, Echo Brewing and Wild Woods Brewery, who are all awesome people who make delicious beer.)

Dan putting Old Burlington Stout into whiskey barrels.

Dan putting Old Burlington Stout into whiskey barrels to create Slow Order Stout

Did you know there are rules to follow when you design beer labels? In Colorado we don’t have to have our labels passed by the feds because we are distributing only locally, but we made them compliant anyway…for when we make it big (well, just in case). And ALSO, did you know that you might want to pay attention to which way the labels are rolled on to the roll? And that the printer might not ask you which way they go because they’ll assume you will tell them because you should know what you are doing? Anyway, if you ever decide to label stuff, think about that.

Dan crafted a cool handmade labeler after watching several videos online. It looked really cool. It would have worked great for a shorter label that didn’t have to make it perfectly straight all the way around the bottle (or if Jean wouldn’t have freaked out every time it was crooked.) It worked ok for ours, but Jean soon discovered that she was better lining the labels up by hand (yay Freshman year of college studio skills). Dan has plans for version 3.0.

Homemade bottler

Dan made this bottle labeler with his own two little hands…and lots of tools. In fact, he made it twice.

But how to get beer INTO the bottles?

After asking around, we borrowed a very small bottler bottler for free…OK, this is another case of “Are you freaking kidding me? This industry is AWESOME!” I’ll leave their name off here so that they don’t get inundated with requests for free bottlers, but we weren’t the first that they did this for and it truly made the whole process less daunting knowing we didn’t have to lay out the money for that right off the bat (in case our bottled beers were so disappointing and people rioted in the streets and demanded we shut our doors…you never know, stuff happens.)

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Four-head bottler. Not to be confused with a forehead bottler, which is a VERY specialized product unrelated to the beer industry.

All that was left was a bottle capper and oh my goodness, we had one from a homebrew purchase off Craigs List back in our homebrewing days.

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Oh and this very high tech SHARPIE MARKER, with which we hand-numbered each and every bottle:

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Voila! Bottled Beer.

Oh wait, not yet, first there was:

Why isn’t this beer carbonating?, crooked labels, thinking we did something wrong and didn’t have enough for 300 bottles (then realizing we were fine, phew), tricking our employees into spending “team building night” bottling beer…and also enlisting the help of children (no children were touching beer, but they make great labelers, cleaners and empty bottle carriers), gushing beer all over our shirts, drinking beer that gushed out of bottler as foam so it didn’t “go to waste”…

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Delivering the first case of Slow Order Barrel-Aged Stout to Chris at Longmont Liquors

Then, voila! Bottled beer. And guess what? The experience has been more intimate and connected than we thought. Our friends our posting on social media how they bought their bottle at the store close to them. They are telling us how they plan to keep it for a year, or give it as a Christmas gift to a beer-loving friend, or take it home to their family over the holidays. We have re-connected with some great friends at local liquor stores who have thanked us for finally having bottled beers (who knew?!)

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We hope you like it and buy it at your local store. (And if they don’t carry it, ask them to give us a call.) We worked really hard on it. And we hope to do it again real soon. Unless you are currently rioting in the streets, in which case, we have a few bottles of delicious beer here to hold us over…

 

A note to our friends and customers

Anyone who came into the brewery in the last few months could see Mark’s back has been hurting. He went from limping to crutches in a short period. He thought it was an injury, but the MRI told him something different.

How do you tell people the reason why Mark hasn’t been around is that he has cancer? Well, here it is…

Mark found out he has a tumor in his pelvic bone and pelvic area – a rare form of bone cancer. The tumor was causing the pain that went from annoying to excruciating in the course of a few months.

The bad news is, well, Mark has cancer and it comes with all the awful shit a struggle with cancer comes with.

The good news is the foremost doctors in the country in treating this type of cancer are in Colorado and he is in their care. He is in good spirits and is going to beat the crap out of this cancer.

So if you have a Mark sighting, say hi, give him a smile and a hug. Send your positive thoughts.

Keep an eye open, we’d like to do a fundraiser event in March to help Mark and Candace with their bills!

 

 

On Tap

We are proud to announce (well it’s been awhile, but still) that we are getting our beers on tap around town and outside of Longmont.

So far, you can find our beers on tap at:

Shoes & Brews
63 S Pratt Pkwy
Longmont, CO 80501

Rosalee’s Pizzaria
461 Main
Longmont, Colorado 80501

NIcolo’s Pizza
1631 Pace Street
Longmont, CO 80504

Sun Rose Cafe
379 Main Street
Longmont, CO 80501

Brix Taphouse and Brewery (soon to be open)
813 8th St
Greeley, Colorado

in the newspaper

Longmont, Boulder brewery owners embrace feminine touches

Women of 300 Suns, Shine brewing find niche in male-dominant industry
By Whitney BryenTimes-Call community reporter

Times-Call writer, Whitney Bryen is doing a series of articles on women in the craft-brewing industry. She included us in this months. THANKS WHITNEY!

Read Article>

On Tap Locally

So we walk in the door and there it is. My eye goes to it immediately. Past the smiling faces of the owners of Shoes & Brews, who are greeting us warmly. There it is! My heart skips a beat like I’m viewing my newborn child for the first time. I turn to finally acknowledge Mark & Candace who are past the initial shock and enjoying one of the many beers on tap at this cool establishment. Then I turn to Ashlee and Colin. “It poured perfect, the first pour!” Ashlee says with a smile and I couldn’t be more proud. Carbonation has been something we’ve struggled with getting right in our tasting room, so I’m relieved to know that our first beer on tap outside of our taproom will reflect 300 Suns in a good light!

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“The tap handle works great” they say, which is also a relief. Dan lovingly crafted those handles by hand, sanding, sawing, staining them to perfect imperfection.

“This is a really great stout,” one of the customer’s tells us. Is Mark beaming? He should be. He’s working hard to keep our beer flowing and he should treasure this moment – hold on to it when the journey challenges us.

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We made beer and here it is and this guy thinks it’s great – that’s something, isn’t it? Well, it’s everything, isn’t it?

We took a baby step and it feels like we just climbed a mountain. It feels good. Time slows down for one evening. We order some beer and take a look around. Shoes & Brews has done it up right. Not only are they truly wonderful folks, but they have a kick-@#$ establishment (a brewpub plus a shoe store) that is comfortable, fun and has a great beer line-up. This is one of those places that makes Longmont such an awesome place to live.

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There’s more to come from us around town as we get our kegs out into the world. We’ll keep you posted! Thanks to all of you for the amazing support you’ve given us.

Run over (pun intended) and check out 300 Suns Brewing’s Old Burlington Stout , on tap at Shoes & Brews. 63 S Pratt Pkwy (across the street from Budget Home Supply).