Thursday, April 30, 2009

Additional Kate Day Details...

Howdy all:

A couple of weeks ago I posted a countdown clock on the Portsmouth Brewery's Brewers Notes Page, marking time till next year's Kate Day: Monday, March 1. Since then, I've read a good deal of commentary on Beer Advocate and elsewhere, so I thought I'd take a few minutes and provide some additional details.

Here at the Brewery, thinking about last Kate Day, we concluded that the biggest matter we needed to address was the long line and hours-long wait that many people had to endure.

When we opened our doors at eleven-thirty that day, the restaurant immediately filled to capacity (about 300 people, give or take), and there was no turnover due to the fact that those who had gotten seats remained there till after Kate was tapped at 1:14. Of course, this meant that anyone who had not entered our doors in the first wave was forced to stand in line until seats in the restaurant began opening up, hours later.

How can we address this, we asked ourselves? The most obvious thing is to move the tapping time closer to when we open our doors, so people are not required to wait (inside or outside) for hours. That was an easy decision: we've set the tapping for 11:37 am, shortly after we "officially"open for business. People will be able to stop in, enjoy a Kate and a bite to eat, and get on with their days. Tables will turn over more rapidly, and there will be less of a wait outside. We hope.

Moreover, after, giving it further thought, we concluded that Kate Day consists of not one but two related activities: the celebration & socializing surrounding the actual tapping, and the purchase of bottles. Why did they have to take place simultaneously, we asked? Would things run smoother if we took care of bottle sales first thing in the morning, hours before the tapping? We think they will.

So, in short, here is how Kate Day will shape up next March 1.

1.) Bottle sales will commence at 9:00 AM and will be conducted on a first-come, first-served basis. We will start to issue calendar pages at seven in the morning, to reduce the amount of time people have to wait in line. Bottle sales will be conducted in our downstairs bar, but no drinks will be served there during this time. Once bottles are purchased, people will be asked to go outside so we can clear the room prior to tapping.

2.) The tapping itself will take place at 11:37 AM, in both our upstairs and downstairs bars. We'll open our doors a bit earlier than usual, eleven instead of eleven-thirty, to give everyone a chance to settle in.

We're confident that these changes will help make the next Kate Day more enjoyable for all. As always, we welcome your feedback.



By the way, regarding rumors of larger batches of Kate being brewed at Smuttynose ...

... no comment.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Damned if You Do; Damned if You Don't

Yesterday, I received the following email from a customer in a neighboring state:


I was to lead by saying how much my wife and I enjoy your brews. The Winter Ale is one of our absolute favorite beers, and, as beer lovers, we try many different brews.
But I am also a homebrewer and often use the empty bottles from commercial beers we have drank (I won't use other people's bottles, so I can ensure they are clean), and I am writing to let you know that I think the glue your company uses to affix the labels is OVERKILL, and will probably limit the number of your beers that I buy in the future. While it takes about 5-10 minutes to soak and remove the labels off of other beers (Orlio, Dogfish Head, and Saranac for example) in only hot water, it took nearly 3 hours for me to simply loosen the labels from the MANY Winter Ale bottles I tried to reuse today. Even soaking them with Simple Green didn't assist me, and I had to scrub the bottles. Doing this also meant that some of the glue and label went down my drain and into my septic, and that just won't do.
I'd like to request that you consider other methods or other glues to keep your labels stuck. My wife LOVES your beers, but even she says if it means having to spend that amount of time removing labels that we may have to buy other beers in case we need bottles later (we give away our brews as gifts).
Thank you for taking the time to read this.

After labelling our bottles for fourteen years with an ancient World Tandem machine, and fielding ceaseless complaints from wholesalers, retailers and consumers about our flagging, crooked and missing labels, we invested in a nice roll-on labeler. The glue that worked with the World Tandem did not match the new machines, so we had to try numerous different types of glue until we found one that adhered to cold, wet bottles and set quickly with minimal sliding; flowed well in varying temperature and humidity; did not produce noxious vapors; and cleaned up easily. We finally found a glue that met all these requirements, and we've been pretty darn happy with the results.

Now we learn that we may lose a customer because our labels stick too well. Sheesh. We may be able to salvage his business, yet, as we will soon install an air knife in our bottling line. An air knife is essentially the thing that blow-dries your car as it leaves the car wash. In a bottling line, it blows moisture off bottles as they enter the labeler, so the labels are affixed to a semi-dry surface, instead of a wet one. Once the air-knife is installed and operational, we may find ourselves looking for a new glue, since the glue we use now, which is ideally suited for our current parameters, may not work as well with blow-dried bottles.