wax-dipping, in pictures.
The folks at Badger Hill recently asked me to help wax-dip bottles of their brand-new Cherry Double Dunkel, a labor-intensive process done by hand that results in very fancy-looking beer. My response? I’m sorry, dip bottles of dunkel in molten wax while drinking beer and hanging around learning about brewing? Uh, helllll yes.
In other words, take my pyro tendencies, penchant for crafting, love of beer, and nerdery about learning new things and set me loose? Heck, I would have paid THEM.
I cleared my schedule.
I want to show you the process from start to finish and talk a bit about wax-dipping.
Blocks of wax were ordered from Wisconsin — basically big, brick-shaped candles. The quality of the wax matters – too thin and it will burn. The wax that Badger Hill had melted very evenly, didn’t burn, and cooled perfectly.
The picture at right is the filler. Because the beer is in bombers, the traditional 12oz filler couldn’t be used. This contraption was rigged up specifically for bombers and (in theory) could fill 4 at a time.
We had a hurry-up-and-wait situation because the beer was still very carbonated in the tank [see left], but after a half hour or so it was time to start filling.
After filling, the bottle is knocked on the table to make the beer foam up, thus displacing any oxygen, and quickly capped. We dried the bottles and then came the best part! We dipped the babies in molten black wax, let them cool, and put a little hand-punched tag around the neck.
It wasn’t tough, actually, and after a few I got the hang of how to create a few drips without going crazy. As the wax dries the on the bottles the drips sort of pull away and the end result is pretty cool, in an aesthetically pleasing, thermodynamic sort of way.
This kind of bottling process is tedious and knit-picky, but in the end I would say is is damn near worth it. Maybe it’s worth it. Ask the professionals if it’s worth it.
The Cherry Double Dunkel is a pleasantly tart beer with fresh cherry character and a balanced wheat component. It is beautifully cloudy and would be great on the day it hits the shelves (very soon!) or after cellaring.
Several cases into our day, the school-age son, Miles, of one of the brewers asked a very appropriate question that had occurred to each of us adults at least once – “why are we dipping the bottles in wax?”
Wax dipping is historic. It is a practice that was once used to seal bottles (usually corked bottles) for safe-keeping. It further prevents the contamination of oxygen but also holds the cork in place, the way a cage otherwise would. Modern day use of wax is aesthetic. It is fancy and sort of fun; wax dipped beers seem like perfect gifts, especially in the cooler months.
For more opinions on wax dipping, including tricks for doing it at home, see Does wax dipping make a difference?