You got your chocolate in my peanut butter

I was recently at a 7-11 with Mrs. UsedHair and we were admiring the decadence of the double gulp insulated mug.

52 oz double gulp mug

Mrs. UsedHair liked the Army design as UsedHair Jr. was in the Army.  my only problem was that I couldn’t think of anything of which I would want 52 ounces in one shot.  But then I noticed the sticker.

8 hours cold sticker

This mug claims to keep liquids cold for 8 hours.  I could probably drink 52 ounces of beer in 8 hours.  Probably.  It would mean drinking for a whole evening without having to get up off the couch even once.  There was just one hitch.  I collect single bottles and cans.  That’s all I shop for.  I don’t have 52 ounces of any single beer around my house.  I would have to find a beer with just enough class, color, and charm to drink from a 7-11 double gulp mug.

Well, it just so happens that I was listening to an episode of At The Bar Podcast in which they were discussing a news story that helped me out.  As it turns out, Walmart is being sued because they sell a line of beer that (so the claim goes) is disguised as craft beer.  Just what does that mean?  Well, the 12 pack of beer in question is clearly labeled as being from Trouble Brewing.

Walmart 12 pack of “craft” beer
Walmart “craft” beer

As it turns out, there is an actual Trouble Brewing in Ireland, but none whatsoever here in the US.  The Trouble Brewing listed on the Walmart beer cans is a thinly veiled front for Genesee Brewing Company.  When I was growing up in Upstate New York, Genesee was known for it’s bargain basement quality beer.  Since then, it has been sold and mergered a few times and now rests in the hands of Cerveceria Costa Rica S.A.  Such news worthy beer definitely belongs in my collection.  For me, the bigger issue is not that the beer is made by a mass distributor.  Rather, the fact that the beer is made by Genesee makes it of about the right amount of class to be appropriate for a 7-11 double gulp.  My own personal challenge had begun.  Check out the video to see me preparing to drink a mish-mash of 5 cans of low quality beer in one night.  There’s a reward at the end of the video as you get to see that this mug really-really likes me.

So how did the night go?  Well, believe it or not, I’m not really used to drinking 5 beers in a night.  Craft beer is typically expensive, so I keep myself paced pretty well.  Getting through 5 beers, of questionable quality, all mixed together in a bucket, was not the most enjoyable evening I’ve ever had.   But I powered through it.  The biggest side effect I noticed was well after I drank the beer.  I will occasionally get up in the middle of the night with heartburn and have to take a tums.  I’m then fine and go back to sleep for the rest of the night.  I had to get up 4 times that night with the same heartburn.  That was a tums filled night to be sure.  But now I have a story, an insulated mug that I’ll never use again, and 4 new cans for the collection.

Designed with your mind in mind

I would hope that those who know me well think that I am a rather “unique” individual with some fairly creative ideas when I put my mind to it. In addition, I’m fairly confident that those who know me well understand that deep down in my core, I’m a cheap bastard. Together these particular less-than-super powers led me to decide that I needed a really big set of shelving to hold all my DVDs, and that I didn’t want to go out and spend a lot of money on what is essentially a bunch of slabs of wood (have you seen the price of shelving? Ridiculous).  So, I put my big boy creative pants on and started thinking how I could put together some shelving that might tie in with beer and save some money.

As I mentioned, shelves are just slabs of wood with some posts that hold them apart.  Puzzling that bad boy out, the idea came to me that the posts that hold the slabs of wood apart in shelving don’t necessarily have to be more wood. They can be anything. What do I have a lot of? Well, beer bottles of course. But, I was worried that bottles themselves might not be sturdy enough to support all that weight. And, I don’t have many duplicates on bottles that I would be willing to sacrifice if the idea didn’t work out well.  You know, another item made of glass that looks sturdy as all heck are pint glasses. And I also have a metric ass-ton of those (some of which are duplicates, or ones I’m willing to sacrifice). Thus, the journey began. However, I KNOW that those who know me well understand that I’m not much of makey kind of person and I’m absolutely not anything resembling a carpenter. So, I had to figure out a way to make the shelves such that minor things like “precision” and “quality” would not show over much.

First, I had to make sure the idea would work at all. I took 7 1 x 6 boards (wide enough to hold DVDs) and stacked them on top of three disposable pint glasses in the back yard figuring that most of the weight is not coming from the DVDs, but rather the wood. I left them for a day and they did not break. Good enough for me (remember that precision and quality are minor things to me). It was time to start production proper. So, I sanded and painted the shelves and left them to dry in my office (as I don’t have a garage).

Shelves drying in the office

Next up, I had to create something to make the pint glass posts tall enough (they are a few inches shorter than DVDs). Fortunately, I have a bunch of scrap 1 x 4s left over from building the shelving for bottles. I turned those into wood blocks and Mrs. UsedHair painted them all sorts of funky colors for me.

Painted wood blocks
More funky colored wood blocks

The next few steps involved lots of epoxy. I glued the wood blocks together in batches of three, making sure to stagger them so that odd angles and child-like construction would seem “part of the design”.

Epoxied wood blocks

Once the blocks were together, I epoxied the blocks to the pint glasses, again alternating putting them on the tops or bottoms of the glasses to keep the design a bit “hectic”.

Wood blocks epoxied to glasses

The next step was where the real fun began.  Gluing glasses and blocks to the shelving itself, first had to occur one shelf at at time.

Each shelf with glasses and blocks

Then I was able to stack them into sets of two or three shelves.  So far the process has consisted of lots of applying epoxy and tons of waiting for things to dry.

Double layers of shelves

Along the way I learned some lessons and managed to put the worst epoxy jobs on the bottom shelf.

Epoxied blocks and glass not even close to the center of the shelf

But then the big moment arrived and I was able to epoxy and stack the whole kit-n-kaboodle.  I even thought to put some straps across the back of the shelving to maintain lateral support (however, I misjudged the “center” of the shelves so the point where the strapping meets in the “middle” is horribly aligned).

Shelving fully constructed

I don’t think it turned out half bad considering I hardly ever actually “build” anything.  And once I got the DVDs on there, you can’t really see the crappy strapping job at all.

Completed shelving with DVDs

Looks like I made a little too much shelving.  Guess I’ll have to by more DVDs now.

Brother can you spare an idea?

As I’ve discussed before, There are a lot of challenges involved in displaying all of my bottles and cans.  Today, I would really like to put a call out to get some ideas on how to best handle my growing stockpile of cans.  The end goal here is to use space on the ceiling to display them all.

Cans on the ceiling

The challenge is in how to get them to stay on the ceiling.  In the past, I’ve tried fun-tack.  But that doesn’t seems to last forever and cans end up peeling away.

Fun-tack fail leads to cans peeling away

The current plan involves attaching magnets to the cans and sticking the magnets to metal rails that I can attach to the ceiling.

Metal rail with magnets attached to cans

There are two problems with this approach.  One is that, even though I am using only a small dot of adhesive on the magnet itself, all of the adhesives I have tried end up creating a ring of schmutz on the can that make it look like a 3 year old slathered paste all over the place.

Adhesive schmutz

The other problem is that all adhesives prove to be even less permanent than the fun-tack and the cans still end up peeling away from the ceiling. How are magnets and aluminum so impervious to adhesives? Son of a…

So… that leaves me with trying to find a method of getting the magnets to permanently stay on the can without permanently damaging or altering the can.  As a test run, I’ve used masking tape and the magnets are, indeed, strong enough to still hold the can to the metal (I purchased really good magnets).

Masking tape holing magnet in place

The problems with this approach are that the tape will end leaving adhesive junk all over the can and that it looks horrible for display purposes.

OK younglings.  Time to start generating some ideas here.  How can I get these cans up on the ceiling in a way that:

  1. Does not damage or alter the can itself
  2. Does not result in an ugly display
  3. Allows the magnet to have enough contact with the metal
  4. Is economically viable for 500+ cans?

 

Opening cans from top or bottom – or is there a better way

I have another video edition for you.  There is some debate as to whether beer cans should be opened from the bottom to maintain the pop top unpopped.  I might have a better way.  What do you think?

Here is what the top of the can looks like when I glue the top back on.

Safety opened can with lid glued back on

They can take our lives. But, they will never take our beer bottle

I get a lot of my bottles and cans on the road. Be it in McAllen, TX; San Diego, CA; Wheeling, WV; Johnson City, NY; or even down the street at a local brewery… I often have to get a full or empty bottle home in a way that’s significantly different than putting a grocery bag in the trunk and driving it home. Sometimes you have to go that extra mile to keep your beer bottle. So, I figured that today I would share some of my techniques so you can all laugh at me and tell me how I could do it better.

Step 1: know if you can take the beer.

This is less of an issue than it once was. In my earlier years of collecting, I would get strange looks from friends and coworkers as I would slyly put an empty bottle by my feet on the floor or tucked into a booth corner.  This is because I had previously made the mistake of asking if I can take the bottle with me and been told that they legally have to say no. But, if I had simply walked out with the bottle they wouldn’t have noticed or cared. I have lost bottles to this, but not in a long time. Most places now will ask if I want a bag to carry the bottles in, or even offer to rinse them out.  Speaking of which…

Step 2: clean your bottle/can.

If you know the place you are at is good about you leaving with the bottle or can, I recommend rinsing it out. Unfortunately this can lead to a wet vessel that can still slime up the rest of your stuff (your backpack, shopping bag, car, etc.). It’s particularly difficult to get all the water out of cans.  The problem can be pretty well addressed by rolling up some bathroom paper towels and sticking them inside. It takes some care to get the paper towels back out again, but it’s worth the effort.

Rinsed and dried beer can… ready for travel

Step 3: put them somewhere smart.

I’m very cautious and responsible about drinking and driving. But, even as a passenger in someone else’s car, putting an empty bottle in someone’s cup holder can cause the wrong impression if one gets pulled over. There are also open bottle laws that vary from state to state. Again, what I’m doing doesn’t break those laws (they pertain to bottles that are being consumed in public) but best not to create any situations that could be misinterpreted. The problem here is that bottles or cans in the trunk of a car tend to roll around and/or get broken/crushed by other things in the trunk. I’m fortunate enough that most of the cars I’ve been in for those situations have a sunken wheel well to hold a spare tire. These things are great for holding bottles/cans without allowing them too much movement.

Empty bottles where they won’t roll around too much

That covers most of the problems not already covered by my tips on flying with bottles and cans.

Do you have any traveling tips to share?  Any questions that I should try to cover?  Let me know. Chances are, I’ve dealt with it at some point along the way.

A cold beer, and another one

What is the ideal temperature of a beer?  That’s the kind of question that can start a fight among some beer drinkers.  For the most part, it depends on the style of beer.  Some beers are better warm, some cold.  But, for the most part, I really prefer that they aren’t simply room temperature.  This can cause problems on the road.  For growlers on the road, this becomes an even more important issue.

Growlers are bottles that breweries use to be able to sell you beer that they have on tap. The good news is that you get to take a beer home with you that you can’t buy at the local liquor or grocery store. The bad news is that you have a limited time to drink that beer and it MUST stay refrigerated. Often, a hotel I’m staying at will have a small refrigerator and I can have a few beers a night from the growler without any real problem. Sometimes, however, there is no fridge in the hotel room. The last time this happened was when I was in Wheeling, WV. What do you do with a 64 oz bottle of beer that has to stay cold for several days?

Growler of Wheeling Brewing beer in an “ice bucket”

What I do is to take a garbage can and fill it with ice from the ice machine. This works for a surprising length of time. It also works if you have regular bottles that you want to drink. But, that leads to a different problem. How do you keep bottles of beer in an “ice bucket” without water from the melting ice destroying the labels?  My approach has been to wrap the bottle in a washcloth, stick the whole bottle/cloth combination into a gallon ziplock bag and then put it in the ice. In the morning I start with a full bucket of ice.

Full ice bucket first thing in the morning

By the time I get back to my hotel room, well after dinner, there is still some ice in the bucket and the beer is cold. I will admit that ziplock bags are better at keeping liquids in than at keeping liquids out.  Sometimes, I come back and find the bottles floating in a pool of water inside the bag.  It’s still the best solution I’ve found yet.  Let me know if you have a better idea.  I would love to hear it.

Ice bucket after dinner, still with ice

Is the beer in an ice water bath at an ideal temperature for drinking?  Who knows?  All I know is that it’s a good temperature for me.  I’m not really that exacting a person when it comes to making sure my stouts are at 55° F or that my lagers are between 42° and 48° F.  Anything below 70° F works for me.

Enough is too much!

Sometimes in life you have to say “stop, stop, stop… enough it too much!” Am I talking about collecting in general?  No such luck (sorry Mrs. UsedHair).  Rather, I’m talking about the constant arranging and rearranging of the bottles so that I can keep everything grouped together by specific breweries.  Lets look at an example.

When I came across my first bottle of Fat TireNew Belgium did not distribute to Florida. The single bottle was a cool and unique find. Then, in 2013, they started distributing here and even came out with some nice commemorative bottles to mark the occasion.

New Belgium commemorative Florida bottles

Then they started releasing more 22 oz (bomber) bottles.

New Belgium more bomber sized bottles

And then they released a bunch of regular sized bottles.

New Belgium regular sized bottles

This is all well and good. And I really like adding new bottles to the collection. But, they keep adding more and more new bottles.

More New Belgium bottles
Even more New Belgium bottles

I like to keep all my bottles organized by brewery. So, every time I want to add in these new bottles I have to shift tons of other bottles around on my shelving to make room. If it was only one brewery (like this example) it wouldn’t be a huge deal. But, with the number of breweries I deal with (532 at last count) it can turn into a nightmare that looks a little like this.

Moving bottles around
More moving bottle around
Even more moving bottles around

I can’t begin to tell you the number of times that Mrs. UsedHair comes into the office to find me staring at the walls just searching and searching for a bottle that I need to move somewhere and just can’t find. It’s maddening!

So, I have decided that enough is too much. I will no longer move hundreds of bottles just to try and keep everything together by brewery. Rather I am going to add bottles in as space allows and start logging bottle location by wall and shelf. For example, the wall by my desk is wall 1. The third shelf down on the wall by my desk will be wall 1 shelf 3. It’s not a perfect locating system, but it should help immensely.  Tracking things like this and giving up on rearranging should reduce not only the time that I spend shuffling bottles around, but also the amount of time that I spend standing around trying to figure out just where the hell individual bottles are hiding on my walls. I will be free, dammit! And, as Mrs. UsedHair so wisely pointed out, the only person likely to care (in the long run) is me.