We decided to bottle the first batches of Cherriots of Sour and Hops Rule all by hand rather than hiring a mobile bottler. This allows us to test out several different bottle sizes. With Hot For Peacher, we only bottled in 355mL bottles. With Cherriots of Sour and Hops Rule, we bottled in three different bottle sizes, 355mL, 500mL, and 750mL to see what size bottle people prefer the best.
Bottling Days Start Early in the Morning
Bottling days always get started very early in the day. And since we were bottling by hand, it was a very tight schedule to make sure everything would be bottled before the end of the day. The target is to arrive at the winery right at 6am to get things going. First things first, we set up the kettle stove out back behind the winery and heat up water to a boil. Once it’s boiling, we add the priming sugar (this produces the carbonation in the bottle via secondary fermentation), let it boil for 5 minutes to clean out any impurities, and then use a wort chiller to quickly cool the sugar solution back to room temperature.
After the sugar is ready, it’s time to rack the mead one last time into a “bottling tank,” add the sugar solution, then run CO2 for a couple minutes to make sure the sugar is sufficiently mixed with the mead. Then we hoist the bottling tank up onto some crates and pallets to prep for bottling. We’re using gravity to move the mead from one place to the next (rather than pumps), hence needing the bottling tank to be up high enough for sufficient pressure.
Kegging and Bottling
By this time, it’s around 8:30 in the morning, and it’s time to get the mead into bottles! We start by filling up the 5-gallon kegs. Once those are full, we move onto the bottles. For the bottles, we set up a small assembly line, all of this of course done by hand:
- unpacking the empty bottles
- sanitizing the empty bottles
- filling the bottles
- capping the bottles
- labeling the bottles
- packing the bottles back into cases
- palletizing the cases
We started with the 750mL bottles as those go the fastest. Once those were done, we moved on to the 500mL bottles, and then onto the 355mL bottles. No surprise, it turns out that labeling ends up being the slowest step in the process. Adding labels by hand requires attention to detail … can’t have the label sitting crooked on the bottle! In future iterations, we may decide to explore labeling machines to make this step go faster.
All-in-all, bottling took about four to five hours for each of these two batches of sparkling mead. We bottled Cherriots of Sour first, here’s a video that we put together:
The day after bottling Cherriots of Sour, we racked Hops Rule and added in the hops. Then we put the top on it and let it chill. Hops Rule gets hopped for only a handful of days before bottling. Early the following week we ran the whole process all over again, bottling Hops Rule. Here’s a video of that bottling day as well:
And voila, the sparkling mead is bottled and ready to go. Then comes the most difficult part of the entire process: waiting a couple weeks for the sparkling mead to carbonate in the bottle. It’s a nerve-racking couple of weeks, cause who wants to drink sparkling mead that’s not sparkling, am I right?!
Thankfully everything went according to plan both with Cherriots of Sour and Hops Rule, and both of these new flavors are now available for purchase in our online store! We hope you enjoy them … Cheers!