Waxing – Very sexy!

Almost 2 years ago I began a brewing project for a super high gravity ale. My goal was to shoot for a 25%ABV or higher “beer”, and modeled my recipe loosely based on Sam Adams Utopias. You can read more about it in an upcoming post where I will give the full recipe and tasting notes. But for now I will tell you a few things to spark your interest. My clone ended up being at least 25% – on paper its 29% abv. I could send it in for testing, but then its just bragging rights and doesn’t really matter to me. After aging this beer on bourbon soaked oak cubes for almost 2 years, the time was upon us for bottling up this special beer.

After several tastings, I decided that I was going to bottle the beer still, without carbonation. The flavor was mellow, complex, smooth, and slightly sweet. Which makes for a great sipping liquor, like a fine brandy or port. Being that I wanted to age these bottles for an extended amount of time, I decided to seal the oxygen absorbing caps by dipping them in wax for extra protection and a finished look.

You can buy sealing wax from your local homebrew shop, or you can use standard waxes for sealing jars etc. Some people have used candle wax. I have even seen home-made concoctions out there on the interwebz for making your own, using crayons and hot melt glue sticks. While these options might be fun to play around with, I opted for buying sealing wax as I wanted the bottles to be sealed well and of high quality. I also wanted to use a silver wax and the LD Carlson version was the right color.

Bag o wax beads.

The bag of wax beads comes without instruction, but this should be fairly self-explanatory. Melt wax / dip bottles / repeat. Here are a few tips for bottle sealing fun without mess!

  • Find an old kitchen pot or large metal coffee can you can use to boil water in without fear of dripping wax ruining the pot. You will probably drip wax all over so don’t use your nice cookware.
  • Save a soup or vegetable can that will fit into the above boiler pot for melting wax in. The taller the better, which will give you more depth for dipping the bottles.
  • Fill your soup can almost to the top with wax beads and place into your boiler pot.
  • Add water to the boiler pot until your soup can of wax just starts to move around and float. We want enough water in there to heat the wax, but don’t want the can of wax floating around or tipping over.
  • Heat the water to simmering. I recommend using a hot plate and not your kitchen stove. Again, you will be dripping wax all over. Err on the side of caution with open flames and wax as well.
  • Gently stir the wax as it melts. It might take a while to fully melt. Once completely smooth and there are no lumps of un-melted wax, you can start dipping bottles.

My melting setup - pot, can, hotplate.

Dip each bottle to the desired depth, and then remove, holding the dripping bottle over the can. Depending on the look you want to achieve, you may want to practice on some empty and capped bottles to see how the wax works and how much (if any ) of the artsy “dripping” you want down the neck of the bottle. I wanted just a small drip onto the neck so the wax looked a little uneven and flowing. The really nice thing about this bottle sealing wax is that it is very easy to remove from the bottle. So practice away, and then just cut off the wax with a sharp knife and re-melt. There is no residue left over on the bottle. The wax is very plastic-like. It took me about 6 tries to get the look I wanted to achieve.

Dipping the bottle.

Let the wax drain off a bit after removing from the melt pot.

Once all of your bottles are dipped, they might look a little dull. Just rub the wax with your fingers to buff them to a nice shine. In the Photo below, the bottle on the left was buffed with plain old fingers. The bottle on the right is how the bottles look right after you dip them.

Left shiny polished, right dull.

Keep the unused portion of wax in the soup can and let it cool to harden for use later on your next batch. There you have it! Waxed bottles! I highly recommend using this type of specific bottle sealing wax. It melts well, and has the right kind of plastic look and feel for long term durability. Its fairly expensive, but worth it in my opinion. The ease of wax removal from practice bottles or mistakes on filled bottles makes using this stuff a breeze. There are all kinds of things you can do to add accents to the wax, such as seals etc. I opted for just the dip, as I had other plans for these special bottles. Stay tuned for a post about the recipe, tasting notes, and a glimpse at the finished bottle.

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