Tuesday & Wednesday, August 23 & 24
The brewery never felt more like a sauna last week as temperatures reached highs of 90 degrees Fahrenheit. This weather made bottling, an intrinsically physical task, even more tiresome. I’ve never enjoyed a beer as much as I had after those long, hot days of work.
The previous week when we bottled, we filled clean bottles. However, this week, we filled dirty bottles. At Brasserie de Marsinne, in an effort to conserve resources, they ask their clients to return empty bottles to the brewery. Bruno occasionally sends Peter and I to sort the incoming dirty bottles, stored outside, some of which have become the newfound homes of all sorts of outdoor creatures. (Needless to say, it’s not my favorite brewery job).
Tuesday morning, after thoroughly cleaning the bottling system, we all took our respective posts: Florence placed bottles in the machine for cleaning, Peter put filled bottles into crates, Bastien did all the odd jobs (monitoring the filling line, restocking dirty bottles for Florence, transporting filled palates to the hot room, etc.), and I inspected the clean bottles coming directly out of the machine to ensure no dirt or unwanted substances remained in the bottles.
About an hour of this job, and I got bored. Peter complained that morning of feeling tired, so I had him switch with me so he could sit down and I could relieve my mind of boredom.
Everything was going smoothly until after lunch. Although it is not uncommon for the bottling line to stop due to stuck or fallen bottles and jammed caps, I can usually spot the problem and quickly alleviate the issue. However, one of the times that the machine stopped for what appeared to be for no apparent reason, so I called Bastien over. He did not know what the matter was either, so he enlisted Tanguy’s assistance.
Several minutes later, Bastien informed me they discovered that one of the electrical outlets shorted out due to water exposure. Now the only question remained: which outlet? There are many sources of power on this machine, so this proved no small task. We asked Tanguy how common this issue arises, knowing that brewing, at all stages, is a very wet process. Tanguy explained that it's fairly typical, due to their use of very sensitive surge protectors.
A few minutes later, Bastien discovered the source of the power shortage: the capping machine. This makes sense, because a few minutes before the power stopped, a bottle broke on the line and Bastien hosed down the machine with water. While resolving the issue, we were delayed only about 30 minutes.
Thursday, August 25
Thursday was kegging day. This was the first day where we started at 9am (an hour later than our usual start time). I really enjoyed the extra hour of sleep. Florence, Peter, and I spent the morning filling 50, 30-liter kegs (also known as slim quarter kegs, with a capacity of 7.75 gallons or approximately 62 pints).
In the afternoon, we assembled Leopold 7 gift boxes containing a glass and four bottles. It was a nice way to spend another sunny afternoon as Bastien played music and we discussed music festivals and concerts.
Everything was going very smoothly that day, until we were cleaning up. At this point, in the midst of transporting all of the newly-made gift boxes to the warehouse, due to a lack of saran wrap, they all came crashing to the ground. I ran to the warehouse only to find a mountain of gift boxes and Bastien facing down, shaking his head, and mumbling with what I assumed to be swear words. This incident is very uncharacteristic of Bastien, who rarely makes rookie mistakes. Turns out the sight of the incident appeared more devastating than it actually was, as only three bottles and one glass broke. Sure, we will have to remake several gift-packages, but that is not a big deal. We quickly cleaned up and still managed to leave by 5.
When discussing weekend plans with Peter, we initially planned on visiting Chimay and spending a night in their hotel (yes, Chimay has a hotel). We would spend the remainder of the weekend exploring the outdoors in Southern Belgium (we hear it is quite beautiful). Our plans quickly fell through after some research, and confirmation from Chimay employees, when we learned that no busses run between the nearest train station and the brewery on weekends. I guess we’ll just have to come back to Belgium another trip.
Hmm... so now where to go to by train? I’ve always wanted to go to Amsterdam, and neither Peter, nor I, had ever visited the Netherlands, so why not. On Thursday morning, we asked Tanguy to give us a ride to the train station after work on Friday. When we shared we were visiting Amsterdam, he graciously told us to take Friday off and he would take us to the train station Friday morning. That was very kind of him, as he knew that by train it takes about 5 hours to get to Amsterdam from Couthuin.