Last Friday, it was 78 and sunny in Minneapolis. This Friday, forecasts are calling for a high of 37 degrees and (gasp!) snow. It’s time to start thinking about your beverages. We need to keep them cold, and stable. We need to pull those big stouts out of the cellar and get comfortable by the fire. We need chili. It’s Weather Week at The Minnesota Skinny, and let’s start by tossing out that nasty old Koozie.
For all a beer bottle’s charm, the glass vessel brings with it inherent dangers that force drinkers to be more careful than they’d rather be. Send it toward the Earth too quickly, and it will blast into smithereens – which means no more beer and no more bare feet. Leave it in the sun too long, or even in the living room on the wrong day, and you risk an unwanted warm welcome. Oh, and you’ve got a bottle opener, right?
For most of history, your only defense was a cloth bottle sleeve … and you know how well those work out. They destabilize your bottle’s foundation, increasing the risk for a topple. They do very little to keep your beer cold. Then, they end up in the garbage. You scour beer release parties and used car sales events until you score a new one, rinse and repeat.
At a beach one day in 2012, Matt Campbell decided he’d do something about this.
“We were actually sitting on the beach with a couple of beers, and we’re drinking out of red party cups,” said Campbell. “Looking around, we see a bunch of stainless steel water bottles. I’m looking at these stainless steel water bottles all over the place and I’m saying, ‘I like drinking my beer out of a bottle, so how can we get [all bottled beers] in a stainless steel bottle?'”
Campbell ventured to find out. He bought up stainless steel bottles from local stores, and cut them in half with a hacksaw. He then lined the bottles with Neoprene, fitted beer bottles inside, and hooked up digital thermometers to measure the temperatures. What he found out was enough to get him and his cousin, Adam, hustling to bring these brainchildren to the masses.
BottleKeeper launched as a company in mid-2013; and, after a non-hacksaw manufacturing source was locked down, the first BottleKeepers hit the market in January of 2014. Campbell said their efforts were sped along by a Fundable campaign that raised over $13,000 when the company was only asking for $5,000.
“We were picked up by Gizmodo and Thrillist,” said Campbell, “and things just went crazy.”
Since their first release, Campbell and his team collected customer feedback and put it to work with a 2.0 version released in September. Now, a bottle opener is built into the top and a tether string keeps that from wandering off. A new, coarse outer shell improves durability and gives the BottleKeeper a more pleasing aesthetic.
Just as a real life jacket lessens risk in deep waters, Campbell calls the BottleKeeper “a life jacket for your beer” because it allows you to take your bottle places where a bottle might not otherwise make sense. BottleKeepers come in various sizes, for the typical bottles (think High Life, Carona) as well as “stubby” bottles (Lagunitas, Summit, etc.). A larger size is also available to accommodate bombers. Campbell also acknowledged craft beer’s recent lean toward canning, and hinted at the possible arrival of a “CanKeeper”-type vessel sometime in the next year.
So, how well does it work?
BottleKeeper sent me home from the Great American Beer Festival with one and invited me to review it. They don’t publish a specific length of time for keeping your drinks cold. Add to that a Minnesotan October, and my ability to conduct any extreme testing was limited. I settled for testing in a real-life setting, but warmer. I used a 13% ABV Avery Mephistopheles. It wasn’t the best choice for this experiment, but it was all I had in the house.
The BottleKeeper has got nothing superfluous on it. Everything opens, closes, cools, or protects. That’s it. You don’t fiddle with anything and wonder what it’s there for. The bottle opener on the 2.0 works fine, but a standalone bottle opener will serve you much better (which is to be expected).
One big question is, how long does it take to get the old bottle out and the new bottle in? Campbell says it takes most people 5-20 seconds to unload an empty bottle, get a new one in, and have it ready to drink. I managed 10.53 seconds on my first try, and my subsequent tries fell between 9-11 seconds.
In my situation, “doing my worst” meant turning the heat up in my house to 75 degrees, putting a cold bottle into the Keeper, and leaving it on top of my running dishwasher for 30 minutes before drinking. When I came back, my beer was just as cold as when it first came out of the fridge. I milked it for two hours after that, never resealing the top, and didn’t notice a drastic change in temperature. The neck of the BottleKeeper is short, and stays out of the way.
Lacking a machine gun or any particularly exciting explosives, I tested the BottleKeeper’s durability by holding it eye-level and dropping it onto my porch. The bottle remained intact, and no damage was present on the bottle. I picked it back up, chucked it across my backyard, and nearly fell down the deck stairs running out to retrieve it. The bottle remained intact, and no damage was present on the bottle. I then brought it back up to the porch and threw it straight up as high as I could. I’m no quarterback, but I’ve got a blunderbuss if not a cannon. It eventually came back to Earth, crashing against the wooden porch. No damage.
Moral of the story: if you want your bottle to shatter inside your BottleKeeper, you’re going to really have to want it … but why would you want that?
The top occasionally produces a squeaking noise when screwing or unscrewing. This is the BottleKeeper’s biggest opportunity for improvement. Should a BottleKeeper 3.0 start getting thought up, quieter threads would be worth exploring.
The original BottleKeeper, which offers the various sizes, runs $25. The bomber size is $30, and BottleKeeper 2.0 is $35. Those prices aren’t bad, but this isn’t an everyday item so you do need to consider how often you’ll use it. If you don’t drink outside regularly, this probably isn’t for you. If you’re the family grill master, though, you’ll get good mileage out of this during summertime. If you’ve been living in fear of bottle shards by the pool, this is the ace you’ve been waiting for.
If you hike and drink everyday, wanna trade lives? I’ll want to keep my BottleKeeper for it, but I’ll happily take over yours.
RELATED: You can check out my Great American Beer Festival diaries, and a GABF Chat about a beer coming to Minnesota, in my GABF Archives!