Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Today's column

Pitcher This: 121 bottles of beer on the wall


There's an old saying attributed to an ancient philosopher comparing loudmouths and containers.

"As empty vessels make the loudest sound, so they that have the least wit are the greatest blabbers," it goes.

One might add that when it comes to beer bottles, he who empties more vessels tends to display less wit and blab more.

Readers can judge for themselves the wit displayed in this space, but I'll admit to emptying more than my share of vessels. Enough, in fact, that I'm starting to wonder what to do with them.

As a beer fan and a beer writer, I've kept an empty bottle of each brew I've tried for at least the last year and a half —121 at last count. Thanks to my wife's tolerance, there's a room at my house — a simple covered patio, really — devoted to beer, as well as darts, televised sports, Martin Scorsese films and rock concert posters. The bottles serve as a professional record and as the bar's primary decoration.

Trouble is, I've filled every inch of the room's shelving. Bottle No. 122 is without a home on the wall, and it'll soon be joined by others. I could put up more shelves, but I see the problem brewing again before long. What happens when I've got four walls covered floor-to-ceiling in brown and green glass? I don't see my wife's indulgence extending to the guest bedroom.

This raises another question, for me and for other local beer lovers: what to do with the five other bottles in each six pack? Living in Jacksonville, I'm fortunate to have curbside recycling service, but they don't pick up glass. Nor is it accepted at the drop-off bins around the county. I could truck it to a recycling center, but I'm no more eager to temporarily store months' worth of bottles than I am to fill my walls with more 12-ounce trophies. And I feel a twinge of tree-hugger guilt every time I pitch one in the trash.

Some Colorado craft brewers may have a solution for me. Oskar Blues Brewery of Lyons, Colo., says in 2002 it became the first U.S. craft brewery to can its beer rather than bottle it. The aluminum is cheaper, lighter and easier to transport and recycle. New Belgium Brewing announced recently it will follow suit with cans of its Fat Tire Amber Ale. Neither brewer distributes here, but if their practice becomes a trend I could crush my empties and leave them on the curb once a week.

Then all I'll have to worry about it whether to put up more shelves for my can collection.