Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Brewers objects of beauty No1 - Shives

Dave's beer and stuff blog is getting neglected, it's just not good enough. I have little in the way of excuses other than I'm having great fun setting up our new brewery, which appears to be going quite well. However, as with all these things, there are little snaggettes along the way.

The first problem I had was that I brewed beer, got it out into the trade and then found I had no more empty casks. It takes time to get empties back to the brewery, a blog subject all by itself. We ordered some more casks which have now arrived. Today I'm brewing so I can get some more beer out into pubs.

I also realised a few weeks ago that I was going to run out of shives1. I use CypherCo plastic casks, which although not as robust as stainless, but I estimate that in the first 5 years of life they offer significant financial advantages. Again, the relative merits of plastic verses stainless steel is yet another subject. It is the shives I wish to discuss today.


The biggest downside of CypherCo casks, in my view, is the fact that only one type of shive works, one that was made by a company called TE plastics. To my horror, when we tried to order more, we found that TE plastics had gone into liquidation. Several weeks of frantic searching for a suitable alternative eventually brought me to the conclusion that really, the only design that worked was the TE plastics' design.

I'll be honest, at this point I was ready to cancel the order for the CypherCo casks as there appeared to be no short term solution. The lack of a suitable shive eliminated the financial benefits of plastic casks.

After some badgering of CypherCo they eventually managed to secure the tooling from TE plastics. We picked up our new casks the other day and while we were there the very first run of new shives were literally hot off the press.

On Monday I racked into new plastic casks and sealed them with new shives. I am a happy brewer.

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1Pete Brown notes in one of his excellent books about the number of brewing terms that attract spell-check red underlines, shives is one of them. For those that don't know, a shive is a bung that seals part of the cask.

9 comments:

Ed said...

Global polymer solutions are doing some (more robust) plastic casks as well. Though we've had some problems with the shives too...

Chunk said...

Question for you Dave.

Do you know how much the Kegs on the Cypher Co site sell for and what do you reckon to using them in place of a Corny for homebrewing?

Cooking Lager said...

Great to hear you're enjoying your brewing. How about an update on the availability of your grog. Got a taste for the pong last weekend, and fancied trying your stuff.

Washy said...

Well that blog was a pile of shive! ;-)

Sid Boggle said...

Plastic. Liquidation. Hot weather. I geddit... B-)

Brewers Union Local 180 said...

While the 52.3mm Eurobungs I'm using work ...

... any chance of CypherCo shipping those things to the States? Those shives in the picture are pants (am I using the term correctly?).

Paul Garrard said...

Does plastic alter the way that beer conditions and or lasts?

mentaldental said...

CHUNK:
I recently bought two 4.5 gall casks direct from Cypherco. The cost work out at £30 per cask. I picked them up so there was no carriage. The 9s are about the same price.

They work very well for homebrewing. Compared to a Cornie the beer conditions and clears faster and, I believe, tastes better. Don't ask me why because I don't know.

The main problem is shelf life once opened. In a pub air would be drawn into the cask through the shive as beer is served which leads to loss of condition, oxidation, and, possibly, infection. The beer needs to be consumed in, say, 4 days.

Using a cask breather increases shelf life to perhaps two weeks, but condition is still lost as the beer is drawn.

Using blanket CO2 at low pressure (I am using about 1psi at the moment) increases the shelf life and preserves condition. I have served beer at 1 month which is still excellent.

I am going to get more of these cask as I find I am using them and neglection my Cornies.

Brewers Union Local 180 said...

Cripes, no! Got my overseas slang botched. I meant "the bomb".