Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Continuing Quest for Cask Sundries

This is perhaps a bit of a mundane topic, but essential to the running of a real ale brewery is a steady and reliable supply of sundries. That's such a great word - sundries. When used in conjunction with the word "notions", it conjures up imagery of the sorts of shops at the mall that the ladies drift off into while we gents take the straight and narrow to Radio Shack to buy batteries. But prefix it with the word "cask" and we're off into important, yea even critical, territory.

I had written way way back about my difficulties in finding a source for shives. My existing, and diminishing, collection was brought over in a backpack via airplane by Woolpack Dave in December. Now that that bucketful is 3/4 gone, it came down to either a) calling up Dave while he's in the kitchen in his multi-colored chef's trousers wielding a sharp knife, or b) once again trying to get a warm body on the end of the telephone at Plastic Kegs America. With images of sharp knife in mind, I called Plastic Kegs America and got AN ACTUAL RESPONSE. The nice young lady at the other end of Ma Bell sounded a trifle nervous about having to answer questions and take my order, but we got it sorted out that indeed they did now carry shives for CypherCo firkins and that I would be permitted to order some. She wanted to make REAL SURE that I was ordering the big things, not the little things, as she said that many customers get them confused. I assured her that, after brewing 37 batches of real ale in this country, I had a firm grip on the differences between shives and keystones, and that I wanted the big things.

I brew 2 UK BBL per batch, which is 8 firkins, hence 8 shives, keystones and hard spiles in disposable sundries. I can get the keystones and spiles easily enough from UK Brewing Supplies, but for some reason the 52.3 mm shives that work best with the CypherCo firkins are scarce or unavailable. The shives I ordered will cost me $0.55 each, with no volume discount (odd). With shipping, I'm paying $70 for 100. I was told that there would be a 2.5% surcharge for using my debit card over the phone, but that I would be permitted to send a check in advance. This is America - who does that?!

For the record, I had also been courting F.H. Steinbart in Portland for shives, since they had informed me that they could get anything. Anything, I tell you, anything. Given a couple phone calls, and even stopping in twice while in Portland, I remain unable to get any response. Sigh. Such seems to be standard for us small backwater breweries (or shed breweries - a term I've recently seen pop up on some British blogs). I suppose if I were a Full Sail or a Bridgeport I'd get somewhere, but I'll never know.


Unknown said...

$70?? for 100????

We need to talk about that. You got a couple of hundred dollars for 1000 perhaps?? You could ship damn near 50kg for that, if I remember right.

Sheds! shesh, it's nice to be at a quiet American blog - it was getting too noisy over there in that British blog.

Anyway, I might have shouted at some people a few times, but I never used a knife on anything that isn't already dead. OK, there was a rat once, but it was asking for it.

Brewers Union Local 180 said...

For the shive deal, I'll put you in contact with the Brewery Senior Account Manager. The non-shed regionals have these, don't they?

Alistair Reece said...

I was really happy today that I found a supplier for oak casks for my homebrew - plans well afoot for my Thanksgiving Barleywine and also my Hogmanany Old Ale (a year at least for each in a cask should make for some interesting drinking).

Tandleman said...

Are these plastic shives then? Just curious. If you could get wood you could probably re-use with some tuts. In your particular situation and once sterilised.

Ed said...

There's a bloke who sells shives for homebrewers through this website:

He might be able to help.

Brewers Union Local 180 said...

Plastic shives, for the plastic CypherCo firkins. The wooden ones don't work - I've tried them. They don't stick to the plastic like they do to stainless.

What's a tut?

The site is a UK site. I image I would be up against the shipping problem. Incidently, I did have a contact a Murphy and Son for a while, but when I got serious about ordering I started getting ignored. Silly American.