I will be bottling a bourbon barrel-aged Russian Imperial Stout this weekend. There were 13 brewers involved in the project, so the final volume each of us wound up with was around 4 gallons. I've been QA'ing the beer since kegging my share a couple weeks ago, but that has to stop or else it will be gone before I know it.
I decided that to make this beer last longer, at least some of it should be bottled in the smallest bottle commonly available to homebrewers, which are these 187 ml (6.3 oz.) clear bottles.
Since clear bottles are bad for beer, I set about to coat the bottles with something. I couldn't find a suitable paint which would apply easily, adhere well, and resist cleaning and sanitizing. So I came upon this liquid rubber stuff:
The tools for the job (to cover a case of 24 of these little bottles) include:
- 2 cans of black Plasti Dip (found it in stock in my local Lowe's). You can also buy white Plasti Dip and colorize it to whatever color you want, but you'll probably need to go online to find the colors.
- VM&P Naphtha (thinner).
- A clean and empty 4.2 oz. Pringles can. Cheddar Cheese worked very well. This can is not the real tall Pringles can, but is just the perfect height to let you dip the bottle up to the crown. If you get a taller can, you'll probably want to cut it down a little.
- Your favorite vinyl or rubber gloves.
- Crown caps and capper.
- Drill and a small drill bit.
- Coffe cup hooks - [edit: get the plain brass version instead of the painted ones, to avoid flecks of paint getting into the bottles. Probably no big deal, you have to rinse them out anyway, but why not avoid that if you can].
- Laundry drying rack.
The Pringles can is used to dip the bottles, because it is just a little wider than the diameter of the bottles so you can dunk the whole bottle in there with a relatively small volume of liquid.
The Plasti Dip needs to be thinned so that it doesn't sag, and so that you don't use up all of the product on just a few bottles. If you thin it too much, however, you'll have to dip the bottles twice...there is a sweet spot but I honestly didn't measure how much naphtha to add to one can to get there. There is room in the product can to add the thinner (Naphtha). Do it a little at a time, you probably won't want to fill to the top.
Fill the Pringles can a little more than half-way full with the thinned Plasti Dip. Cap a bottle, drill a small hole in the middle of the cap and screw in a hook. This will give you a handle to hold the bottle, and let you hang it up to dry. [Edit: if feasible, consider drilling the holes into the crown caps *before* you cap the bottles. Otherwise small bits of the drilled cap can drop into the bottle. No big deal, you'll rinse them out anyway, but why not avoid that altogether?]
Start dunking the bottle into the rubber, and go up the neck as far as you can up to the crown. Then when you pull the bottle out, go as slowly as you can humanly go (like, take a whole minute to pull one bottle out). This will keep as little product on the bottle as possible, and keep it from sagging (slumping?). You'll get 3-4 bottles done before you have to add more product to the Pringles can. Because I hadn't measured the Naphtha-to-product ratio, I had to just go by sight and feel of the mix when I added more Plasti Dip and naphtha to the can.
If you have the right consistency of Plasti Dip, and you pull the bottle out slowly, there will be minimal dripping from the bottom of the bottle. I held each bottle up out of the can for about 20 seconds, then ran the rim of the Pringles can around the bottom of each bottle to smooth it out and catch any product that started to look like drip spots. But at the right consistency, with Naphtha as a thinner, the Plasti Dip sets up fairly quickly and leaves the bottom of the bottle nice and flat with just a couple passes from the rim of the Pringles can. There were no drips once each bottle was hung to dry on the drying rack. The product can be re-coated in 30 minutes if you want a thicker coat (which I found unnecessary), and dries completely in 4 hours. When dry, remove the hook and un-cap the bottle. Rinse, sanitize, and fill.
The finished bottle is very cool looking. The Spousal Unit calls them the Batman Bottle. The rubber clings tight and dries flat and smooth. (And if you ever want to remove it, it can be peeled off cleanly...an amazing product.) Because I coated the bottles all the way up to the crown, I will need to cap these with a bench capper since a hand capper needs to grip the shoulder below the crown which would tear into the rubber. If you use a hand capper, you'll want to dip the bottles just up to the shoulder of the crown instead of going all the way up to the crown.
p.s. I also tried the spray version of Plasti Dip on a couple bottles. To get the right coverage requires two coats, because doing one coat with enough product leads very quickly to sagging. The finished product from the dipping process looks better than spraying, and gives a more consistent result.