Let’s talk about Butt Beer


n case you were not aware, there is a thing called “butt beer.”

No, I’m not talking about pouring beer into your butt (although that too is a apparently a thing–don’t’ Google it). I’m talking about a special kind of beer concoction that a certain Very Large Canadian Brewer creates during their brewing process.

Now first of all, it should be said that my story of Butt Beer comes only from one source and that source speaks about Butt Beer from experience working at said Very Large Canadian Brewery. Accordingly, even though I won’t be naming my source or the Very large Canadian Brewery, please take this tale with a very large disclaiming allegedly. I’m not looking to get sued over something called Butt Beer, OK?

So, Butt Beer.

Imagine a giant 1,700 hectolitre tank supplying Very Large Canadian Brewery’s flagship lager to a canning line.  The canning line suddenly decides “OK, that’s enough Very Large Canadian Brewery Flagship Lager six packs, time to switch Very Large Canadian Brewery Light Lager.”

The guy in the beer cellar switches tanks but because the line is still full of Very Large Canadian Brewery Flagship Lager, the Very Large Canadian Brewery Light Lager comes in behind it and pushes all of the Very Large Canadian Brewery Flagship Lager out of the system and into a collection tank that’s designed to hold all the ends or “butts.”

They do this all day and every time they switch brands the extra beer (the butts) is collected in that tank. At the end of a day of canning beer, the Very Large Canadian Brewery has this tank in the cellar that’s composed of a mixture of Very Large Canadian Brewery’s Flagship Lager, Light Lager, Traditional Bottom-Fermenting Lager, Mainstream Lager, Generic Red Beer, etc.–all with different ingredient profiles and various alcohol strengths.

And what do they do with that Butt Beer, you ask?

Well they blend it back into their beer during the filtration process, of course.

In order to do so, they keep tabs on exactly how much Butt Beer each of their brands can absorb.  Very Large Canadian Brewery’s Discount Brand, for example, can absorb a very high percentage of Butt Beer before the taste is affected. Other beers, like their Light Lager, have lower or different tolerances for Butt Beer blending.

So while Butt Beer isn’t really as gross as it sounds, it’s still pretty gross, if you’re a fan of well-crafted beer.

Now, to be fair, Butt Beer is strictly monitored for co2 levels, alcohol percentage, colour,  etc. to make sure that the blending process doesn’t ruin the beer that hits store shelves, and to ensure Very Large Canadian Brewery always releases a consistent product. Also it’s clearly a sound business practice that minimizes waste, but it is telling that, in the interest of efficiency, big brewers are willing to blend a soupy mishmash of their brands called “Butt Beer” into the product they bottle for their consumers.

6 thoughts on “Let’s talk about Butt Beer

  1. Pretty common for large brewers to at least recover the alcohol for future blending from butts/waste beer. Shocking, I know, but efficient nonetheless…and ultimately better for the environment than dumping it into the waste stream…there are also lots of stories of back blending waste beer after stripping same…you get what you pay for….

  2. That is a very funny story Ben, and I believe every butt, I mean bit of it. That is why I never, ever buy very large Canadian brewery beer, too many bean counters doing the brewing.

  3. In the top 100 things big breweries do, this is among the least offensive. It’s common in some larger English breweries to use the Butt tank for free staff beer. In Germany historically the waste beer was used for the gardens.

    Better than packaging it as Butt Light I suppose (butt brown?).

    It’s the approach to crafting a beer with an emphasis on flavour, vs. profits and volume that separates craft brewers from the animals, and butt brewers.

  4. The real crime is that the only way a butt system really works is if your “different” brands, are almost identical. The amount of butts, and blending that goes on is pretty shocking. What is worst, is using a single wort stream for 8 different beers.

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