Full Disclosure: FastRack sent me two free racks in exchange for writing a review. However, the opinions below reflect my honest feelings on this product. I do not endorse products that I do not actually believe in, and this review is no different.
One of the biggest pains when homebrewing is bottling. Whenever you want to bottle a batch of beer, you end up cleaning, sanitizing, filling, and capping roughly 50 bottles. It’s tedious. And it’s the reason that a lot of homebrewers eventually buy a kegging system.
But not all beers are best on draft. Some beer matures best in bottles – particularly those big high-alcohol imperial stouts or your sour Belgian styles, and even a hefeweizen is best when served on lees. And then there is the issue of competitions. To enter a beer into a competition, you are usually required to send in bottles (with some rare exceptions).
All of that is to say that bottles are a necessary evil in the homebrewing world.
So, I was intrigued when I heard about a new bottle drying and storage solution that could make at least part of this process a little bit easier. Until recently, if you wanted to bottle your beer, you would likely clean and sanitize the bottles right before you filled them. Why? Because you didn’t have a sanitary way of storing them once they were clean. Sure, you could throw them in a cardboard box where they would possibly mildew due to lack of air circulation. Or, you could use a bottle tree, but those always worried me because it requires you to slide the bottle onto a plastic “limb” that extends into the bottle, coming into contact with the inside lip. This always worried me from a sanitation perspective. Thus, you are left cleaning the bottles just before use.
The promise of the FastRack system is that it allows you to clean your bottles in advance and store them in a sanitary way where they will dry completely and not pick up any contaminants that could potentially ruin your beer. Additionally, they are easy to stack and store, taking up less space than a bottle tree.
This all sounded good to me, so I put them to the test.
The FastRack system is incredibly easy to use. It’s easy to load and unload bottles and they stack easily and are surprisingly sturdy when stacked.
There are a few ketches, however. The bottles in the 4 corners need to be the same shape/size, or else you’ll be unable to stack a second rack on top without it wobbling. Various bottle shapes and sizes can go in any of the other compartments without issue.
22 ounce and 750 mL bottles do not store well in the standard FastRack. You can only fit a few in there, so you end up with a lot of dead/wasted space. However, FastRack has since developed a separate rack that is designed for the larger bottles, so if you are using many of the larger bottles, then it’s definitely worthwhile to purchase one of this model.
Because the bottles are stored inverted, it makes it impossible for any dirt/contaminants to fall into them. You would have to get some crazy wind to blow things in exactly the right pattern to make it into the bottle, and I honestly don’t think that is actually even physically possible – though I’m not scientist, so someone is welcome to prove me wrong here.
Given that, it means that you could theoretically wash and sanitize your bottles at any time, and then on bottling day, just flip them over and fill them up. This could save a great deal of time and headache when bottling your beer because, let’s be real, you already have a ton to worry about and if you’re like me, you worry too much about every step!
I have washed and sanitized a case of bottles and stored them in the FastRack, and then filled them up with beer. Everything seemed to go smoothly, but I won’t know for several months whether or not the bottles were 100% sanitized. I will be sure to post an update if I notice that the beer did become infected after being stored in the bottles for extended periods of time, but I think that will be very unlikely.
I think that this is an excellent product. I’ve never purchased a bottle tree because they take up so much space and seem questionably sanitary. But because the FastRack takes up less space and is unquestionably more sanitary, I can definitely recommend this.
Now, if you’re fine just washing and sanitizing your bottles on the same day that you’re filling them, this product is unnecessary. You can just store your bottles in a milk crate or some other container (as long as they are rinsed clean and dry) and then go about cleaning and sanitizing on the bottling day.
But if you’re considering a storage solution that will last and work as advertised, keeping your bottles clean and organized, then I don’t think there is a better option out there than the FastRack system.
Let me know if anyone purchases one of these and what your thoughts are. I’d love to hear others’ experiences!