Product Review – The BeerBox
This BeerBox review should be labeled WHY I GOT IT AND WHY YOU SHOULDN’T. I know, that is a harsh statement to start off a product review. The concept – GREAT. The actual product – great at first, but then downhill from there.
I fell in love with the BeerBox the first time I saw the ad. It was perfect. A great way to get into the idea of larger scale “bottling” of my homebrew, without the need for a kegerator. The Beer Box was a perfect size. Small enough to fit into the bottom of my beer and wine fridge, large enough to bring to small gatherings, such as tailgating at a Buffalo Bills games or holiday parties. The detachable CO2 injector was set up so it fit neatly into the design. These guys thought of everything….or so I thought. You can check out the whole product here: http://www.brewingtools.com/
The warranty says there is a limited (6 month) warranty against manufacturing defects. The boxes are made from HDPE food-grade plastic, and should last for many years if they are not excessively pressurized or scratched internally. I wanted to be sure that I treated it well, as I saw these as a way to have beer for parties very easily.
The build of it seemed sturdy. Nice dark plastic, so the beer wasn’t subjected to light. The built in handle is great for easy carrying. The connectors seemed very sturdy. I had found exactly what I was looking for. There was a little blurb about the fact that it would swell as the beer carbonated in the box, and this was normal, so I expected a slight bulge would occur.
The first time I used one of the two BeerBox in the kit, I put in a hot chocolate stout, home grown hot peppers in a chocolate stout, that I had brewed. It was about 2 months after the BeerBox set was purchased when I first filled it. I will say, there is a line for max fill on the side, but it is difficult to realize where you are in relation to it due to the opaque plastic. You kind of have to guess if you are close, so you don’t fill the box too much.
By the time the beer was ready to be consumed, it had been about 3 months from brewing. The box had swelled. It was bulging on the side enough that it could no longer lay flat. According to the manufacturer, this was ok as it was part of the design. It was naturally carbonated in the BeerBox. Due to driving a ways before opening it, there was a bit of pressure built up from the carbonation and the movement in the car. After an initial blowoff, the stout was ready to be consumed at the tailgating, and perhaps even during some games of skill at a large table with plastic balls. We almost finished it, but a small amount came home. I was happy that it only took about 2 CO2 cartridges for the emptying of the BeerBox.
The next time I used the BeerBox, it was the second box. I brought it to an outdoors holiday party. No problems, it sat in a cooler, we drank my homebrew easily, and again, may have perhaps used some for games of skill at a large table with plastic balls and red Solo cups. This time, it was for an IPA. Again, the box bulged out during the natural carbonation time period. I started to have the boxes sit upright inside a 12 pack box to make it easier to “store” or condition the beer with a standardized footprint on the shelf. I brewed again and filled it with no issues. Another party, another use, I thought I had the great solution for sharing my homebrew.
This is now where the problems began. The next batches for both BeerBox units. For one, during the natural carbonation time period, the box was inside a 12 pack box, tap end up, and I couldn’t figure out why I had some of my homebrew pooling on the floor near the box. It was not a fast leak. I probably didn’t notice it right away. I tried releasing a little pressure off the tap to see if that helped. It did not. After some observation over a few days, and more homebrew to cleanup. I found a “stress” crack near the handle on one side of the BeerBox. The crack must have formed during the natural bulging during carbonation, and was enough to let a generous amount of homebrew drip out. The cleanup sucked. The wife was NOT happy. I tried to seal that small crack with some silicon waterproofing sealant. The BeerBox held water, so I assumed I was all set.
The reuse of the sealed BeerBox held a SMASH homebrew with homegrown hops. While it began natural carbonation, again, I found a large amount came through another stress crack. I lost about a gallon of homebrew across the laundry room floor in two days. Again, the wife was NOT happy. I transferred the homebrew to the other BeerBox. I hope for the best. I realized that I lost some carbonation in the process, and opened myself up for infection, but it was better than losing a full 2.5 gallons. The beer finished carbing up ok in the second box. I figured I was in the clear. Boy was I wrong. The second BeerBox developed a stress crack, in a different spot than the first. Wait for it, and it leaked out a majority of my homebrew in the box. Loss of finished beer. Boooooooooo.
So let’s see. Pros of the BeerBox would be large size for “bottling” half a batch, easy party dispensing, standardized size for easy storage, fits in a cooler for tailgating dispensing. Also, they are very easy to go through for cleaning and sanitizing. Cons of the BeerBox would be short warranty, hard to tell if it is filled properly, bulging during carbonation makes for harder storage, stress cracks mean loss of beer.
Here I thought I was the only one. I am well past the warranty, all it took was the first batch to almost get to that point. I never searched for reviews or stories of other people. I sat down to share my story, and decided to take a peek out there, and lo and behold, others had some similar issues. It seems like others experienced the same thing with the cracks and leaks. I think the idea of the BeerBox is great, but needs some more design work, or heavier and thicker plastic. What would I recommend? Save the overall purchase. Put it towards a 2.5 or 3 gallon metal keg mini system. As you expand, then go towards the kegerator system. There will be less crying from spilt beer, less angry wife moments, and less cleanups.