Cage, Agraffe Or Muselet?

Most of you already know I’m a freak for obscure words and language more generally, so I’ll always take a look at a list of curious words. One that I recently was looking over at Mental Floss included such gems as a dringle, which is “to waste time by being lazy,” perfectly describing what I was doing when I discovered that.

But the other word was agraffe, which they defined as being “the wire cage that keeps the cork in a bottle of champagne.” I’d heard the word muselet used before, usually in connection with champagne, but many brewers today also use them, though most people I know refer to them more simply as a “cage,” as in a “cage and cork,” or occasionally a “cage and crown.”
But agraffe is a new one on me. A quick search reveals that it’s more often used to refer to a part of a piano, “a guide at the tuning-pin end of the string, screwed into the plate, with holes through which the strings pass.” Most dictionaries I looked at didn’t mention the cage usage at all. does offer this definition.

Literally means “staple” (as in Swingline); in Champagne, this is a large metal clip used to secure the cork before capsules were invented, typically during the second fermentation and aging in bottle. A bottle secured with this clip is said to be agrafé.

Notice they also spell it with only one “f.” Wordnik, in their listing under Century Dictionary does list this usage, as the fifth definition. “n. An iron fastening used to hold in place the cork of a bottle containing champagne or other effervescing wine during the final fermentation.

Muselet doesn’t show up in most standard dictionaries either, but it is defined, at least, by Wikipedia:

A muselet is a wire cage that fits over the cork of a bottle of champagne, sparkling wine or beer to prevent the cork from emerging under the pressure of the carbonated contents. It derives its name from the French museler, to muzzle. The muselet often has a metal cap incorporated in the design which may show the drink maker’s emblem. They are normally covered by a metal foil envelope. Muselets are also known as wirehoods or Champagne wires.

Neither word is included in the “Dictionary of Beer & Brewing” (2nd ed.), but then “cage” isn’t listed in it, either.

So does anybody know? Those of you in the wine world, is either term in common usage, and, if so, is one preferred over the other? Or are they generally only used in France, perhaps? It seems more likely that they were originally borrowed from the French into English, but have since fallen out of use, or perhaps their usage lingers only in the technical jargon of Champagne and sparking wine. Anyone, anyone? Bueller.


Beer In Ads #711: No Deposit No Return

Tuesday’s ad is a generic beer ad, either by the industry or by a glass manufacturer and likely is from the transition period from returnables to throwaways. Throwaways were first introduced in the late 1930s, but didn’t become standard until at least the 1960s, so this ad may have been from sometime during that period, but it’s hard to tell with so little information in the ad. Doesn’t it look just a little bit like the Toronado’s logo?


Three Decades Of Beer Containers

Here’s an interesting little snapshot of the various containers beer comes in over the last thirty years from the Container Recycling Institute. In Container Types Used For Beer in the U.S., 1981-2010 , they detail how beer in bottles have increased steadily 15% over that time and now make up almost 40% of how beer is sold. At the same time, draft beer has receded. Cans are still on top, but dipped significantly beginning in the 1990s, but in recent years have started to rebound.


Beer In Ads #578: Beer Keeps Best In Brown Bottles

Wednesday’s ad is for Schlitz from 1912, and is touting brown bottles as the best package for beer. I don’t imagine UV light was as well understood a century ago, but Schlitz assures us that even then “chemists of this country as well have repeatedly warned against the possible dangers to purity following the use of light glass bottles.” And I love this gem. “Dark bottles only are used for beer in Germany and England.” Many? Undoubtedly. Most? Probably. Every brewery? Hmm, I’m sure someone can speak to the veracity of that claim, but I tend to think absolute claims are a bad idea. You can find an exception to almost anything. And I especially love their final words, urging people to choose Schlitz because they know best. “If you knew what we know about beer, you would say ‘Schlitz—Schlitz in Brown Bottles.'”


Beer Bottle Dominoes

At least a dozen people have e-mailed me a link to this video, so I bow to the will of the people and share it with the remaining couple of people who may not yet have seen it. It’s a simple idea, using beer bottles (and some liquor bottles, too) in place of dominoes, but is fairly well executed. Enjoy.

The Roman Coliseum In Beer Bottles

I stumbled in this fun little project, a model of the Roman Coliseum made entirely of beer bottles. It was the Telegraph’s Picture of the Day back in May of 2009.

A model of the Colosseum made of 1,500 bottles of Heineken is displayed at Rome’s Termini Station to celebrate the final of the Champion’s League. The sculpture has a diameter of 11.5 feet and a height of 4.6 feet.

Oh, The Horror!

Watch in horror as several pallets of beer miss their calling to be imbibed and enjoyed and instead end up creating a river of beer inside a warehouse at an undisclosed location. The only clue is that the language of alarm heard in the background does not sound like English. Apart from that, it’s anybody’s guess. Oh, the horror!

Cambridge Brewing Hinting At Bottling

Tip of the hat to Todd Alstrom from Beer Advocate , who noticed that Cambridge Brewing Co.‘s Will Meyers tweeted out a link to a short survey asking his customers a few questions about buying beer in bottles, suggesting the brewpub is considering bottling some of the their beer. Here’s the introduction to the survey.

Thank you for taking the time to fill out this survey. Your answers will help determine the future of a Cambridge Brewing Company bottling program, and provide you with the beers you want in your local store. At this time, we are only in the beginning stages of planning our roll-out, but our success depends on you. So please let us know what you think, and what you want to drink.

Will later confirmed CBC’s plan to bottle, tweeting “Yup! Damn PSYCHED!” And to another, tweeted back that they’re “Considering it, but most interested in making our funkier beers. Lots of great ambers/pales out there already!” So that suggests they’re considering bottling the more interesting one-off and barrel-aged beers that Will has marinating in the basement … er, cellar. And that, I think, is most excellent news.