Encodo's new year's gift for customers and friends: Williams!


imageEvery year, Encodo tries to do something a little different for an end-of-year gift for colleagues, customers and close friends. Last year, we made Encodo-themed light bulbs with something called the Egg-Bot.

What could we do to top that?

And then, sometime last year, Daniel made a good suggestion: we should totally make our own schnapps!

  • Did we just buy schnapps in the store and put it in a bag with a card? We did not.
  • Did we design a label and slap it onto a bottled filled with someone else's schnapps? How could you even think that we would?
  • Did we buy a card or come up with our own? You bet we made our own card.
  • Did we buy a farm and grow our own pears? No, you've got us there, we didn't do that.
  • Did we learn glass-blowing in Hergiswil so that we could hand-craft the bottles? No, again, our talents and time-investment lie elsewhere.

But it did take us over a year to get there...read on.

Step 1: Fermentation

imageimageSo, starting last year, we laid our plans to make our own Williams, a schnapps made from pears. We found a very good local producer -- Zürchers Schnaps-Lädeli -- and made an appointment on September 13th, 2013 to start the fermentation process. The first step was to tell him how many pears we wanted -- we ended up using almost 300kg of pears! To the left, you can see our pile of pears in the the masher/grinder, ready to be pureéd and pumped into a barrel for fermenting.

At this stage, there wasn't much more for us to do but wait a few months for Herr Zürcher to call and let us know the next step.

Step 2: Distillation

imageimageThree months later, on December 13th, 2013, we returned to the farm to watch our fermented pears enter the distiller. Armin, Remo and Dani were along and documented the process.

Apparently, the distillation process produces alcohol in excess of 80% (160 Proof for the Americans) and is then "thinned" to produce the desired strength in the finished product. At this point, you can adjust the mixture, either sticking with pure Schnapps or adulterating it slightly with a darker, sweeter pear liqueur to make what Herr Zürcher calls "Alte Willi".

The flavor of the pure Williams was so smooth that we elected to make 30L classic and only 5L as Alte Willi.

Step 3: Bottle-design

imageAt this point, the Williams was ready but we still needed a bottle. So we took a few local field trips in Winterthur until we found a bottle that we liked. Instead of a classic label, it has a little slot so you can place a label inside the bottle. We were fascinated at this high-tech marvel and chose that one.

Marco made a little label with our logo and we sent it off to the manufacturer to produce our many little bottles, ready for filling!

Step 4: Fill the bottles

imageAlmost all of Encodo showed up on September 15th, 2014 to fill the schnapps into the bottles. We showed up with all of our bottles, complete with labels and were led to a production table. We had more than enough help along to populate all of the stations: filling bottles, putting in corks, heating the plastic seal, wrapping in bubble wrap and storing back in the box.

Everybody took turns at the different stations and had a good time doing it. No Williams was harmed in the process.

Step 5: Pack and ship!

imageWe stored the bottles in our server room until we got closer to the end of the year. In the meantime, Fabi worked on a card and had it printed. All that remained was to hook a ribbon through the card and hang it around the neck of the bottle. The finished product is pictured to the right.

Karin spent an afternoon packing bottles and we carried the whole shebang to the post office, where they would greet us with open arms and giant smiles on their faces, like they do every year when we show up with our pile of boxes.1

Visit the whole photo album to see all of the pictures!

  1. For our American colleagues: shipping alcohol to the U.S. is about as difficult as smuggling it into Tehran (I imagine). It is forbidden to ship alcohol on almost all levels, international, federal and state. It can, however, be carried on a person, so a personal delivery is forthcoming at some point. On the bright side, Williams doesn't spoil. :-)