A Christmas tree, aglitter with hundreds of twinkling lights, has the enchanting ability to put folks into a festive mood. It’s the centerpiece for countless holiday gatherings, bearing witness to the hums of merriment and jovial toasts of good cheer. I love a traditional tree as much as the next person, but what about a tree made from unconventional materials? What if those materials were the vessels that once held your favorite fermented beverage? I give you the beer bottle tree!
To see a fine example of a holiday bottle tree, you’d best visit the Fashion Place Mall location of Red Rock Brewing. A tree made of 380 empty bottles of Griswald’s Holiday Ale greets you as you enter the brewpub. It’s the pride of Red Rock manager, Chuckie Lowe, who enlisted the help of a talented employee to help make his vision a reality. It’s a simple design, but one that requires a lot of effort each year as the restaurant collects and washes each empty bottle to reuse in the display.
Built from the ground up, the tree has a strong wooden pallet for a base, a metal pole (used for chain link fences) in the center, and nine Plexiglas discs of graduating size to hold the bottles. Each layer is supported by the bottles below it with extra bottles on the lower levels to support the weight. Electricity runs up the center pole, providing juice for light bulbs to illuminate the bottles from behind. When assembled, the tree is a sight to see!
The bottle tree at Red Rock Fashion Place has become a yearly tradition. People call the restaurant wanting to know when it’ll be up and enjoy taking photographs with #griswaldstree. “It’s very festive, it’s a lot of fun, and people love it, so that’s why I keep doing it,” Lowe says, “It’s got a little bit of a life of its own.” Red Rock’s beer bottle tree serves as inspiration for members of the local craft beer community to recreate the magic at home.
That inspiration struck Utah resident, Darren Hammond, who decided to engineer a festive monument to his love of beer. He’s been eyeing the bottle tree at Red Rock for the past three years. Hammond tells me, “Going and seeing it every year is like, ‘That’s pretty awesome. I wanna do that.’” Encouragement came from Hammond’s wife who wanted to see his beer bottle collection displayed somewhere other than the countertop. She even helped him figure out how do to do it. “We went to the craft store and walked around until we found something that would work,” he explains.
They ended up in the floral department. Hammond used metal A-frame pieces and wire wreath frames to create a stable tripod structure that would hold the bottles. He wired the pieces together and used electrical tape to cover the raw metal edges of the A-frames. The bottles hang from wire tightly wound around their necks. A string of 300 icicle lights dropped into the opening of each bottle illuminate them from the inside. There are 56 bottles in all and one light-filled growler that serves as the tree’s base, casting a green glow from underneath. The floral department also provided holly accents and a topper giving the tree a finished look.
If you would like to make your own bottle tree, browsing the Interwebs will provide a treasure trove of inspiration and ideas. You can even buy a ready-made structure if you so choose, but with just a little bit of ingenuity and elbow grease, a beautiful tree is within reach for a lot less money.