The Beer Watcher: Brewing (really, bottling), part 3

How is the beer making going, you ask? Well, I am reminded of one of the audience call and response bits in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. There’s a part where Frank-n-furter is adding weird chemicals/food coloring to the vat where his creation, Rocky, is being, ah, created. Half the audience calls out “Is it soup yet?” The other half responds “Not yet!” This goes on until Rocky’s head is revealed, at which point everyone yells “It’s soup!!”

So, is it beer yet? Not yet! (but almost).

We went through the last step in the process this past Sunday at Bill H-D’s place– the last step besides seriously drinking, that is– which is bottling. Here’s a run-down of what happened:

Beer 1
First off, this is it, what has been sitting around for about a month now: this, my friends, is beer. At least it’s beer still in the carboy (that’s what you call the big jar) with all the hops and other miscellaneous “stuff” floating around in there– again, think flavor crystals– and before bottling and subsequent additional aging (and carbonation). The little doo-hicky at the top is the air lock, which allows gases to escape (conveniently preventing an explosion) and yet prevents air from getting in.

Now, the first step in bottling is cleaning and sterilizing the bottles.

Beer 2
Here’s Bill getting bottles out of the dishwasher.

Beer 3
And here’s the sanitation assembly line. I handed a bottle to Bill (seated), who filled it with the food-grade sterilizing solution (which is in the same container we will later use to fill the bottles with beer), and he handed it to Steve B.

Beer 4
Man, I love to sanitize!

Beer 5
After we were done sanitizing (and thus we now had an empty and sterilized bucket), it was time for bottling. In this picture, I am adding the “priming” mixture (I believe just disolved corn syrup and water) to the bucket. The idea here is that the remaining yeast in the beer will be reactivated in the bottles, thus producing carbonation and more complete beer-y goodness. In the background, you can see Bill holding the siphoning apparatus.

Beer 6
This is where gravity comes into play: Bill has stuck one end of the siphoning hose into the carboy with the beer. Connected to the hose is a long plastic tube which has a filter on it (the hops and other flavor crystals have done their job) and which reaches to the bottom of the carboy. In the hose, Bill has added a bit of water. He dropped the hose with a bit of water into the bucket, that started sucking out the beer, and thus beer started moving from the carboy to the bucket, as seen here:

Beer 7
I feel I look especially fat and stupid in this picture, but I thought it was useful to a siphoning photo, and I look even more idiotic in this picture. The point is that with our friend gravity (it’s not just a theory, it’s the law), the carboy was empty in a matter of minutes. Keep this in mind if you have to siphon gas or something– much more pleasant than sucking on the hose.

Beer 8
Here’s Bill working to suck out every last drop, though I think we still ended up with a good five bottles worth of beer stuck in the sludge.

Beer 9
So we sampled a tad of beer to test the alcohol content with the hydrometer (around 7% alcohol, if I recall)….

Beer 10
… the color of the beer is admired…

Beer 11
.. and the beer is sampled. Actually, I kid with this look where I was going for a sort of pirate-like “ARRRRGGGG!” It’s very very tasty beer, much like Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale, as was promised by the recipe we picked out. And of course we get to taste the satisfaction of the home-made brew.

Then, it was bottling time.

Beer 12
Basically, it was pretty much a repeat of the sanitizing process: I hand Bill a bottle, he fills it with beer, and he passes it to Steve B. There was one additional step though:

Beer 13
The bottles were capped. On Alton Brown’s Good Eats episode where he makes beer, he poo-poos the capping thing in favor of those Grolsch-styled bottle stoppers that attach to the top. Maybe, but I have to say the capper is pretty cool.

Beer 14
The old hops/brewing spooge was dumped out of the carboy, some things were cleaned up, and:

Beer 15

Steve B. and I took our individual cases (really, about 16 beers I think– we ended up with a little less than expected), and then it was time to (what else?) go out and have some beers and lunch. The whole process took us about 2 and half hours, considerably quicker than it took Bill the last time he did this all alone.

So, was it worth it? Will I do it again? Well, I don’t think it’s worth it for me to go out and buy a kit of my own. But it is a pleasant-enough social activity, and Bill and Steve B. and I are already talking about another round of brewing (this time at Steve B.’s house since he has a bigger kitchen), perhaps a lovely wheat ale. In the mean-time, it’s a couple of weeks in the bottle and then drinkin’ time.

4 thoughts on “The Beer Watcher: Brewing (really, bottling), part 3”

  1. Hello Steve,

    I enjoyed your blog on marking the IPA. If do not mind I have a few questions for you.

    1- did you use the Heated Ale from Northern Brewer?
    2-If so I have purchased it am at the primary fermentaion stage and was wondering if you new what the ending gravity was.
    All the best

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