Bottle Day and First Tastings!

It’s been two weeks fermenting, and today was time to bottle my first proper brew. You may know that there were a few mistakes with the brew process. Not necessarily terrible, thankfully. However, if ‘Brew Day’ went smoothly, ‘Bottle Day’ did not.

Before I get into that, the ‘good news’. I got a chance to taste my brew and, quite frankly, I was amazed. Not only did it taste like beer, it actually tasted almost like pub beer! It was flat and not cold, so it was very similar to a Pale Ale or Summer Ale, you might be enjoying in a Pub Garden on a warm summer’s day. I really was astounded. I wouldn’t be writing like this, if I was not, and I can tell you that this discovery was entirely unexpected. A second tasting revealed a very bitter and dry taste, but one where the hops could be tasted though. I’ll blog again when have I tasted the truly finished product.

There are two weeks to go for this second phase and then it’s time to crack open some bottles for real! But, first back to today. I first cleaned everything with warm, soapy water and then sterilised everything thoroughly. This was straightforward, obviously. Coaxing the amber nectar from its home for the last two weeks to a second home was not so easy. Firstly, I couldn’t hold both ends of the tube at the same time…and had to call on my daughter to hold the one end in the bucket of amber liquid. Then even with my daughter present, I couldn’t create a sufficient vacuum to entice said amber liquid into awaiting glass vessels. It didn’t help that I still hadn’t worked out how to use the tap! Now, I know. 90 degree twist to stop, not 180 degrees. I eventually had to suck on the tube to get sufficient vacuum. This element of the process I really do need to work on. I will have this better sorted next time.

Because of earlier mentioned problems the ale was churned up more than I would have liked and so did not bother bottling the last bit of ale, though I think I could have got another bottle out of it, had I been better organised. What I had read about the yeast I had used forming a solid base at the bottom of the fermenter was spot on. It really was quite a solid, impressively large-looking biscuit!

I had noticed that I was probably only going to get 9 bottles out of this max and then with spillage, some for the Final Gravity reading and the amount I left at the bottom of the bucket, I ended up with 6 and a half 500ml bottles. It’s not much, but I always knew this would be a small batch. I’m almost convinced I will do double this next time, 10 Litres. ‘Liquoring Back’ with cold water to help the cooling process.

Strength-wise the FG came out at 1.006 which means that my Pale Ale is about 5%. Ooops! Sorry, arcane homebrew laws, it was accident. It may creep up further, as the sugar in the bottles is converted by the remaining yeast in the beer. The idea is that this secondary fermentation (aka, conditioning) puts this fizz into the beer as the CO2 produced has nowhere to go but back into the liquid. I don’t want too much fermentation, or I could end up with glass explosions (the famous ‘bottle bombs’). This phase is also a chance for more clear beer and also for the yeast to get around to eating their way through off-flavours. Though, I couldn’t taste much of that to be honest these next two weeks can’t hurt (he says, famous last words?).

Anyway, back to today. Another screw up was the addition of sugar to the bottles. I needed a funnel, but didn’t have one, so ended up using a teaspoon and the sugar went everywhere. Far from ideal. I think I may rack to a second container next time, one with a tap (next purchase?). In this second container will be a sugar solution, eliminating the need for a teaspoon! It may help to clear the beer too.

Regardless, I have two weeks more until I can taste my treasure! I have learned so much already, that this journey has already provided more than I could have hoped for. I need to get a few more brews under the belt now and to tinker with a few recipes. All in all though, a very good day for the Green Man!

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