Bottling… The Penultimate Adventure

I have completed another phase in my home brewing experience and I dare say the most gratifying one – the bottling of my beer. It is gratifying to know that it is now pretty much out of my hands, the brewing worked or it didn’t, the wort fermented well or it didn’t, the bottles were sanitized to perfection or they were not. Since there is nothing I can do about any of that now, I just have to cross my fingers keep the bottles dark and comfortable and in two to three weeks I will have a proper ale (or not). What I learned: bottling is not my favourite stage of the home brew process, cleaning off bottle labels is a bitch, the sanitize setting on my dishwasher takes forever, not all bottles like to be re-capped and no matter how nicely you ask them they won’t tell you one way or the other, no rinse sanitizer is evil (it makes everything incredibly slippery) and to keep your sanity you must sweet talk any and all friends to come participate in the bottling process (possible fieldtrip for a grade school class? Prison work release?). In the end I rewarded myself with a small glass of my home brew; it is a nice deep amber, clear and a little on the sweet side. Overall I am pretty happy with the taste and here’s hoping it just gets better with age.

Now onto the gritty details; First up I had to transfer my brew from the secondary (carboy) back to the primary in order to prime my beer. Priming beer means the addition of sugar to add carbonation to your beer for bottling or creating that psst sound when you open a bottle. I boiled organic cane sugar with some water on the stove to make a super concentrated version of simple syrup; once the sugar boiled I put it into the bottom of the primary and started siphoning the beer back in. As instructed, I did my best to keep a minimum of air from getting into the beer by having the tubing submerged in the sugar syrup. Transferring really clarified my beer as I had quite a bit of sediment (spent yeast) remaining in the carboy. Once the beer was back in the bucket I lined up my sanitized bottles and got down to it. Bottling is mostly monotonous and the old adage ‘many hands make light work’ is quite apt. Dan, from Dan’s Homebrewing Supplies, suggested I would need the bottle filler to attach to the rack and caning tubing and it really did make bottle filling quite easy. BUT, and there is always a but, capping is not my new best friend. First up, Brooklyn Brewing seriously what is up with your bottles? After nicely sanitizing them and removing the world’s most adhesive labels I found out that they do not recap. Howe Sound, the friend to many a home brewer, was no friend of mine since those silly hinges kept interfering with my ability to get the bottle capped. A few of my beers took bottles for a test drive, decided they did not like them and ended up in different bottles. C’est la vie! My beer is now contentedly resting under the stairs in a dark, somewhat warm, home beside my vacuum –guess I can’t vacuum for a few weeks lest I disturb my beer!

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