Slow Happy Brewing: We’ve got beer!

It seemed the day would never come, but we tasted our first homebrew on October 5! This was 23 days after we thought we’d set the place on fire while attempting to boil our wort on September 12. We racked our proto amber ale to the secondary fermenter on September 19 and bottled on the 26th.

As befitted the momentous occasion of bottling, I took a lot of photos.

The first step of the process was to thoroughly clean and then sanitize 48 used beer bottles. Well, even before that we had to (1) consume all that beer and (2) find room to store all those empty beer bottles. Suffice it to say that we have been preparing for our homebrewing operation for a while, quietly in the background of our busy lives.

CFL has done most of the reading about and researching of homebrewing techniques, and has developed an appreciation for the taste and health benefits of impeccable sanitization. We bought this very cool bottle drying rack. With 48 bottles suspended from it, it looks a bit like a Christmas tree, don’t you think? It may even replace my Festivus pole this year!

Once the bottles were ready to go, the next steps were “simple”:

  • Boil 3/4 cup of corn sugar with a like amount of water, create a solution and then let it cool.
  • Siphon the wort (which was now completely fermented and completely flat) from the secondary fermenter into the bottling bucket.
  • Add the cooled corn sugar syrup to the wort in the bottling bucket. This beer/syrup mixture, once bottled, would start another fermentation process that would then produce carbonated beer.
  • Siphon just the right amount of beer into each bottle
  • Cap each bottle.
  • Wait patiently for as long as we could stand it, before opening and drinking.

We had obtained a nifty siphon tube attachment that did, in fact, siphon just the right amount of beer into each bottle — if you were quick about lifting the tip at exactly the right moment. Achieving that little feat of perfect timing was my job.

It didn’t go so badly — I only doused myself with beer a few times. As I filled each bottle and set it aside, CFL grabbed it and capped it. For this task, we had an amazing little machine that may or may not have been made by the Ferrari company. It was made in Italy, it does say “Ferrari” on it, and it was marketed to us as “the Ferrari of cappers”!

When we were done, we had 48 bottles of amber ale. We’ve named our beer “Call 911 Amber Ale.” We haven’t yet designed a bottle label for it, but you are free to use your imagination.

In this photo you can also see what we were drinking in order to collect those 48 used bottles. It was a tough job!

Our recipe said the beer would be ready to drink 7-14 days after bottling. Well, we opened our first beers 6 days later… because we were going to be out of town on the 7th day!

It looked beautiful in the bottle!

However, it seemed to be missing something. Where was the head?

We’re not quite sure why, but that final carbonation step wasn’t 100% successful. Our beer tastes great — we’ve had independent confirmation from friends on that point. It has a crisp, clean flavor that tells us CFL nailed the sanitization part. We feel a touch of carbonation but don’t see as many bubbles as we’d like. It may be because we opened them too soon, but the ones we opened yesterday were still almost as head-free. It may be because we are serving them too cold — this is, after all, an ale, and ales are supposed to be served a bit warmer than lagers.

We’ve now become hyper-sensitive to carbonation levels, and guess what? We’ve sampled some very good commercial microbrews over the past few days and they were only marginally more bubbly than ours. So we think maybe we’re being too hard on ourselves?

In any case, we’re happy enough with our Call 911 Amber Ale that we’re not going to let any of it go to waste!

Meanwhile, our second batch is well underway and we’ll be bottling again by this weekend. We’re making a porter this time, and I think it’s going to be fairly hefty. While in the primary fermenter it actually blew off its airlock! Here it is being siphoned from the primary fermenter to the secondary fermenter. Look at that yeast/malt residue in the primary (upper) carboy!

We’re trying to come up with a suitable name for our porter. Ideas have included “Pop the Cork Porter” and “Coal Porter” (because it is DARK). Do you have any suggestions for a strong, lively, black, chocolately-smoky beer? If you do, please let us know!

7 responses to “Slow Happy Brewing: We’ve got beer!

  1. Reblogged this on Slow Happy Runner and commented:

    Just a reminder, I’m now putting all of my blog posts about things other than running over at “Slow Happy Living.” If you haven’t yet followed me over there, here is a taste of what you are missing…

  2. i like the name “Call 911 Amber Ale.” Very good choice. It does require a lot equipment and some tricky steps, it looks like you’re really getting some good results. I do enjoy a good microbrew. My son and son-in-law would just love to be doing what you’re doing. Maybe someday! 🙂

  3. How cool! You must be so excited and feeling super accomplished. That is quite the feat. And an exercise in patience.
    I’m happy for you, and this new hobby that’s going so well. 🙂

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