Thursday, March 19, 2009
Bottling the Bounty
Many people don't realize the amount of time and work that goes into packaging food products; the process is usually quite stupefying. Packaging beer is no exception. When I started homebrewing over eight years ago, I was always excited when it came time to bottle my brews because that meant I was closer to sampling what I had created. Back in those days, I would bottle up my IPA's, British Pale Ales or Scotch Ales and let them condition in the bottle for 7-10 days. These days, I have more patience - the bottles usually sit for weeks before I crack them open and start imbibing. The system I'm using to bottle is also a lot different from my old system. I used to bottle the beer with an addition of corn sugar to achieve a state of natural carbonation in the bottle - this is known as "Bottle Conditioning". Today, I'm using carbon dioxide gas to do the 'conditioning' for me. I simply hook up my hoses and valves to a CO2 tank with a fancy looking filler on the other end which empties the beer from the kegs they are stored in. I cap up the bottles after they're filled and I let them sit in my basement for a week or two before I open one up and take a sample.
Right now, I've got a serious bottling job that needs attention. I am running out of room in my humble little brewery and there seems to be beer everywhere! I will need to do some bottling this weekend so I can make more of my equipment available for other tasks. I have five beers that need to be bottled: a Belgian Strong Ale (dark, potent, age able), a Barleywine (also dark, potent and age able!), a blended Pilsner (a friend and I brewed two separate batches and blended them to create a new beer), a Bock beer (never made one before - this one turned out great) and an English Strong Bitter. When I get those all bottled up, I'll be entering most of them into some local homebrew competitions.
So, with all these holding tanks empty, I'll be able to fill them right back up with NEW beer that is patiently being stored in my brew shed outside. When bottling is done, I'll have two new Organic Pilsners on tap, followed by two English Pale Ales (brewed with two different yeasts), a Czech Pilsner and a very strong Scotch Ale. Yea, I love Pilsners -they are my favorite beer and I want to have enough for the summer months. My backyard faces west and the sun beats down hard on my deck. I'm gonna have a lot of outdoor projects to fulfill this year, so I'll need plenty of light beer to keep me going. My lady also likes the lighter beers in the summer to steady along her gardening work. My backyard is a magical place to me: it's where I was married, it is where friends eat and gather, it is where our food is grown and the yard is where I make my beer. If that isn't magical, I don't know what is.