October 12, 2008

42 Bottles of Beer on the Wall

On Saturday, we saw the sign (and it opened up our eyes): The hydrometer returned a steady reading of 1.014, which is both a) the same reading from the day before, meaning the fermentation had stopped; and b) within the final target range for this batch o' brew.

It was bottling time!

Not only was this exciting because it meant the 2JB project was rolling apace, but it also meant we got to use 2 more pieces of equipment from our brewing kit: the bottling wand and the capper.

The wand was, true to its name, a little piece of magic. It attaches to the end of the siphon hose, adding a slim, solid tube that can go into the to-be-filled bottle. But the magic part was the little plastic dohickey on the end (that's the technical term, I believe) that only lets the beer flow through while its pressing down on the bottom of the bottle; when you lift it up, the flow cuts off immediately. This means the flow doesn't start until the wand is all the way in (which cuts down the risk of over-aerating during the bottling), and it allows for a perfect volume of beer in the bottle. Brilliant.

Once we sanitized our bottling equipment and 2 dozen bottles & caps, we dissolved 5 oz. of priming sugar into 2 cups of water and boiled for 5 minutes. That went into the sanitized "bottling bucket," followed by the siphoning of close to the full 5 gallons of wort from bucket #1 to bucket #2. (The sugar solution will be key in adding carbonation to the finished product.)

It's at this point that I want to mention one good thing and one bad thing.

The bad thing first: When we siphoned out the wort bucket, we got a peek at the residue that had formed at the bottom over the course of a week. Put simply: it was deeply, profoundly foul. Nahum was digging the concentrated hops aroma that came out of this sludge, but unless you closed your eyes and cleansed your brain, it was hard to get past just how disgusting the sedimentary byproduct is. (Note: the only "bad" here is the look; the sludge is supposed to be there.)

Now the good thing: Nahum and I tasted the fermented wort and...it was really, really good! Granted, it tasted like warm, flat beer...but that's a pretty accurate description of where we were in the process: pre-carbonated, pre-chilled beer. It's only subtly different from the post-carbonated, post-chilled beer you've got sitting around the morning after a party, but that's nonetheless beer, right? The alcohol and mouth-feel are still coming together, but the flavor is there.

But I digress. Working in a two-man assembly line, Nahum siphoned from the bottling bucket into the bottles, and I used the bright-red capper to seal each one shut. In the end we filled 42 bottles, which are now sitting in a 66-degree room.

In just 15 days (long, long days, no doubt), the carbonation and other final bits of brewing magic should be complete, and we'll have some honest-to-goodness Two Jews Brew to sample!


Elizabeth said...

Loving how much you guys are enjoying this.

I volunteer to make home-made pretzels if we get to come to the tasting!

bsglaser said...

Don't worry - you're on the list!