February 1, 2009

Mr. Brown in the Kitchen with a Beer Bottle

There is a quote I know I've read (but couldn't Google up a source) that goes something like: "Busy hands are happy hands." It went through my head at 9.30am on Sunday as Nahum and I got down to the task of bottling Batch Hay, aka our version of an English Brown Ale.

Bottling is one of the simpler, almost mechanized parts of the homebrew process, and I find that our hands quickly become busy with the rhythm of bottling. Once in that rhythm, it's all smiles and a relaxed air, even as the cat pokes around the sanitized bottles or Nahum's son wanders over from his cartoons suddenly desperate for a juice box. The hands are busy and the 2 Jews are happy as the beer flows from the bottling bucket and the bottles line up in the cases.

In just an hour and a half, we moved 5 gallons of fermented brown ale from the fermenter to the bottling bucket (there was still a light layer of foam which made us wonder if the yeast was entirely done...but the SG reading of 1.0.12 was steady on from the day before); dissolved 3/4 c. of priming sugar into 1 1/2 c. of water and mixed it into the beer; and filled & capped 46 bottles of ale.

The aroma was spot-on for an English Brown, reminding me of the end of a night of Newcastle Brown Ales back in my Scottish days, and the flavor was a little different than we'd expected - less sweet but very, very smooth. I suspect that once it's carbonated and chilled, this is going to be a very refreshing beer, with the bubbles & temperature adding a crisp & sweet mouthfeel to the smooth & nutty taste.

The other good news is that our sparging paid off: we wasted very little liquid and seemed to have much less sediment swirling through the siphon. Oddly enough, the bottom of the fermenter had a lot more yeast than we'd ever seen before; was the Nottingham yeast particularly active, or is this just a recipe that really gets the active stuff active? I guess this is why the recipe we used said the fermenting would be noticeably faster than in other brewing cycles - the yeast gets seriously busy for this one.

Now we've got just under 2 cases of bottles with a "B" for Brown on the cap, sitting in a cool room in the basement making the last bit of the magic happen. Hopefully we'll have a moderate day (or at least one that's not quite so icy-cold!) in a week or two to kick back with bottles of Hay...keeping the hands busy and happy until it's time to start in on the next batch.

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