April 29, 2009


Our confidence had been somewhat shaken by the exploding vat of beer, so Nahum and I approached Bottling Day with a step or two missing from our game. The beer looked, smelled and tasted fine (not like any kind of stout, but more like a Becks Dark or other dark ale), and had an SG reading of 1.024.

But as soon as we started the bottling process, it was clear that our normally steadfast rhythm was off. I forgot to rinse the bottles before sterilizing them. Nahum kept dumping out the sterilizing solution before we'd wiped everything down. We almost forgot to get the sugar boiling. It was kind of a mess.

So, in my infinite wisdom, I served up this brilliant nugget: Why not switch our normal bottling tasks? See, Nahum always fills the bottles, and I always cap & label them and get the bottles into the cases. And we've developed a sort of effortless production-line rhythm, churning out full bottles with a smile and a spring in our step.

This, on the other hand, was a disaster. I couldn't get the bottles filled quite right, and I didn't have a smooth flow of empties into the bottling area as I got each one done. Nahum struggled to work the capper, with each one seeming to take an inordinate amount of time. We weren't getting anywhere, and it was taking a long while to get there.

In a moment of simultaneous epiphany, we looked at each other, put down our unfamiliar tools and switched into our "normal" positions. Within minutes, we had 42 bottles of beer capped and stacked for a week or two in the cold room. I labeled them "E," both to commemorate the explosion that helped birth this particular batch and the enormous effort it took to get it done.

This one was in no way smooth sailing and at no point easy. But it also seems like it's going to taste just fine, and there was a lesson there: we may not have the pro-level skills for consistent back-to-back batches, but we're at a point where we're unlikely to make a genuinely bad bucket o' brew. I take quite a bit of comfort in that, and I look forward to kicking back with a fresh bottle of Explosivo Beer!

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