Friday, December 25, 2009

SR1: It's alive!

Wow, yeast sure do produce a lot of carbonation. I mean a lot.
I popped my SR1 batch of Whitey's Pale Ale (if I play with the recipe, I'll rename it Honkey's) into the basement closet with an overflow hose and bucket. Following Charlie Papazian's instructions, I swapped the hose and bucket for the bubbler three days later. The yeast was a little slow to get started, but 48 hours after going into the closet, the fermenter was
belching excess foam and carbonation into the Ale Pale. So all seemed on pace when I stuck the bubbler on.
Well, sort of. As I was swapping the hose for the bubbler, I wondered how you knew whether the beer was finished foaming. Clearly there will be a lot more carbonation produced, thus the bubbler, but when will the foaming die down?
I didn't know, and still don't, so I followed Charlie's instructions. I should have gone with my gut. Although I technically didn't need to check the beer until Jan. 11, when it's due to be ready, I decided to look in on it today. Good thing I did, the foam had forced its way through the bubbler and was spitting all over the closet. So I quickly sanitized the overflow hose and stuck it back
on. I'll check it again in another 24 hours to see if the yeast are going to slow down a bit.
I think that's the lesson here: the beer will tell you when it's ready to move on to the next step. When the yeast were still dormant at 24 hours, I should have waited at least an extra day to swap the overflow hose for the bubbler. Depending on what I find in the morning, I may give it another 12 to 24 hours.
I'm sure that Papazian is generally right about the time frames. And given how precise this process seems, it pays to stick fairly close to the instructions. On the other hand, yeast is a living organism and therefore not subject to rules or instructions. They will eat and fart foam for as long as they like. I have to wait on them.
Also, my pale ale is looking a bit darker than I expected. Maybe the color will lighten as fermentation continues, but if it doesn't (and it ends up being darker than Whitey intended) I have a theory. I think a little of the malt extract caramelized on the bottom of the pot while I was making the wort. The caramelizing in turn darkened the wort, which has darkened the beer. Again, the color might lighten up and all will be well. If it doesn't, I think I know why.

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