Wednesday, February 10, 2010

SR2: Blizzard bottling

After a while, the novelty of being snowed in wears off. Well, it's worn off. Fortunately, I had beer to bottle.
I was planning on bottling this latest batch on Friday. That would have given it 13 days to ferment, and it's my day off. But seeing as Tuesday was the second of three (and counting) consecutive snow days, I decided the bottling could commence. Besides, there were no longer signs of fermentation in the carboy, so the beer with ready to go.
As was the case with the wort, things went very smoothly. I sanitized and dried the bottles well ahead of time, and when I was ready to do the bottling, I pulled out and sanitized only the equipment I needed. What took me several hours the first time, required only a couple hours this time.

Like the first batch, I didn't quite get two cases of beer. For this batch, I produced 46 and a half bottles. That half bottle though, is filled with the bucket dregs of leftover yeast, malt and hops. I'm curious to see how it tastes, but I'm not expecting much. I'd like to get a full 48 bottles, but I'm afraid of siphoning up any of the gunk and the bottom of the carboy, so I end up leaving about an inch of decent looking beer behind. The sacrifices we make.
The rest of the batch looks great. The Cabin Fever IPA, named for all the damn snow piled against my front door, turned out a beautiful, soft orange color (basically, it's Charlie Papazian's Palilalia IPA recipe with more malt and hops). The color will mellow some over the next four weeks during the bottle fermentation, but it should remain a nice looking beer.

Although I'm pleased with how this batch is turning out, there have been a couple issues. Once again, the alcohol percentage seems very low. And this time, I was able to get accurate original (1.032) and final (1.014) gravity readings. But if I'm following Charlie Papazian's equation correctly, the IPA is about 2.3% ABV. That's very low for this style of beer (which should be around 6% ABV), so I'm suspicious. That said, I was researching other styles, and recipes for Scottish ales and double IPAs call for twice as much malt, or more, than what I've been using. So maybe I'm just not using enough malt. I put the question out to a homebrewing group, and will continue to research this.
The other snafu I had was during bottling last night: I dumped a good few ounces of beer on the floor. The siphon isn't the easiest tool to use. It's necessary to get the beer flowing from the carboy to the bottling bucket, but it's tricky. As I was screwing around drawing beer out of the carboy, I didn't notice that the other end of the hose popped out of the bucket and was dangling over my foot. Well, I didn't notice until my foot started getting wet.

Other than that, everything seemed to go well. As with so many things, practice and repetition help tremendously. So now it's a matter of waiting another four weeks (March 10) to see if the beer is as smooth as the process.