Last time out, I explained that I wanted to get my hands dirty and learn to brew my own beer. This was so I had a better understanding of what I have been shooting my mouth off about and, with a bit of practice, could make something new or interesting. I’ve since realised that it’ll also be a really cheap source of beer for days when I don’t want anything fancy, just something to unwind with after work.
The start of my little homebrewing endeavour was put back thanks to an untimely accident (look out for #22 for details – I’m OK, thanks for asking). After getting my affairs in order, I made the journey to Annerley Home Brew and asked for their finest, cheapest beginner’s kit. $150 later and I was ready to go.
Almost. I picked the Coopers Australian Pale Ale beer can as my starting point. I was more interested in finding my way around the process than getting too adventurous. My beginner’s kit supplied with me with just about everything, except for Coopers Brew Enhancer 2 which is “recommended” by the instructions for superior maltiness. I certainly didn’t want my first attempt at homebrew to taste terrible because I skimped out on a half kilo of sugar. So I made a second trek, this time to Woolworths, which was just painful and we shall not speak of it further.
Last Sunday, I mixed together the ingredients in my new thirty litre fermenter and waited. I felt uneasy. This was clearly too easy. Any idiot could mix together water, yeast and the molasses-like substance that comes out of the Coopers beer can. Nonetheless, as the week progressed, it seemed the fermentation was on track. Nothing seemed to happen, except for the odd bubble of carbon dioxide popping out the lock. The temperature sat around 22ºC, which is ideal for the pale ale.
After checking the brew day and night, Saturday finally rolled around and it was time to see what the fermenter was going to yield. I set up my station in the unoccupied spare bedroom of my little crack den, which is now the unofficial brewhouse.
I cleaned my bottles like a good little brewer and sweet baby Jesus, that was boring. I’d read online that bottling is considered the least fun part of brewing, which when you compare it to the other aspects of homebrewing – drinking and doing nothing while it ferments – is easy to understand. I’d opted for the PET (plastic) bottles instead of trying to drink thirty tallies in the last week.
There didn’t seem to be too much sediment in the sample, so I started bottling. The bottles were each primed with a scoop of dextrose, which according to my research is an acceptable substitute for the white sugar recommended in the instructions. I’m reasonably confident none of the bottles are over-primed, with the exception of one.
In short, the little valve I was using to control the pour into the bottles fell into a bottle. Rather than throw the beer away, I poured it into another pre-primed bottled. After fixing the cap, I realised that there was double the dextrose in this bottle and I’m looking forward to it exploding later this week.
The actual process of putting beer into bottles quickly lost its novelty, especially as the pressure dropped and the pour slowed. Capping the bottles brought it own set of challenges and I ruined two bottles before I realised that my hand-capper is probably better suited to glass bottles which won’t buckle under the pressure. I ended up fitting the caps with my thumbs, which seemed to seal them up tight enough.
After a sweaty hour or so, I ended up with twenty-five bottles of beer on the floor, one half bottle filled mostly with sediment, one double primed grenade in waiting, two bottles with broken seals and one empty.
The plan moving forward is to let the bottles mature for different lengths of time and see what impact that has. The minimum time is one week. After that, batches will be portioned off into two, four, six and eight week groups.
Other than that, I think the PET bottles are a bit shit, so I’m going to drink thirty tallies, probably with a bit of outside help, so I have a set of glass bottles which will be the containers for my next brew. I’m thinking the Coopers Dark Ale but we’ll see how this one goes next Saturday.