Boy am I tired. Hubby and I just finished bottling the Honey Apple Ale. We now have two cases of this brew carbonating, and in two to three weeks it will be ready to drink.

Bottling home brew beer is a simple but time consuming process — if you’ve read many of my posts on other homesteading, you may recognize that mantra. “Simple but time consuming” describes darn near every seemingly complex thing I do here. But I digress…

A while back on a blog not so far away I reviewed the steps to bottling beer, but since this is a new blog with a new group of readers, I figured it was worth going over the steps again. Besides, I made Hubby pose for a new round of photos, and I don’t want to disappoint him by not posting them! So here’s a brief review of the process (feel free to ask for details in the comments below):

The first step is my least favorite: sterilizing the bottles and equipment. It is also the most important, so I take the time to do it thoroughly. Everything gets a soak in sterilizing solution, including all the bottles, the caps, the syphon, the hose, the filling wand, and the bottling bucket. And my hands, I fear. I go through a lot of lotion on bottling days.

I have an assortment of bottles, including some 12-ounce bottles I purchased for my first brew, some 24-ounce bottles gifted to me at my brewing supply shop (another patron had left dirty bottles there, and they let me have them so long as I was willing to clean them myself), and a bunch of 12-ounce bottles rescued by a friend who tends bar at a local pub. He and his wife are awesome, and I owe them a few pints in return for the free bottles. Note: if you want to get into brewing, it pays to befriend someone at the local pub so that you can get free bottles. I already had such a friend, but you can always go out and make a new pub friend if you don’t have one on hand. Today I used 24 12-ounce bottles and 12 24-ounce bottles. Here they are all sparkly clean:

Clean bottles waiting to be filled.

Clean bottles waiting to be filled.

Once everything is all ready to go, I bring 2 cups of water to a boil and add the priming sugar. The priming sugar goes into the clean bottling bucket, and will help ensure that the beer will develop a pleasant carbonation in the bottle. For this brew, I also added a few ounces of apple essence to the bottling bucket.

Then Hubby hauls the fermenting bucket out of the bathtub and into the kitchen. When we take the lid off, the smell of freshly brewed beer fills the air. This is a wonderful moment, and it justifies all the misery of sterilizing those bottles.

I use an autosyphon to move the brew from the fermenter to the bottling bucket. If you are going to brew, I really encourage you to spend a little extra for the autosyphon. It makes starting the syphon so very easy! To make the syphon work, though, we put the bottling bucket on the ground and the full fermenter on a table. We watch this step pretty closely to make sure that none of the yeast, which has settled to the bottom of the fermenter, makes it into the bottling bucket. Since we left the brew in the fermenter an extra week this time, the beer had settled so completely that all 5 gallons made a clean transfer to the bottling bucket.

Here’s what a happy beer syphoning man looks like:

I always cover the table with a massive beach towel when bottling. It cushions the bottles and sops up drips!

I always cover the table with a massive beach towel when bottling. It cushions the bottles and sops up drips!

The next step is the actual bottling. We have an assembly line routine worked out, where Hubby or Thing 1 hand me empty bottles as we go (tipping them out over the towel to make sure there’s no water left in them from the sterilization), and I fill them one by one with the magic filling wand attached to the auto-syphon. If I look away for a second, I am bound to overfill a bottle a spill beer. Spilled beer is too sad to risk, so I try to stay focused.

I always have the next bottle on deck ready to go.

I always have the next bottle on deck ready to go.

As with the first transfer, we keep the bottles lower than the bucket to make sure the syphon stays steady!

The final step to bottling is capping. Hubby loves this step and takes charge of working the capper. We use an assembly line approach here too, with me setting up bottles and caps and him working the capper:

A bottle of homebrew getting capped.

A bottle of homebrew getting capped.

All these lovely bottles of fresh Apple Honey Ale have been loaded into boxes and hidden away until we return from our vacation.

There is a bonus step I take at this point: I get out the hydrometer and take another reading of the brew. We started with a potential alcohol reading of 6.5% and ended this time with a reading of 1.25%, which would mean that the alcohol content is around 5.25%. This is pretty good for a home brew and won’t knock anyone on their fanny when they drink it (unlike my cream stout, which I will not make the mistake of drinking quickly again).

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