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Last night Hubby and I bottled the Vanilla Ale, which was just about the most delicious torture imaginable. The aroma of fresh ale mixed with vanilla extract promised wonderful pints in a few weeks, once it has aged enough for drinking. Tomorrow night we’ll bottle the Chocolate Cream Stout, and then we will have 6 whole cases of homebrew ready for Thanksgiving.

As for the announcement: I will be taking a month-long vacation from posting here, though I may of course show up from time to time if I have something really noteworthy to share. In the meantime, though, I will be writing up a storm as a participant in National Novel Writing Month, which challenges participants to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. To do this, I will need to crank out at least 1,613 words a day, and that’s a fairly tall order for an inexperienced writer!

I am just of 4,000 words into my story, though, so I’ve made a good start. If I think it’s shaping up to be anything other than pure crap, maybe I will share a bit of it here.

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Yesterday Hubby and I, with a little help from Thing 2, bottled the Cape Cod Red. I stole a little taste, and it seemed pretty good. Two weeks from now we’ll crack open the first bottle for the official first tasting.

I’m not going to recap the whole process again, but if you’re interested, you can read about it here (that’s for you, Joe Z).

While we were bottling one batch, another was brewing on the stove. This is the first time I’ve been so ambitious as to brew one while bottling another, and it was exhausting. But I was so excited by the Vanilla Ale recipe kit that I had gotten from the Brewer’s Apprentice, that brewing could not wait for another day. I also picked up a Chocolate Cream Stout, which I’ll be brewing up one evening this week.

For a complete overview of the brewing process, go here.

This was the most complete brew kit I've bought to date. They included bottle caps and sanitizing solution.

This was the most complete brew kit I've bought to date. They included bottle caps and sanitizing solution.

I checked the beer stash this weekend, and it is depressingly low. There’s no way I’m going to get through the holidays with only one case of homebrew on hand! It’s time to get busy brewing again, and now that the weather is cool I don’t mind getting the kitchen all steamy.

Back in July I had picked up a kit from the Cape Cod Beer supply store to make their Cape Cod Red, and yesterday Hubby and I started brewing it. This was by far the most complex brew I’ve tried to date, with three types of hops and Irish moss each added at different times during the boil. We had near catastrophe with the grain sack, too, when it burnt to the bottom of the pot and ripped when I tried to remove it. I used a fine mesh sieve to scoop out as much of the loose grain as I could get, and we’ll just have to hope for the best beyond that.

The potential alcohol pre-ferment was 8%, and I just checked on it to see that it has stared bubbling, which it has. I think that given the extra bits that need to settle out thanks to the grain sack malfunction, I’m going to let this brew sit a full two weeks before bottling.

Now, this is going to make things a bit too tight for Thanksgiving. I want more than one brew around, and I don’t want to wait two weeks before getting something else going. So I’ve decided to head out to my favorite brew supply shop, the Brewer’s Apprentice, this week to get another brew kit (maybe the Chocolate Stout?) and an extra fermenting bucket. That way I’ll have at least two batches ready before Thanksgiving, which might hopefully be enough beer, but given the way my cousins go through beer, I might be wise to attempt a third.

Apple honey ale served up with Tofu kabobs, melon, slaw, and fresh corn.

Apple honey ale served up with Tofu kabobs, melon, slaw, and fresh corn.

Yes, the brew was ready eons ago. I wanted to try it immediately after vacation, but Hubby had a head cold and *gasp* had lost interest in beer. Then I got the head cold, and though I still cared dearly for my brews, I could not really taste much of anything. After that, hubby went away on a little business trip, and it didn’t feel right to taste a brew for the first time alone!

Tonight, finally, we were able to kick back and sample the ale. And it is good. Really good.

When you hear Apple Honey Ale, you might think this is a really fruity and sweet drink, but that would be incorrect. This beer is a medium brown ale with complex flavors. The apple appears briefly just at the start of the finish, and if you don’t know it’s there you won’t know exactly what you’re tasting. I suspect the honey gives the beer it’s complex taste, though it could also be from the apple extract flirting with you through the whole sip.

I think we’ll be enjoying this brew for the rest of the summer and perhaps into the fall, if it lasts that long.

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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About me

I am on a personal and professional quest to find a happier, healthier, greener and more cost effective way to live life in the suburbs.