After letting my porter clarify for about 2 weeks or so, I squeezed in some time to bottle it up amongst the chaos that was my Memorial Day weekend.
Now bottle, as most of you home brewers know, bottling is probably the most labor-intensive part of the home brewing process. The actual brewing portion of the process requires more attention from the brewer, but bottling definitely requires more labor. Bottling is the roll-up-your-sleeves and prepare-to-get-soaked step, and sometimes it can get rather ugly (and slippery).
The first step in bottling, just like the other steps in home brewing, was cleaning everything – bottling bucket, siphon, bottles, caps, and other necessities. I mixed up 2 gallons of cleaner in the bottling bucket and got to work.
Everything was going fine, till I realized I had to clean 32 bottles…by hand. Always the most dreaded part of bottling. Since I’m reusing these bottles, and I don’t want the stench of failure from my first home brew infecting this batch, I ran the bottles through the dishwasher on sanitize first with no detergent. I figured this would give me a head-start on cleaning.
I started dunking the bottles one by one into the cleaner, and scrubbing them down inside and out with my bottle brush. This got old after about 5 bottles, but I did get a decent amount of junk out of them. I repeated the same process, replacing the cleaner for sanitizer once all the equipment was clean. Again, it’s a painstaking process, but it’s absolutely critical to producing a high-quality beer.
Finally, after about an hour, I had everything clean, sanitized and ready to bottle. I started by boiling some malt extract in water. Adding this to the beer just before it’s bottled causes another fermentation in the bottle, where the beer is naturally carbonated.
Once the priming sugar mixture is good to go, I added it to my bottling bucket. Having the priming sugar already in the bucket as I siphon the beer over helps mix everything together and lends for an evenly-carbonated beer. I climbed into my closet to retrieve the beer. I got it to my kitchen, hoisted it up to the counter, removed the airlock, and got ready to siphon it into the bucket.
But first, the all-important taste test. I siphoned off about half a pint glass worth of beer and took a deep breath. I always find this part nerve-wracking, since I want it to be good. A quick look at the beer showed the extra week clarifying really paid off. The beer was too dark to see through, but I could definitely tell the clarity was there. I raised the glass and took a sip, and I’m extremely happy to say the beer’s flavor stayed consistent with the first taste I had: dark, rich and smooth, with almost no hint of yeast. Woohoo!
Pleased with my product, I started the siphon, which went rather quickly since I had the carboy up rather high (note to self for next time). I traded the positions of the bottling bucket and the carboy and got ready to bottle. I took my sanitized bottles, gave them a quick rinse to get rid of any remaining sanitizer, and got to bottling. I’d stop to cap after getting through about a dozen or so.
In the end, I had a case of 12 ounce and a case of 22 ounce bottles, all filled with a very promising porter. I’ll have to wait 2.5 weeks for the final product, but all signs are pointing to having a winner on my hands. It was more than enough to make the final cleaning of all my equipment bearable, even though I did turn my kitchen to a neck-breaking slip-and-slide in the process.