Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Bottle Day and Tasting – Ye Old Confused Brown Ale

With this Brown Ale being my first try at home brewing, I was a little like a new father.  Always looking in and checking it, at one point even sitting quietly and listening to the sound of the airlock bubbles popping.  It was oddly relaxing and enjoyable.  A week before I was planning on bottling, I was asked to travel for business for 3 weeks.  I was a little concerned but decided instead of bottling early or transferring to a bright tank, to just leave it alone in the primary fermenting carboy and let it go.  All in, the beer was primary fermenting for 5 weeks.  I put it in the refrigerator in the basement for 24 hours at about 5°C(41°F) in order to “Cold Crash” the beer and encourage the yeast and any other particle floating around in there to fall.  Once I finally made it home I got down to my first beer bottling.  I have never bottled beer before but have bottled wine with my mother (Mama Thirsty we shall call her) back a few years ago.  For a couple years Mama Thirsty and I split on batches of wine at one of the local “Make Your Own” shops.  These shops are fun in that you can have some of the experience of making your own wine without the expense of all the equipment and all the work associated with cleaning, sanitizing and testing.  You get to pour in the yeast and let someone else manage the fermenting and racking activities and then all you need to do is bottle the wine.  As I said we did this for a year or two until Papa Thirsty admitted that he really didn’t like the wine that much and he’d rather buy his favourite brands. 
After that extended tangent, I’ll get back to bottling the Brown Ale.  2 days before we were supposed to fly back to Canada to celebrate Christmas with our family, I decided I had enough free time to bottle.  I added 67g of corn sugar to a small sauce pan with a half litre of water and brought it to a boil.  While waiting for that to cool I pulled a sample of the Brown Ale to get a final gravity reading and found that after 5 weeks the gravity was 1.018.  This means the final beer should be around 7.7% alcohol by volume and may be on the sweet side.  The corn sugar solution was added to the bottling bucket and the Brown Ale was siphoned on top so that it mixed well.  From this 20 half litre bottles were filled and boxed up.
All in all the bottling was really easy.  I fully expected to spill half of the beer on the counter or something to fall into the bucket.  This whole process has been too easy despite the mistake with the boil pot, so I’m fully expecting lightening to strike or something.  This is the very first time I’ve tried to do this, in a country where I’m not really confident with the language, with ingredients that are not usual. 

Showcasing GF Engineer's new label - Christmas gift from one of the best Brother in Law's around!
Let’s move forward in time about 3 weeks or so.  We arrived home from out Christmas Holidays with the families and I had about 3 days at home before it was back to England for another work trip.  Saturday before I flew out I put a couple of the Brown Ales in the fridge and decided to give them a try. 
I popped the top and poured one into a glass.  A nice, frothy, white head formed as I poured the beer, about 3cm thick.  It didn’t last very long but left some nice lacing on the side of the glass.  The most surprising thing about the beer is how beautifully clear it looked.  It was a beautiful dark gold in colour and crystal clear.   I don’t think the colour is appropriate for brown ale but I’m more than happy with it.
The smell of the beer is sweet and nutty with a little bit of the hops coming through.  The first taste is sweet.  There isn’t enough hop bitterness to balance the sweetness.  I don’t think the grains come through much, but then I haven’t done a beer with only rice syrup to compare.  There is no hint of alcohol in the taste, which I fully expected.
Overall this beer is quaffable and more than a little dangerous.  If the calculated alcohol content is true, then it’s close to 8% and doesn’t taste like it.  I think this is going into the re-brew pile but with adjustments to the hop schedule to help balance it out.  I’m also going to put a few at the back of the shelf and see how it ages, maybe if I’m lucky the hops with make a reappearance.
This was a good way to start 2013.

Photos courtesy of Mrs. Thirsty