I came, I saw, I accidentally stuck my hand in it, I cried. That's about all you need to know about my experience with home brewing thus far. For a few weeks a mysterious concoction had been bubbling away in my closet, disturbed only briefly for some dry hopping (because my beer is either going be infected rot, or bursting with enchanting hoppy aroma). But now it was time for the next step: bottling.
Since I first decided to try this whole thing, I've been preparing for this step by bottle hoarding. Oh, sure, you can buy new bottles. But here's a secret: I'm cheap. Due to my much-hated diet, I actually don't drink at home all that much (which brings up the very good question of why the heck do I want to make five gallons of beer. But let's not dwell on that.), so I put out the call to my friends to save their empties and started taking home my bottles from bars. Once I got them, they got a nice soak in Oxy Clean to get out the remaining gunk and remove the labels.
Now, I don't know if most home brewers are like this, but I think I will from now on forever judge breweries by the stubbornness of their label glue. Some labels magically float to the top after about 20 minutes (thank you, Bell's) whereas others are seemingly designed to survive the apocalypse (I'm looking at you, Rogue!!!). At any rate, thanks to a few friends who quite honestly drink too much, I quickly had about 60 bottles, which would be more than enough.
So, for Bottling Day I had my partner-in-crime Jen, a bunch of mysterious plastic tubing that looked only vaguely familiar from the class I took waaaay too long ago, and an iPhone (placed in a bowl to amplify the sound. Genius, right? I know.) cranking out some Hall & Oates. Clearly, we were set. First, we did a lot of cleaning and boiling and sanitizing. Then it was time to transfer from the fermenting bucket to the bottling bucket. Imagine my joy when I opened the fermenter and the liquid inside smelled remarkably like beer. After taking a few big whiffs, we got the auto siphon rocking. I'm an accountant, so I don't understand physics (or calculus, or why people think Ryan Gosling is hot) but let me just give a shout out to the dude who invented the auto siphon. Good work, buddy. Then it was time to actually fill the bottles…
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking I should have put on makeup or, I don't know, brushed my hair for any photo of me to appear on this blog. But I am dedicated to providing you with gritty realism at all times. And this, my friends, is what filling bottles looks like at my house. Bottle filling also involves a magical tool that only releases beer when it touches the bottom of the bottle and displaces just enough liquid that when the bottle is filled and the tool is removed, the exact right amount of head space is left. Yes, I get angry when the GPS on my phone plots an inefficient route, but I am full-on fascinated by these magical tools. Who said women were logical?
Of course, we also poured a bit into a glass for a sample.
Isn't it glorious? I made that. So far, I can report that it tastes like warm flat IPA. Which is what it is, so we are on track. I almost think it tastes a little more like Centennial than Two Hearted, but that ain't bad, and we'll see what some time in the bottles does. Speaking of which, we now enter the agonizing wait for bottle conditioning. As with all things on the internet, I can't find much consensus on how long to wait, but I can definitely tell you that it's somewhere between one week and six months. Probably. I expect I'll get impatient and crack a couple of flat bottles over the next couple of weeks, but I'm only human.
And like someone (no, not Hall & Oates) once said: the waiting is the hardest part.