First time bottling

Published by Chudz in the blog Chudz's blog. Views: 128

This is a story I wrote about my first experience with bottling home brew.

Well, I went and did it. I brewed up a five gallon batch of (magic) beer and it should be done fermenting. So the night before my scheduled bottling day I decided to wash the bottles, using the cleaning solution and bristly bottle-cleaner thing that came with my brewing kit. Oh my god! I'm so glad I did this the night before. Because if I had waited to actually do it on the same day, I probably would have quit, gone to the park out in back of my house, and blown up my brewing supplies like the army does with enemy arms caches. But I did it the night before which means I'm smart . . . or really lucky in a dumb sort of way. I'll settle for either.

At my command, I had 48, 12 ounce bottles that I bought from the brew shop and 4 more that I collected (good excuse to drink expensive beer) from a 6 pack of Magic Hat No. 9. (Okay, while not the most expensive beer, it's still more expensive than my usual Busch Light.) These would equal the 53 bottles that the kit said I would need. . . . Right you are, 48 plus 4 does not equal 53, and I didn't realize this until I was half-way done filling the bottles. Luckily, it wouldn't matter. But my first grade teacher has probably risen from the grave as a math-book-wielding zombie, who is now in the lurching process of hunting me down for a whopping.

Anyway, I filled my leaky bottling bucket with water and added the cleaning powder, ending with a solution that was slightly less caustic than the blood of the creatures in the Alien movies. Yah, I might be exaggerating . . . a little. I then used that to partially fill the bottles and scrub them out using the bristly bottle-cleaner thing. Unfortunately, the bottle brush is the size of a small shrubbery and balks at going into the tiny opening of a twelve ounce bottle. (Hears the perverts snickering in the background). Basically, it requires the force generated by NASA's early rockets just to get the damn thing in the bottle. Once in the bottle, however, the shrubbery-brush does a wonderful job. It was only when withdrawing the brush for the first time that I realized how adept bristles are at springing back into their original positions and launching a virulent spray of cleaning solution over everything within a meter of ground zero. (I'm melting!) And so, cleaning the rest of the bottles went something like the following: me running across the kitchen, leaping into the air and driving the cleaning brush downward into the bottle like a fat samurai dispatching his foe; followed by some placid scrubbing time (queue relaxing music); and ending with me, eyes tightly shut in a sissy-like manner, yanking the brush out and being enveloped in a noxious cloud that no doubt shaved time off my lifespan with each breath. It was over in an hour . . . thank goodness.

Then it was bottling day!

I started by opening the fermenter lid to see if the batch was okay, hoping it didn't smell funky and/or look like it was wearing an angora sweater. Actually, I started by praying to the Beer Gods that I didn't screw up when I brewed it in the first place. Then I opened the lid, and . . . ta-da, it looked fine and smelled like warm beer. So I took a measurement to see if it was done fermenting, and it was. That meant bottling day was a go!

While sanitizing the bottles, I realized that my bottling bucket was still suffering from chronic incontinence, which meant things were probably going to be a little messy. This turned out to be a rather prophetic statement, or more accurately a prophetic understatement.

I added the priming solution to the bottling bucket and began to siphon the contents of the fermenter over. This was one of the highlights of the day, seeing as I got the siphon to work without a hitch. As expected, though, once the level rose above 2.5 gallons in the bottling bucket, it decided it had to tinkle. So I moved a bowl over to catch the . . . sob . . . wasted beer. Once the siphon was over and I got through gawking at the yucky-looking, yeast layer lining the bottom of the fermenter, I hefted the bottling bucket onto the counter while simultaneously trying to move the wasted-beer bowl over with my foot. Now with my being as coordinated as your average uncoordinated person, there were of course numerous splatters of beer on the floor by the time I finally got the bowl into the correct position. But now I could start filling the bottles!

So I hooked one end of the hose to the spigot and the other to the bottle filling wand. The bottling wand, for those not familiar, is a tube with a valve at one end that allows liquid to flow through when it is pressed down, but stops when it's lifted. A very neat contraption. . . . (Editor's Note: You might be a redneck if you think a bottling wand is “a very neat contraption.”)

Due to the length of the hose I was using (insert wiener joke of your choice here), I had to fill the bottles at floor level. I hereby vow that if I ever make beer again, I will find something to boost the bottling bucket higher in order to avoid this. Because as good as the fat-man crouching on the floor to fill bottles image is for ratings, it's still hell on the fat-man. Talk about aches, it was like beer-bottling aerobics or something. Needless to say, between bouts of frequent swearing and spasms of agony, I filled a number of bottles and set them aside for capping. I also managed to overfill several during that time, further anointing the floor with my inaugural batch of beer. Deciding I would then cap what I had filled so far, and hoping I would be able to feel my left leg again in the process, I stood up and promptly activated the bottling wand by brushing the tip of it with my right ankle. This of course rewarded me with a warm-beer footbath, and contributed significantly to the growing pool on the kitchen floor. (A voice from far in the future: “Yes children, Lake Beer was formed near Chicago during October of 2009.”)

Eventually, I got all 48 bottles filled—or mostly filled. See, I didn't need 53 bottles! Take that, beer kit! Hah! But there were probably two bottles worth of beer between the wasted-beer bowl and Lake Beer. Sigh! Cleaning was fun in a really awful, gosh I hope I never have to do this again sort of way. But now my bottled beer is safely ensconced in the tub of the extra bathroom. I even closed the plexiglass shower doors in case any of the bottles decide they want to become grenades due to over carbonation.

Two more weeks and it should be ready to drink! Woot!
  • DaWalrus
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  • Chudz
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