Sunday 5 July 2009

Bottle it up

I had a little bit of excitement last night. No, not the bedroom type, well, maybe that as well, but that would be telling and anyway, that bit of my life will stay in the bedroom. No, I became excited as the result of voyeurism over the procreation of some tiny micro organisms that go by the name saccharomyces cerevisiae. These little wonders are better known, of course, as ale yeast. I'm a little cautious of posting here about this excitement, not least because I suspect many of my readers, if they have home brewed, will wonder why a professional brewer is getting at all excited about such a thing.

I still wonder at the magic of "Godisgood" whenever these marvelous fungi turn large amounts of a sugary liquid into beer. The yeast's waste products being alcohol and carbon dioxide, both of which are essential for good beer. The first time I made beer for commercial consumption was something of a life milestone. Made possible by many factors and quite a bit of help from various sources. Later, I sent some to be bottled at a local bottling plant. I went to witness this historic moment; my own beer being commercially bottled. I'll be honest, I did feel slightly emotional driving away from the bottling plant with the first case of beer sat beside me. Again, another life milestone.

I mention here about the relative economies of bottling beer by hand over sending it for contract bottling. I've come to the conclusion that we are better off hand bottling in very small limited edition versions. One cask out of a single brew. That way we can sell the stuff here and have the draft version on sale for customers to try before committing to the bottle.

A week ago I bottled some of my beer here. The plan was to condition in the bottle the good old fashioned way. No chill filtering1, no carbonation with CO2 that lacks provenance, just good old fashioned secondary fermentation. But I was worried that the priming would be wrong, or that there was not enough yeast. Would I get some condition into the beer?

Well, after waiting a week I cracked open a bottle last night. "Bubbles!" I exclaimed "It's got condition!" I suspect everybody in the bar thought I was barmy2. But my first bottle conditioned beer worked. I've sold some today3. Another life milestone. It's nice to feel things firming up, the plan, that is.

Now, before you all get carried away and start asking me to send you some, it's not for sale outside my little pub. Mainly because I suspect you lack the sophistication......oh, no, that wasn't it. No, it's because the beer isn't good enough, that's not the reason either. Oh, yes, I remember, it's because I need a day off and if I have to brew more to satisfy a wider market I'll not get one, sorry. You'll just have to come and see me here. Perhaps, if I make something exceptional, I'll consider selling some during the winter at a ridiculously inflated price that is worthy of the handcrafted nature of the product.

1I am considering reseeding with a different yeast. There are some advantages in doing that. That might result in me filtering the base beer after primary fermentation. I would still consider that to be real.

2OK, everybody who was in the bar at the time knows I'm barmy. It was just a little more evidence for them.

3No, that's a lie, Tom did. He's our newest barman. He's doing OK and is showing all the signs of a good salesman.


Reuben Gray - TaleOfAle said...

Congrats on the bottling. As a home brewer that is the way I do it. I have yet to start kegging.
Im hoping to spend a couple of nights at your pub in august once I sort out the ferry etc.

Rob said...

Bottle conditioning is also my method of choice. Over time I have found little need to use primings as sufficient carbonation occurs from the residual yeast and sugar in the bottles alone. I have also found without priming the risk of fobbing/exploding bottles also reduces.

Unknown said...


It would be great to see you in August.


I believe the advantage of priming is that it eats the oxygen early making it difficult for the yeast to digest maltose, so controlling the vols. carbonation better. Also, getting rid of oxygen early is better for the beer.

However, I have also read that stronger beers can often carry on over carbonating, so, work that out.