Bottling Day

Unlike bottling Engineering Hold Pale Ale, which went nearly three weeks in the fermentation bucket, Switch 61 Cranked and Clamped was pulled out of the closet after 12 days, as all indications the yeast was done working its magic. This homebrew was dry hopped after five days with 4 ounces of Mosaic hops. Being an “experimental IPA” recipe kit from More Beer, there was not right or wrong additions to this beer. Being a “hop head” I wanted a bigger smell and taste, along the lines of Melcher Street from Trillium Brewing in Boston, Massachusetts.

Bottling took place on June 28, just 12 days after boil day. By all appearances, based on the numbers this homebrew would turn out better than my first batch. I learned a few things that were implemented in order to get the desired results, however cracking open that first chilled bottle will be the true test. Once the boil was over and in the fermentation bucket, the O.G. reading was spot on, 1.054, as it appeared I maximized all the sugars from the LME.

As the fermentation bucket was cracked open, there was a welcoming aroma of those Mosaic hops. The smell was wonderful, excited I double dry hopped (DDH) this batch of beer. Big juicy tropical and citrus fruits exploded with a good earthy pine smell. If that doesn’t say Mosaic, I am not sure what does.

Prior to opening the bucket, I spent 75 minutes cleaning and sanitizing my bottling bucket, equipment and two cases of 12 ounce bottles. It’s long, burdensome task, but, as I remarked to Paul, a friend on Twitter, it’s the most important step in homebrewing. Clean equipment is vital when it comes to how your beer will smell and taste in the end. This was a key area I failed at some 20 years ago when I bought my first homebrew set up.

Using PBW, I filled up the 5-gallon bottling bucket to clean all my equipment. While the bucket filled, I grabbed the two cases of bottles, which would be the slowest part of the process. The cleaning went smooth and straight forward, but just took time to finish. After rinsing out the bucket I measured out one ounce of Star San and poured it back in the bottling bucket to sanitize my equipment.

The same process was completed, as all the bottled were placed in a drying tack, in preparation for bottling. I need to find a more effective process to clean and sanitize bottles, it’s usually keeps both hands busy, either filling or emptying a bottle.  As soon as all the equipment was sanitized I poured some solution into a  cleaned bowl and filled it with bottle caps, as well as leaving a cup of solution to add back into the airlock of my latest batch that is currently fermenting.

Now that the equipment was ready, it was time to transfer the fermented liquid to the bottling bucket. The tubing was connected to the racking cane, as 4 ounces of corn sugar was dissolving in a pot of heated water on the stove. Once the sugar was ready, it was poured into the bottom of the bottling bucket. The tubing was placed on the bottom of the bucket, connected to the racking cane and the flow of liquid start, which a whole lot of sediment bring brought over, which was expected.

There was a considerable amount of trub on the bottom of the fermentation bucket, after nearly 8 ounces of hops were added to this homebrew, I expected that. I quickly moved through the first 24 bottles, capping each as I went, problems were becoming evident. The gravity fed system was slowing, taking longer to fill each bottle.

It got to the point halfway through the second case there was a flow issue. It was all I could do, to finish 12 bottles with just under a gallon of fermented beer waiting to be bottled. While I should have stopped and thought about it, the problem was in my hand, every time I filled a new bottle. The trub, especially the hops residue was building up in the spring loaded bottling wand. Unfortunately, I only realized this after I ceased bottling operations and began draining the remaining beer into the sink. There had been so much build up in the bottling wand, it was restricting the flow of liquid into each bottle. Something so simple, but something that I hadn’t experienced caused me to lose nearly half a case of beer, as I drain poured almost a gallon. Lesson learned.

Prior to filling the bottles I drained a sample into the graduated cylinder in order to take my F.G. reading, check the color, smell and sample it. The hydrometer was placed in the cylinder and I spun it until it settled in an attempt to take my final reading. As the hydrometer settled, I recorded an F.G. of 1.013. Like the O.G. reading, I hit the final number, as expected. Excellent was in the air! This batch was on track to best my pale ale.

Now the moment of truth, the details of the beer. I poured a same into a glass, swirled it around and took it in. Switch 61 wasn’t shy on the hop aroma that danced on my senses. It had a wonderful, deep earthy pine smell but was also juicy with tropical and citrus, dominated by grapefruit and orange rind. I poured a small sample into my mouth and swirled it around. The taste didn’t come through as clear as the smell did, due to the fact I had been drinking a 100% Mosaic beer from Knee Deep, called Slooow Mo, so my palette wasn’t clean. That said, the taste did follow the nose, as the hoppiness was more pronounced in the taste.