Back to back to back bottling

This week has been a marathon of beer and cider bottling. It wasn’t really planned this way, and I’m kind of happy I won’t be bottling again for at least two weeks.

Tuesday: cleaning

In the homebrewing world, cleanliness is the absolute most important aspect. I knew I would be bottling about two cases between the beer and cider so I pulled out some bottles to clean.

Most of them are recycled commercial beer bottles, which means they still had labels on them. Removing them was as simple as filling the sink with hot water, mixing in some OxyClean, and letting them soak for a few hours while I went back to work.

The majority of the labels slid right off as I pulled the bottle out of the water. A few were still stuck on and didn’t budge. Those went into the recycling can.

So now I had two cases of clean bottles ready to receive their beverage.

Thursday: Raspberry Apple Cider

Thursday morning I decided to sweeten a hard apple cider with raspberry juice. The plain cider was a little too dry for my taste.

After some calculations, and re-calculations and re-calculations, I figured out how much juice I would need to get the cider to a sweet 1.015 hydrometer reading. Then I mixed the cider and juice and bottled.

By adding juice to the cider, I added way more fermentable sugar than a typical bottle needs to carbonate. In order to stop the in-bottle fermentation and carbonation, I needed to kill the yeast via pasteurization. If I just let it go without monitoring, the bottles would explode.

Thursday was kind of stressful.

Friday: Blonde Ale

I have a blonde ale that has been in the primary fermenter for a little over two weeks. I wanted to give it a good 2-3 weeks in the bottles to have ready by my birthday to share.

This was my first batch where I made more than a single gallon. Because of this, some of the process was new. It probably took about twice as long as it should. I’m hoping with practice I can dial it in and bring the time down significantly.

I felt a little flustered during the entire prep since I wasn’t sure exactly what I should do next. But the actual bottling (and cleanup, of course) was standard.

Monday: Hard Cider

After bottling on Thursday, I decided to try making more hard cider with the same yeast by simply putting more cider on top of it in the fermenter. So I bottled the raspberry cider, and instead of cleaning the jug, I just poured more cider in to ferment again.

With this cider, the plan was to not let it ferment all the way. This way it would be more of a sweet cider and still retain a good amount of the apple flavor. I checked it a couple times and today it was where I wanted it to be.

So again, I got all the bottling equipment out and bottled it up. I’m using the same technique of monitoring the carbonation level with a plastic bottle. Since I’m effectively stopping fermentation halfway, it will continue to ferment in the bottle. And I definitely don’t want bottle bombs.

So that was my week in homebrewing. I have a pale ale fermenting right now that will probably be ready for bottling in a couple days, but I’m just going to let it sit for a while longer.

And the beer ferments

Watching my beer ferment is a fascinating thing to me. A by-product of yeast fermenting is CO2, which is what you see pushing the bubbles through the tube. This tube is called a “blow-off” and is an outlet for escaping gases. It prevents those gases from creating too much pressure in the fermentation vessel (this one is glass; too much pressure inside glass is a very bad thing).

The beer fermenting here is a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale clone that I’m looking forward to trying.

If I Had a Hammer

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “If I Had a Hammer.”

I don’t usually do these daily prompt posts, but today’s topic is something I can definitely write about. And I’ve been wanting to write more anyway, so here goes.

If you could learn a trade — say carpentry, electrical work, roofing, landscaping, plumbing, flooring, drywall — you name it — what skill(s) would you love to have in your back pocket?

The short answer is: carpentry.

The longer I work in the tech/design industry, the more I want to get away from the computer and work with my hands. This is probably why I take up physical hobbies like photography, playing guitar, and, most recently, homebrewing.

In addition to longing for manual work, the type of carpentry or woodworking I want to learn is more of the creative type. Not building houses, but designing and building pieces that could be viewed also as artwork. Things that stretch my creative muscles. Making beautiful furniture or reconditioning and rehabbing old items.

Sculpture by Henri Moretti
Sculpture by Henri Moretti

One of my favorite pieces of decor in our house is a beautiful wood sculpture by my wife’s great-great-grandfather, Henri Moretti. He gifted it to us for our wedding and it’s a gorgeous piece of artwork. I wouldn’t even know where to start if someone put a big block of wood in front of me, and he created this elegant sculpture out of it.

Learning to work with wood would also give me the tools and knowledge to be more handy around the house, and I could parlay that skillset into other things like general contracting. Sure, I can do simple things like fix door hinges, install a doorknob, and build Ikea furniture. But I would love to be able to do bigger things.

We wouldn’t need to call a professional for things like finishing our basement into a livable space. We wouldn’t need to buy pre-made things like bookshelves, fences, or banisters. I could build that shed I’ve been asking for since we moved in.

Wanting to know how to work with wood is something I’ve been thinking about for a while now. Perhaps I’ll take some action and actually learn a little soon.

Wheelbarrowrider

I came across this video and thought it was just awesome. As a former skateboarder I thoroughly enjoyed how much it nailed the skate video genre with this ridiculous concept. Besides that, this guy is actually pretty skilled with a wheelbarrow.

My new hobby has consumed me

One of the coolest gifts I got this past Christmas was from my wife. It was a homebrewing starter kit. She has since referred to it as the gift that keeps giving. Because I’m now obsessed.

I finally got around to opening up the kit at the beginning of February to brew my first beer. Even after such a short time, I’m thoroughly hooked. There are very few past hobbies that I can remember that have become such an obsession so quickly.

Most of my spare time is taken up by browsing home brewing forums, reading recipes, and learning as much as I can. I have brewed a total of two batches of beer, but I love the process. It requires quite a bit of attention to detail — making sure temperatures are consistent, measuring small increments, and taking plenty of notes — and I’m not even doing the more complicated all-grain brewing.

My only problem now is the fact that I want to brew more than I drink. I’ve run out of empty beer bottles to fill.