Cap that

It’s happened.  I now have thirty long necks of Indian Pale Ale.  Fifteen of these gleaming beauties are sitting on the top shelf of our bookshelf (to keep warm and hopefully become amazing).

Most of the bottles are standard shaped long necks.  But some of them, the ones I will present to the judges, are a more tapered shaped bottle that used to contain pricey foreign beer.  They’re very pretty but it would be a bit expensive to use these for all thirty unless you built up the number over a longer period of time.  I’m thinking of doing this.  Just for the pure pleasure of looking at them.  I’m guessing I might have enough by summer if I’m dedicated.

I stood on the dining table to take this. They'd better be loving it up there...
I stood on the dining table to take this. They’d better be loving it up there…

Once again I headed bravely into the danger-zone of doing-as-husband-says-and-not-arguing.  All of the bottles were scrubbed with hot water and then sterilised in the oven.  The actual bottling process is not that hard, you just need to keep remembering to keep everything really really clean.  Glenn could not  shut up about this emphasise this enough.  He highly recommended keeping one hand clean, gloved and dry for reaching into the packets of bottle caps and carbonating tablets.  And the other for pulling the lever of the bottle capper etc.  If the gloved hand got even slightly dripped on, he made me change it.  Moisture harbours germs.  I absolutely get it now, Honey.

I think Glenn’s head was actually throbbing a bit when he was trying to explain some bits, without doing it himself.  Like how to insert the small spring into the bottle filler tube that gets poked into the barrel tap.  He said I got a bit snaky.  That surprised me.  Note to self: revise fake non-snaky voice.

The best home brew I've ever made! (please please be drinkable)
The best home brew I’ve ever made! (please please be drinkable)

Two sugary carbonation tablets get dropped in each bottle.  Then you just fill it up to the top of the neck with beer (the level will drop down a bit when you remove the hose), pop the cap on and then seal it to the bottle with the lovely capper with a satisfying crunch.  I loved that bit.  Each bottle was given a little swivel to get things moving inside before being set down with it’s friends.

It can be a nifty little operation once you get the hang of it.  There was a lot of talk about ‘getting into a rhythm’ otherwise it can ‘take forever’.  Glenn seemed keen to get back to cooking dinner.  After seeing me fill and cap a few more bottles and feeling reasonably reassured that I wasn’t going to put drippy wet fingers on his entire bottle cap supply, he left me to it.  I was 23 bottles in when I realised I didn’t have enough carbonation tablets. So seven of my longnecks (not the special special ones) have raw sugar in them instead.  Sigh. But other than that, I think it’s all in order.  Just need to sit back and wait for beer to happen now.

Glenn: So now the barrel needs to be cleaned.

Me: Well it’s raining. Do you wanna just stick it out in the rain?

Glenn: That’s not really where I was going with that, no.

Hey, I was a grot when he married me.






Home brewing – stage one

Glenn: You do realise that this is the beer making equivalent of a packet cake?
Me: Of course I do (no idea)
Glenn: It’s about discipline..
Me: Oh (dammit)

Even though Glenn is my favourite person in the world, we are not one of those couples who cook together because someone will always end up spitting it. I happen to know that this is not at all unusual. If you’re lucky enough to have harmony in the kitchen, congratulations! But generally Mr Dickson and I tend to stay out of each other’s way in this area. It is much safer and everyone is much much happier.

So we’re heading into dangerous territory here because home brewing is basically cooking.

Until now I’ve never really taken much notice of the home brewing that goes on around here or up at the other house. All I knew is that I occasionally drank the beer and then the shelves refilled themselves as if by a magical (bearded) beer fairy.

My beer fairy now has about 20 batches of home brew under his belt and to his credit has only thrown one out. This makes him the official expert in our house and I was reasonably committed to not pissing him off in case he abandoned me and I messed it up.

All I needed to buy for my home brew were the ingredients as we already have the actual beer barrel, stirring implement and barrel heater (you need this. It’s winter). You can pick up the necessary equipment for around $100.

Ingredients – These were purchased from the Home Brew shop in Moonah. I love a Pale so I’ve chosen Cooper’s Indian Pale Ale ($18), one bag of light malt ($9) some black lids (ooh posh) and a packet of Copper Tun finishing hops. All up it was around $35. One barrel makes about 30 long necks of beer. Economical!

The (hopefully) magic ingredients...
The (hopefully) magic ingredients…

The most important thing is to sterilise everything carefully and to start with a clean dry kitchen. Things to avoid – detergent and anything that will scratch the barrel while cleaning it or the utensils. The soap in detergent will kill the potential bubbles in the beer and scratching the barrel inside will give germs a place to hide. Glenn was completely bossy about this. “Don’t let let anything touch the neck of the barrel when you’re stirring” and “did you just touch that?!” and “why are you frowning?” (haha I was frowning because I was concentrating really hard on not being an apparent grot). I let it slide though. What a good student.

The instructions that come with the kit are fairly easy to follow. In very very basic terms you need to combine the can of home-brew mix and the packet of malt in the barrel. You then add first boiled water and then cold water to bring to the right temperature. If you heat the can in some hot water first it will pour out easier as it’s very treacly. The Cooper’s instructions recommend a brew temperature between 21 – 27 degrees celsius. The hops can either be added at the end or boiled with the hot water and then strained. I did the latter.

Lots of stirring with a long armed instrument. It needs to be thoroughly dissolved. There’s a temperature gauge on the outside of the barrel. When it hit about 25 degrees I scattered the yeast on the top (under the watchful eye of my coach). The lid was then popped on which has a seal and an airlock. Now it’s just a waiting game really. That and monitoring the temperature. I’ve got mine sitting in the shed which is not ideal as the brew needs to keep warm to ferment. There’s a special heating strap wrapped around the base of the barrel, keeping it hovering somewhere around 25 degrees. Glenn says in summer he only uses the heater at night, if at all. I’ll pop back out later tonight and see how it’s faring. Just read on the instructions that some people use towels for extra warmth.

I’m happy to report that stage one has actually been completed without incident. Both parties were very well behaved. Me in particular!

There she is. I'll be wandering in and out of the shed, giving her pats of encouragement. Go beer!
There she is. I’ll be wandering in and out of the shed, giving her pats of encouragement. Go beer!