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Bottling our beer

I mentioned in passing that this past weekend Jeff and I finally got to bottle the beer we made several weeks ago. You know I documented the whole thing!

We started by siphoning the beer into another bucket to separate it from any crud such as dead yeast film or hop sludge. Sounds delicious, right?

Siphoning beer

Jeff read online that it can be helpful to fill the bottles over the dishwasher to catch any drips or spills. We immediately saw the wisdom in this when we proceded to spray it all over the place.

Filling over the dishwasher

We had been collecting used beer bottles for the past 6 weeks to use for bottling and I think we were able to acquire around 75. Don’t worry, we didn’t drink all of that ourselves, many were donated from friends who knew we would need them.

They got soaked in OxyClean to remove the labels, were sanitized, and then covered with some foil to keep the dust out.

Our collection of scavenged bottles

After each bottle is filled, you clamp on a cap with this scary capping device. I let Jeff do this since it requires some muscle.

Jeff capping the beer bottles

Our first 6 pack!

Our first 6'er

We ended up with 47 bottles total. Way more than we will be able to drink by ourselves, especially because we’re starting another batch this Saturday! Not only that, but we’re brewing another batch in a month. Jeff is definitely addicted and I think this is going to turn into a monthly thing for us.

More beer than we can drink alone

There is no way we’ll ever be able to drink as much beer as we want to make, so I’m sure we’ll be pawning it off on anyone that enters our home.

The beer we’re making this weekend is a replica of one of my very favorite beers ever, the Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar. I tried it for the first time in Seattle when I was still getting over some stomach poisoning. I was feeling terrible at dinner and couldn’t finish my food, but I could not let myself stop drinking that beer because it was the most delicious beer I had ever tasted. I won’t be sad to have a huge stash of it at home!

What is your favorite beer? Or, what is your favorite “special” beverage that you just can’t get enough of?


Our first home brew!

As you may recall, I got Jeff a home beer brewing kit for Christmas. It didn’t include everything we’d need to get started though, so Jeff has spent the last few weeks diligently studying the beer making process to figure what else we’d need in order to make our first batch. Saturday was the day.

We got up late and didn’t get started until around 1:30, after we had time to have lunch and then clean the kitchen thoroughly to make room for all the stuff that goes along with beer making.

First, you have to clean everything that will come in contact with the wort (the unfermented beer.) Then, you have to sanitize all that stuff too. The number one way you can screw up a perfectly good batch of beer is to introduce it to any rogue bacteria, so you have to make extra sure that every inch of every thing is sanitized completely and properly.

Jeff cleaning lid

Jeff cleaning paddle

We also had to assemble the kettle by screwing in the thermometer and draining spigot. The pot was so big that we had to position it over two stove eyes!

Kettle over two eyes

I then spent the next hour slowly filtering 6 gallons of water through our Brita pitcher to use for brewing. Next time we’ll by pre-filtered water cuz that was a major pain.

The water takes a little over an hour to come up to temperature, at which point it’s time to start steeping the grain. The grain gets poured into a muslin cloth and then gets steeped like a giant tea bag in the hot water. We tied it to one of the handles to keep it from scorching on the bottom of the pot.

Bag of grain

Steeping the grain bag

Next, you add the malt extract. It’s super thick and gloopy and you have to stir continuously to keep it from burning on the bottom of the pot since it’s mostly sugar.

Stirring in the malt extract

Now you wait for the “hot break.” Normally this would be signified but a tumultuous frothy boil, but ours was much more subdued because we used a malt extract that has already reached it’s hot break when it was made.

Hot break

Then you add the hops. The pale ale we were making has hops added in three stages, so we added hops every 30 minutes.

Adding hops

While you add the hops, you can start getting your yeast ready. We microwaved some water and let it come down to the correct temperature before tossing in the dry yeast to wake them up.

Prepping the yeast

It’ll eventually look like this…

Yeast is ready

Before you can add the yeast, you need to cool down the wort to a safe temperature. There are many ways to do this, but the key is to do it as quickly as possible to limit the amount of time the wort is exposed to the air while at a temperature that bacteria can thrive.

We used a wort chiller, which is a big coiled up length of copper tubing that you run cold water through. It brings down the temperature lightning fast in the beginning and then it kind of crawls the last 20 degrees down over the course of 20 to 30 minutes, still faster than just letting it sit to cool off though.

Because our sink faucet doesn’t have a threaded nozzle to allow you to hook the wort chiller directly to it and then drain directly back into the sink, we had to run water from a garden hose instead and catch the used water in a bucket to pour out.

Wort chiller setup

It was madness for half an hour carefully watching that the bucket doesn’t overflow and transferring the hose to another bucket temporarily while we poured the first one out. Non-stop manual labor.

Finally, the wort measured under 80 degrees so we could stop the chilling process. We drained it into the fermenting bucket and added a bit more boiling water to get it to the correct quantity of liquid.

Draining the cooled wort

Draining the cooled wort 2

Frothy beer wort

Now, you clamp on the lid and shake the crap out of it to aerate it. Then, you “pitch” the yeast, which basically just means to pour it in.

Pitching the yeast

You put on the lid tightly and insert an airlock in the lid to let the CO2 created by the yeast escape safely, otherwise you’ve just made yourself a very messy explosive. 😉 We put a bit of vodka in it as a sanitary barrier between the beer and the air.

airlock with vodka

Right now it’s hanging out in our second bedroom which stays at a pretty steady and ideal temperature for beer fermenting. We know that because Jeff actually built a temperature monitoring device just for this purpose! I don’t even know how to use it but I’m still really impressed!

Beer bubbling away

Temperature monitoring device

We also filled a utility bucket with water and Oxyclean to remove the labels from some bottles we’ve been saving.

removing bottle labels

And that’s it! It’ll bubble out CO2 anywhere from overnight to 2 weeks and then you let it sit a few weeks more before bottling, then let it sit some more before drinking.

This process took nearly the whole day to complete, but already we’ve seen how we could shave off a ton of time by doing things differently. For instance, in the spring we plan to get an outdoor “turkey fryer” propane burner which will heat the same quantity of liquid in 20 minutes as opposed to over an hour. We also won’t spend and hour just filtering water!

We had a great first beer brewing experience and I can already tell that Jeff is completely hooked. I can’t wait to sample our finished product!


Nice weather

How’s your weekend going?

Atlanta has been crazy hot for the last two months, hovering around 95 degrees every day and threatening to rain all the time, though it rarely does. The air has been still and thick as peanut butter with all the humidity. Yesterday though, we caught a break. High of 78 with a gentle breeze. Perfect day to get outside!

I had a weird breakfast before we went out. Vanilla orange yogurt with grapes, puffed amaranth, and two crumbled up raw nectarine cookies. This did not work, super strange.

Weird breakfast

And I popped one of these…

Bean cookies

Another strange food item: cookies made with oats, almond butter, honey, and……mashed cannellini beans. I’ve seen some recipes around the web that used beans in baked goods so I thought it was worth a shot, no dice though. I don’t hate them but I don’t love them either, so I’m not gonna put up the recipe.

Anyway, we got out and enjoyed the nice weather while it lasted by walking into downtown Decatur and stopping in Leon’s for a few drinks and what turned into dinner.

I started with a cocktail. This one had rum and allspice and some other liquors I can’t recall. It was delicious and refreshing.

Leon's rum cocktail

And Jeff, who has been on an IPA kick lately, got the Southern Tier Hop Sun.

Leon's Southern Tier Hop Sun

I even liked that one, and I don’t usually care for IPAs. It has a great bready flavor and isn’t too oily or hoppy.

And we can’t go in Leon’s without getting a side order of fries with their amazing garlic aioli. I am a huge mayo hater, but this house-made thick and creamy aioli is just so good!

Leon's fries and garlic aioliLeon's garlic aioli

I forgot to take pictures of the flatbread and zucchini casserole we got as well, those were downed in like 3 minutes flat.

I did manage to snap a shot of this awesome charcuterie plate though before it was demolished. All house-made cured meats, pates, and fruity mustard. One of the best I’ve ever had.

Leon's charcuterie platter

More beer was consumed…

IPA and saison

It was just so lovely out that we didn’t wanna leave. It’s really nice to not have to pay too much attention to how much you’re drinking when you know you’re walking home. :)

What did you get into this weekend?