Friday, March 6, 2009

Homebrewing - Spiced Winter Ale

OK... so it's been almost three months since I've posted anything more on the beers I brewer back in November. This post is about my Spiced Winter Ale.

The last I posted about the SWA, it was being transferred into secondary fermentation. It sat there for about a month (until I had time to bottle it.) I finally got around to bottling early in January. I did something different this time, in regards to carbonation.

Ordinarily, I would cook up a concoction of priming sugar and water, dump that into the bottling bucket, and then transfer the beer from the secondary fermentor to the bottling bucket. This time, I decided to try some tablets of priming sugar. For this, one needs to put 3 to 5 tablets (they look like little aspirins), into each bottle, and then fill the bottles with the beer. The package says that 3 tablets for low carbonation, 5 for high carbonation. I would then assume that 4 tablets would be for moderate, or normal, carbonation. So I put 4 tablets into each bottle.

After the bottles were filled (just over 2 cases of 12 ounce bottles), I capped them, and put them in some boxes and let them sit in the dark. Usually, carbonation takes about two weeks. I waited about three weeks to try the first bottle, to see how the carbonation was going. I was greatly disappointed. No carbonation at all. Now, to be fair, I won't blame the tablets for this epic failure. It had been cold in my neck of the woods, and my brewery, which is my basement, was a little on the cold side, which is not optimal for carbonation to happen. I moved the bottles into another, heated portion of my basement, to see if this would be more conducive to creating those heavenly bubbles. I waited another week. Nothing. Nada.

Now I was heartbroken. I've got two cases of beer that are flat. I like my beer to be a little carbonated, to feel the bubbles on my tongue. It tells me that the beer is happy. I took matters into my own hands. I noticed that there was some sediment on the bottom of the bottles. This is normal for homebrewed beers, as we do not filter our beers when bottling. I decided to get that sediment floating around in the beer again, hoping to jump start the carbonation process again. I turned all the bottles upside down in the box. This would get the sediment from the bottom of the bottles to the top. After a day of being turned upside down, I flipped the bottles over again, in their correct position. This has to help things. It has to.

After another week or two, I checked another bottle. By this time, my two cases of beer has been reduced by about 4 or 5 bottles. I took one more bottle and opened it. I heard that refreshing sound of CO2 escaping the bottle. This was an exciting sound to hear. I was giddy with anticipation, preparing to pour this beer into a glass. I made the pour. If I hadn't gotten married or had two kids, this would have been the happiest day of my life... the beer had a head on it. And it was a good head too... not too thin, not too thick. It was almost perfect.

As for the taste, well... this beer will take some time to mellow. It seems the mulling spice I used was a little too, well, spicy. Not hot spicy, but too flavorful and aromatic. A little too overpowering for what I was looking for. Since the beer is now carbonated, I can let it sit for a few months until it matures, and hope that the spices mellow out some.

Who knows... maybe by the time next winter comes, this beer will be ready to drink. All I care for now is that it did carbonate, and for that, I am a happy brewer.

A lesson I failed to follow is this...

"Relax, don't worry, have a homebrew" - Charlie Papazian

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