My own homebrew! I’ve been enjoying the fruits of my own labor for about a month now and I feel confident enough to declare this batch a success. You may recall a recent post in which I described a homebrewing experience.
At the time, I had a certain degree of trepidation about the quality of my beer. I was worried about contamination, odd flavor profiles and the dreaded pitfall for most homebrewers: no bubbles.
Many of my friends had told me they’d tried homebrew before only to experience an insipid and uncarbonated beverage that only remotely resembled beer. It’s often the case that a homebrewer can maintain decent sanitation during the brewing process to create a solid foundation for a beer only to see it fall apart in the bottle because the beer just won’t carbonate. There is nothing worse than flat beer.
Carbonation is really an expression of one of the best characteristics of beer: it’s alive. Well, in a sense, it’s alive. “Bottle conditioned” beer is carbonated by the little yeast beasties that have already fermented the beer. During bottling a small amount of sugar is added to the beer. The remaining yeast in the beer will eat up that added sugar and convert it to CO2. That gas will release when the bottle is opened in the form of bubbles and a nice full head of a foam at the top of the glass. The trick with homebrewing is to know how much sugar to add and how long to let that secondary fermentation, or conditioning, last. Most homebrewers bottle condition their beer as it’s an easier process than injecting compressed CO2.
Rule of thumb is two weeks, but I have found that optimal carbonation can sometimes take up to three weeks. That, my friends, is the hardest part of homebrewing. Having cases of bottled beer that you made yourself just waiting to be opened, though you know you can’t because it still hasn’t reached prime carbonation.
My beer? A little flat after two weeks, but after about two and a half weeks it was drinking nice.
I would describe my beer as something akin to an unfiltered Sierra Nevada. A rich, hoppy taste but with a fuller mouth feel and darker color.Thankfully the beer has not exhibited any tastes of bad contamination and has a cleaner and crisper finish than my other beers.
But perhaps the best praise came from my friend Joe who doesn’t brew and prefers to drink — gasp! — Coors Light.
“This really isn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be,” he said after the first sip.
“Actually, it’s not that bad at all.”
Robust praise for the humble homebrewer.