Busy at the home brewery

Here's my glass carboy fermenter in my closet. The red cap is holding a traditional airlock that allows the carbon dioxide gas generated by fermentation to escape but blocks nasty bacteria from gaining entry and contaminating the brew. The "blow off" system was simply a piece of tubing running from the plastic cap down into that bucket that I had filled with about a gallon of water and a small dose of sanitizer.

New year, new brews. With work at the winery slowed after harvest, I’ve grabbed the opportunity to put down a couple of batches.

I’ve a stout in bottles right now that is slowly carbonating, and it’s a little off style in terms of body and hoppiness ( it’s a little too hoppy) but it’s kinda like Lost Coast Brewery’s Downtown Brown or even a lighter version of Eight Ball Stout. Light body, with some good roasted malt flavors and a hoppy finish. I’m hopeful that it will finish up nicely in bottle in time for a little more winter weather. It would be a great beer to enjoy with a whiskey on a cold foggy day.

In the fermenter right now is a double IPA with loads of hops and malt that’s humming right along. But perhaps I should say, burping right along. Because of the cold nights I’ve kept the fermenter in my closet rather than out in the barn where I usually stash it. Our night time lows of upper 30s to low 40s is just too cold for the little yeast beasties doing their thing turning sugars into alcohol.

Because of the high amounts of malt, or sugars, the yeast have been quite active causing the fermenting beer to bubble up with a great deal of force. This can pop the airlock that I usually put on the top of the fermentor so I run a piece of plastic tubing down from the top of the fermenter into a bucket of water. The tube allows carbon dioxide and foam to leave the fermenter and the water, with a dash of sanitizer, acts as a barrier to bacterial infection.

Fermentation started quite vigorously on Sunday evening. As the beer foam bubbled up out of the fermenter, the bubbles caused a constant, plopping sound followed by an occassional “burrrp” as a large volume of gas escaped from the tube. The fermenter was in my closet off of my bedroom and Christine and I couldn’t sleep at all. With the constant dripping she kept dreaming of leaking water, while I was struck by nigthmarish dreams of fermentation. (You know, stuck fermentations, not reaching the right final gravity, bacterial infection, I’m sure we’ve all had them from time to time.) By 3 a.m., we’d had enough and I pulled the tube out of the water.

Fermentation has slowed a bit and now I’m back to using just the regular airlock and it shouldn’t affect our sleep.

I’m enjoying brewing, but I’m already balancing my urge to expand operations with a reluctance to spend $1,000 on a 10 gallon, all grain brew structure like this beast.

Perhaps then I’ll just have to continue my amateur efforts while enjoying the fine products of the West Coast’s excellent breweries and events such as SF Beer Week.

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