Adventures in Brewing No. 2:

Bottoms to The Ceiling.

It’s been a little over a week and the Irish Red Ale I just brewed is finished and in the bottle. Despite my mistake in pitching the yeast a bit too hot, there was fermentation and it tastes like beer, albeit a bit watery. This is probably the result of my adding extra cold water to drop the temperature after pitching. So while I may have avoided excessive off flavors, in the end I have a beer I consider at best sub-par.

I’ll give it some time to condition to see if it helps, but while i’ve re-learned an important lesson and it’s not completely ruined, it will never be what it could have been. Some of the problem was my process, which is easily improvable, but some of the problem is with my recipe, and i’m going to have to go back to the drawing board to figure out how to improve it. Unfortunately, the answer will likely be to spend more money on ingredients. Now home brewing isn’t the most expensive hobby in the world, but it’s not exactly cheap either, so many DIY home brewers like myself try to cut costs where we can.

Ingredients are not a good place to cut costs, but one place where costs can be cut is by re-using old bottles especially larger 22oz ones. Re-using is environmentally conscious, but it’s also way cheaper than buying new bottles every time you want to brew a new batch. After all why buy when friends, family, and neighbors are more than happy to give you their empty bottles, especially when you return a few of them filled with halfway decent beer?

The only real problem with this is that bottles need to be cleaned, sanitized and stored. This wouldn’t be that big a problem if I had a garage or a space to clean and store them. Unfortunately, I live in a small apartment where space is a premium. While this is an eye sore, it may be a bit of a blessing in disguise. This is because other then issues with temperature, the biggest area where home brewing can go wrong is cleanliness. While even the most basic how to brew reminds you to clean and sanitize your equipment it’s often more difficult to remember to make sure used bottles are clean. As a result of not having a separate place to store my used bottles I have to make sure they are clean to prevent them from making my house smell any more like a brewery than it already does.

Knock on wood, this has prevented serious problems. However, like with most things you trade time for money, and it takes me a lot longer to complete the whole process, because not only do I have to make sure the bottles are cleaned and then sanitized before use, but because I like to produce a product that’s as uniform as possible I have to take off the labels as well. In this regard not all bottles are equal. Some, like Lightening, or Latitude 33 are incredibly difficult, others like Ballast Point are very easy. I’ve tried several different methods, including soaking them in bleach or vinegar, but the easiest seems to just be to soak them in PBW (cleaner) overnight. Yes this takes time, but it’s a lot less work than simply trying to scrape them off.

In the end, it’s bottoms to the ceiling either way, so you might as well enjoy the ride.

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