After a week of busily bubbling in my basement, my brew is about ready to be bottled.
All that effort spent earlier cleaning and sterilising my bottles has paid off – today my job was relatively straightforward. I started by pouring a half teaspoon of icing sugar into each bottle using a makeshift paper funnel. The extra bit of sugar allows the mature yeast to go through another period of fermentation, which has three important effects: first, it causes the flavours to develop, creating a tastier and more complex beer; second, it creates a little carbon dioxide gas to give the mixture a little fizz. Third, and probably most importantly, is that it helps keep the beer from spoiling. The active yeast should outcompete any nasties that have snuck into my bottles since sterilisation and stop it from turning sour.
I’ve used icing sugar here because it’s highly refined, which means it won’t have a big effect on the taste. If I were trying to make a Christmassy porter or a spiced ruby ale I might use a heavier sugar like muscodavo, but I’ll save that experiment for later.
Ordinarily this would be a good time to add some hops to the mix, but I’ve chosen not to: I’m aiming for a milder, maltier taste for this one.
Next I siphoned my beer into each of the primed bottles. Apparently there are specific methods you can use to get the flow of beer started, but nothing I’ve tried has ever been as effective as the traditional approach – sucking. I cleaned off the tube end thoroughly once the flow started, and anyway, it’s not a bad way to taste the beer before it goes through its second fermentation.
With that, all that remained was for me to cap off my bottles. I chose to use the gold caps for this particular beer: whether it lives up to that level of quality remains to be seen. There’s always a massive sense of satisfaction and relief at this point, knowing that your work is done and you’ll have a mass of delicious beer to enjoy after a week or two ageing. It feels like the capper is celebrating too.