Rainbow Ale Fermenting & Bottling

A lot has happened since the Rainbow Ale team has last checked in and the beer judging is rapidly approaching so we figured you were definitely due for a status check.  Our last post left off with our Honey Brown Rainbow Ale in the primary fermenter.  The beer stayed in the primary fermenter for about a week.  During this time it was important that we kept it in a cool non-drafty location and let the yeast go to work.  We opted to store it in a corner of my dining room.  The first 2 to 3 days the air lock that was on the top of the primary fermenting bucket was going crazy.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zHooK-MWmsc?rel=0]

It was noticeably bubbling as our brew was releasing CO2 which had one of my dogs very curious about this new object in our house.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CkF11DkjLzE?rel=0]

After the first few days the bubbling started getting less and less and then at about a week of it being in the primary fermenter it was time to move our ale to the secondary fermenter which was a glass carboy.  We found out from our friends at Austin Homebrew that using a two stage fermenting process allows for better clarity on our brew. To move the beer from the primary fermenting bucket to the carboy we used an auto siphon (which made it way easier than trying to siphon the old fashioned way because what I had in mind was more like siphoning gas from a car with plastic tubing and you adding suction without trying to get gas in your mouth).  The first step it to sterilize everything.  This is probably the longest part of the process, but is definitely key.  After I was done sterilizing, I put the empty carboy on the floor and made sure to gently place the primary fermenting bucket on the counter above the empty carboy.  When transporting the primary fermenting bucket, you want to make sure not to disturb the sediment that has accumulated on the bottom of the bucket.  This sediment is called trube.  The idea is to try to get as little of the trube as possible into the carboy while getting as much as the liquid (AKA beer) in the carboy.  A good tip is to move the primary fermenting bucket to the counter or whatever place you are going to use to transfer the beer the day before.  This will allow time for any sediment that you stirred up while moving it to settle before you begin the transfer.

I took the lid off the primary fermenting bucket, which can be tricky, but luckily there was a tool in our kit to help with this.

I then plunged the auto siphon about half-way in the bucket making sure not to hit the bottom so I don’t disturb the sediment.  I then gave the auto siphon 2-3 pumps and voila the beer was flowing from the primary fermenting bucket to the carboy!

         


Here the trube that was left in the primary fermenting bucket after the transfer:

Here is the full carboy after the transfer:

         

Once it was finished, I placed the air lock tightly on the top of the carboy and moved it back into my dining room for safe keeping and there it sat for about another week.  During this time the air lock bubbled less and less until finally it stopped bubbling all together.  At this point we knew it was time to transfer our Rainbow Honey Brown Ale from the carboy to the bottles.

Once again we moved the carboy to the counter making sure not to disturb the sediment or trube that had accumulated at the bottom.  This too can be done the day before the bottling process to ensure the least amount of sediment possible gets in the bottles.  At this point you are supposed to take a hydrometer reading to ensure your brew is ready to be bottled and the bottles won’t explode on you, however, with the excitement of bottling our brew, we completely forgot about this very important step until it was too late so we had to just cross our fingers and hop for the best.

The very important step that we didn’t forget was to sterilize everything.  We formed an assembly line as we sterilized the bottles.  Anthony took them out of the box and handed them to Scott who proceeded to dunk them in the sterilizing liquid in the bucket and then handed them to me, Kara, who placed them on my dishwasher rack to dry.

It is very important to have nothing touch anywhere the beer will touch after it has been sterilized so this required strategically place the bottles on the rack where they were balanced but nothing actually going inside them including the rack prongs.  This meant they were kind of just hanging on the rack.

While we were doing this, Michael heated up the priming sugar on the stove and transferred the beer from the carboy to the sterilized bottling bucket with the auto siphon making sure to get as little trube as possible during the transfer.  He then added the priming sugar mixture to the beer and slowly stirred it in by using figure 8 motions for 2 minutes.

By this time the bottles were drying out and we set the bottling bucket on the counter, hooked up the bottling hose to the spigot and we were ready to start bottling…or so we thought.  We turned on the spigot and noticed nothing was coming out in the hose and was instead leaking out of the sides of the spigot where it connects to the bucket.  Uh oh, it was time for us to think fast!!!  Thanks to the genious mind of Michael, we decided to syphon the beer from the bucket into the bottles instead of using the spigot.  You see, if we didn’t have the spigot on, the leak wasn’t that bad, it was only when the spigot was open that the leak became a gusher and we thought we were going to quickly sacrifice all of our scrumptious Rainbow Ale to my floor.

Though not ideal, we once again formed an assembly line and siphoned our beer into the bottles.  Anthony handed Michael the sterilized bottles.  Michael filled the bottles up.

Anthony handed me the full bottles.

I gave the filled up bottles to Scott who capped them.  To cap the bottles, we used a capping tool that came in our kit.  You place the cap on the bottle and then clamp down with the capping tool, give the bottle a quarter turn, and clamp down again with the capping tool again.

You then make sure the bottle has a circle dimple on the top, and if so, it is ready to be placed in the box for safe storage for another two weeks.

We bottled 48 beers but of course made sure that there was enough left over to give our brew a little taste tester.  At this point in the brewing process the beer will have the flavor of what it will taste like when it is complete, however, it will not yet be carbonated.  The carbonation occurs when the yeast eats the priming sugar which happens while in the bottle.  We ceremoniously gave a cheers and tasted the uncarbonated version of our brew and if we do say so ourselves…it’s delicious.

Hooray for Rainbow Ale the best honey brown ale around!!!!

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