After a comedy of errors during the fermentation process of both batches I am brewing (a Wheat and a Stout), I was wondering if either one of them would live to the glass.
The Wheat started misbehaving first. As soon as I put it in the fermenter it… did nothing. For two days. Then on the third day I came in and it was bubbling so aggressively that it had pushed bubbles up the airlock and the Vodka I had in the airlock was this nasty greenish tan color. And it got worse, before the fermentation backed off I had replaced the airlock a half dozen times and there was this light green, hoppy goo all over the top of the carboy. …nasty. Let me tell the tale of this brew all the way through to the bottle. I started brewing before I had all the equipment I needed. Yes, it was stupid. Yes, I knew what I needed. I just got a little excited… ok? What I didn’t have was a secondary fermenter or settling bucket of any kind. Oh… and I didn’t have bottles, a capper or a filling wand. Can you see where this is going?
I felt like I was letting the Wheat sit way too long, but I didn’t have a choice. It stayed in the primary fermenter for 10 days. During this time, it seemed to calm down and I was waiting for it to go flat. But it never did. It bubbled the entire time. Leading me to wonder if it didn’t get contaminated somehow… *sigh* I finally got a second bucket to ferment in and transferred the Wheat over to it because in the meantime, since I clearly didn’t have enough stuff to finish my first batch, I went ahead and started a second one…! Yes, I’m an idiot…
Oh yeah, I found a kindly fellow homebrewer who lent me a filling wand, bummed a case of bottles off of him and then drank another case to drown my sorrows. And I bought a capper. After two days in the settling bucket, I capped off 50 bottles of wheat. Then I said a little brewers prayer that they wouldn’t blow up and permanently skunk up my shop… Stuck them in a corner and tried to forget them…
Now let’s consider brew number two… A little stout I like to call “The Creature”.
I wanted to brew a stout but I wanted to kick the sweetness and alcohol up a bit more than the usual “kit” beers. Since I tossed all my recipes though, I needed someplace to start. I bought an Irish Stout kit and then added an extra pound of dark malt and 8 oz of dextrose to it. The brew went fine and I was loving the smell of the stout as it cooked. I let it cool, dropped in the yeast and then put it in a carboy, kissed it goodnight and went to bed.
The next morning I went down to check on it and that’s when I discovered it had become “The Creature”. Unlike the Wheat, which took forever to start fermenting, I could hear this one rumbling through the concrete wall of my shop. It wasn’t bubbling… It was breathing… And it was crawling out of the carboy. A huge slime trail, an airlock full of goo and a vibrating carboy that was actually fascinating to watch. It was roiling and swirling like a lava lamp. I was scared… I needed a hug…
Changing the airlock and cleaning up reminded me very much of changing a newborn baby’s diaper… if you know what I mean… If not look up the word “micomium”. And there was no stopping it. This thing made a total mess of my shop for 4 days. It would push so much stuff up the airlock that it would clog the little airholes at the top and then blow the cap off. And I don’t mean gently… At one point I looked up while searching for the airlock pieces from yet another blowout and discovered hops splatter… all over the ceiling…! This wasn’t a fermentation, it was a fistfight. Determined not to let The Creature win, I put it in a big bin/drip pan and continued to swap airlocks for 6 days total, before it finally calmed down. I don’t think I’ll ever get all the goop off my router table. Note to self: Never do that again.
In the meantime, I agonized for over a week about getting a kegging system. Then I cleaned all 50 of those bottles and decided cleaning one big thing was WAY better than 50 small ones, and bought a two keg set up. One for beer and one for Root Beer! Of course I ordered it over a holiday weekend so it took for EVER for the kit to arrive (Ebay… whatchagonnado…). While waiting I coaxed The Creature out of the primary fermenter and put it in a settling tank. Cleaned up all the mess and all the equipment and waited.
Once the keg got to me, I gave it one last rinse and set about stuffing The Creature into it. Once tucked away in it’s stainless steel container, I felt safe again and celebrated by making Root Beer with my son. A process that was WAY too easy… comparatively. We kegged the Root Beer and, after some serious futzing and adjusting (I had never messed with kegs, CO2 or any of that before) I got everything set up.
It has been about 4 days now since The creature hit the keg. I like the beer, but I’m hoping it will mellow a bit. It has a bit of an aftertaste which I think is due to the kind of hops they used. It has a beautiful brown head and a blackish red color. It has a nice smell and finishes like Guiness (smooth, not many bubbles in the actual beer). It is definitely better now than the first time I tried it so I’m encouraged. It floated at about 8 % alcohol and you can definitely feel that. Don’t want to drink too many of these! We’ll see!
The Wheat, on the other hand has been behaving nicely. It also is not what I expected. It has a medium brown color, is very sweet with hints of caramel and honey (neither of which I put in to it) and kind of reminds me of a Newcastle. This was made solely from a kit with no extras, so I guess this is what it is supposed to taste like. It floated about 5.5% alcohol. It’s a good beer and VERY bubbly already, after only a week in the bottle.
So now… We wait. The Creature and the Wheat will debut to my friends on Friday, the 18th at a bonfire for the occasion. Here’s hoping they taste good…!
Oh… and by the way… the Root Beer ROX!