Your bottle runneth over, almost; and it’s quite full
By Laurel Borrowman, Life & Style Editor
You’ve researched. You’ve invested. You’ve toiled, boiled, lifted, siphoned, measured, and been as diligent and patient as you could possibly be (I hope). Now, you’re so close to the end of your journey, standing on one end of a glorious rainbow gazing longingly at the pot of gold at the other.
The bad news is that your journey is not over. The good news is that you live in reality, not a fictional dreamland. You aren’t nine years old, you are at least 19, and that isn’t a rainbow with a pot of gold at the end. It’s better. It’s a carboy filled with approximately 25 litres of beer, brewed by you. And there aren’t dragons or orcs standing between you and sweet success; no, there’s only one session with your siphon, a few dozen empty bottles, and a butt load of sanitization.
It’s bottling time!
In our three previous weeks of home brew how-to, we’ve discussed buying the proper equipment and ingredients, turning those ingredients into wort, testing your patience while waiting for this wort to turn to beer, and more patience-testing while this beer clears. By now, almost two weeks have passed. This final stage, while relatively simple and spent mostly waiting, is important to take seriously. You’ve come this far, so there’s no need to botch the brew now. And again, in the wise words of brewmaster Emily, imparted on you in week one, if frat boys can do this, then you sure as fuck can.
What you have now is a carboy full of cleared beer. Over the past week that it sat, the sediment has mostly settled on the bottom, making a silty beer beach for you to gaze upon. While pleasant to look at, you don’t want that crap in your beer, so the next step is to transfer the beer, undisturbed, back into the primary before you bottle it.
But first, you’ll want to sanitize all your bottles. Remember those resealable bottles you’ve been saving and collecting from your friends? Now is their time to shine. I can’t stress the importance of ensuring that each bottle’s inside, seal, and neck is totally sanitized and rinsed properly. Directions will come with your sanitizer, and you likely berated your local supplier’s brewmaster with questions about this, so you’re a pro now. Sanitize the bottles, and when they’re sanitized, arrange them somewhere (likely your kitchen floor) where you can arrange them in a few neat rows, siphon-length from a countertop.
Now, you’ll transfer the beer from the carboy back to the primary. Sanitize your siphon, raise the carboy gently to a height (probably a countertop) above your sanitized primary, insert the siphon into the carboy just deep enough so that it’s not resting on Beer Beach at the bottom, and suck until the beer starts to flow through.
This will take a few minutes. Consider doing a few sets of crunches and push-ups. Perhaps send a few texts to your parents and/or siblings. Update your Facebook status to remind the world of your brewing prowess. Be inundated with friend requests. Return to the task at hand.
Now that the beer is back in the primary and your sanitized bottles are arranged methodically, from most sanitized to just as sanitized—because they are all equally sanitized—recruit your strong friend to help you carry the primary full of beer to the counter that is siphon-length from the arrangement of sanitized bottles. Set the primary down on the counter. Begin siphoning into the bottles.
At this stage, I highly recommend getting a firm grasp of how to operate the openy-closey part of your siphon (the valve that will stop the flow when pinched). You’ll be filling each bottle almost to the top (in the Howe Sound bottles, we leave about four centimetres below the mouth), and you’ll need to shut the siphon while you transfer it from one bottle to the next. If you don’t shut it, you’ll waste scads of precious beer whilst making a huge sticky mess.
While you are filling each bottle, have your friend follow behind with a clean damp cloth, sealing each bottle and wiping away the minimal spillage. When the bottles are all full (if you’re using one litre bottles, it will probably be between 23 and 25), put them away somewhere that you can’t see them, in a place that’s the appropriate temperature for the brew.
Invent time travel to transport yourself two weeks into the future. Or, wait two weeks, birth the beer, salute your friend, and rejoice in your spoils. Now that, my co-brewers, is what I call a pot of gold.
Congratulations, and cheers, gang!