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Bottling

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Quite a few brewers are of the opinion that they would pack in brewing altogether if they had to bottle their beer, and it’s not hard to see why they’ve reached that conclusion; bottling is boring and deadly, deadly dull. Sterilising and rinsing off all those bottles is a major pain. However, if you want your beer to last a long time or if you wish to hand out a bit of it to friends, it’s still the best way to go...

 

To bottle 25 litres you will need:

 

One pint of recently boiled water

80 grams (2.8 oz) of brewing sugar (Glucose)

A 2 metre length of food-grade syphon tubing and your bottling stick

Large spoon for stirring

Sterilised fermentation bin

About 47 - 50 sterilised beer bottles and crown caps

Bottle capper

You will find there is a thin layer of ‘sludge’ (technical brewing term) at the bottom of the bin at the end of secondary fermentation and you don’t want that stuff in your bottles. To avoid this, I always siphon off the beer into a sterilised bin, just as we did at the end of primary fermentation.

Add 80 grams of glucose (brewing sugar) to one pint of cooled boiled water and stir until dissolved, which will only take a few seconds. Don’t be tempted to use ordinary granulated white sugar instead; glucose is much more soluble and won’t impart off flavours like granulated sugar may. Also, granulated sugar gives your beer HUGE bubbles! Pour the solution into the beer and stir it in. You’re now ready to bottle as long as you remembered to sterilise everything that will come into contact with the beer - including the crown caps.

Fit the bottling stick onto the end of your tubing. To do this, dip the end of the tubing in boiling water for a few seconds to make it pliable, and gently but firmly work the bottling stick into the tubing.

bottling's a juggling act... I bottle as shown in the picture, placing rows of bottles on the chair. It’s a bit of a juggling act but you can place the full ones on the floor out of the way and replace them on the chair with empty ones which you have cunningly placed within easy reach before you started. Never fill a beer bottle all the way up to the top; leave an inch or so of space to accommodate the carbon dioxide that will be generated by the few remaining yeast cells. The pressure in a beer bottle can reach 30 lbs per square inch and we don’t want any messy explosions.

Due to spillage, evaporation or just plain dipping your glass in and having a swift half in the interests of scientific research whilst the beer was undergoing secondary fermentation, you will find you never get fifty 500ml bottles of beer out of a 25 litre batch of beer, but it is obviously better to sterilise a few too many bottles than be left with too few.

Once you’ve transferred all your beer into bottles, get capping! After what seems like an eternity you’ve capped all the bottles and you think you’re finished. Wrong! Time to wipe down every last bottle to make sure they don’t get sticky and icky with dried spilled beer, then dry them off with a tea towel. Leave overnight to dry off properly before sticking a label on each bottle. Congratulations, you’ve just finished your first bottling session! It was horrible, wasn’t it?

It's a good idea to write down the date of bottling on a calendar or somewhere you won't lose it. By trial and error I've found that beer in the bottle, unless it's very strong indeed, is properly conditioned and fit to drink after 21 days in the bottle, but it will last much longer than that. Some barley wine strength beers recommend storing for five years before consuming!

It's not difficult to deduce that bottling is time consuming, messy, fiddly and just plain boring. A much simpler and quicker method of storing your beer is to reach for your Cornelius (Cornie) Keg. On the next page we take a look at how to do it...

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