Mmm…beer. 72 bottles of yummy, frothy goodness. And even better, this particular beer is one that I actually crafted, along with family and friends (including Andy at the Altar), with an actual recipe and ingredients like hops and malt and yeast, and a real live process of brewing and bottling at Incredibrew in Nashua, NH. It’s like homebrewing only better because you get to use professional equipment, have dozens of recipes and ingredients to choose from and they clean up all the mess!
We made two batches, one of Irish Red “Straight from the land of Smithwicks and Killkenny. Imported malts and yeast. A perfect balance of sweetness, flavor and aroma. An Irish Classic in a land of dark beers.” and another of Scotch Ale “This “wee-heavy” ale is dark, rich, complex, with distinctive malt sweetness and aroma. Selected English hops and yeast from Edinburgh.”
It’s a combination social event because you get to hang out with your group and it’s a learning experience where you find out what goes into beer making and then have the actual product to drink and enjoy. You don’t get the immediate satisfaction in being able to drink what you make that day as the beer needs to age, ferment, and condition for two weeks. But you do get to sample beers other people have made, using tried and true recipes, from the “take one, leave one” cooler. All the beer is bottled in 22 oz. bottles and you can get 5 or 6 good samples to share, using the tasting cups they provide. It works on the honor system so when you come back to bottle you pay back what you drink. Everything is labeled on the bottle cap with an abbreviation so you know what it is.
So once we decided on the recipes we wanted to make, with help from the friendly guys that staff the place, we measured and weighed the barley and grains and ground them up to go into a big fabric bag (like a tea bag for a giant)…
which goes into a big steam-fired copper kettle filled with filtered water, to soak and come to a boil.
We measured out the malt extracts and the glucose and added them to the kettle.
Then we measured out the hops and flavorings which were added in next.
Once the brewing is done, the contents of the kettle go into a big plastic barrel and active yeast gets added and over the next two weeks fermentation, cold aging, filtering and carbonation take place. Since they carbonate and chill it for you, the beer does not need to bottle condition and you can drink it right away.
The brewing process takes about 2 to 3 hours depending on what you’re making and how many other people are there brewing and bottling on that day. It’s best to make an appointment, especially on the weekends.
We already had bottles that had been used previously so bottling, which also takes a couple of hours, consisted of playing pirate and making sure there was no sediment in the bottom.
Then all the bottles go into the automatic bottle washers and our kegs were hooked up to the automatic fillers. Each batch make 13.5 gallons of beer which fills about 72 (22 ounce) bottles. You can trade with the other folks that are there for bottling or we even swapped a few out with what was in the cooler. Some folks show up like it’s a picnic or a party with chips and dips and snacks. Or we ordered a pizza from the place next door and enjoyed it while we bottled.
Once you own the bottles, the cost is about $5.00 per traditional six pack. You can custom design labels and the bottles are a great size to share with friends and also make a nice gift. People even use them as favors for weddings and birth announcements.
The experience was really fun, the fruits of our labor are quite tasty and I enjoy ordering different beers out at a bar or restaurant as I have a better educated understanding of what I like about beer and why.