Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Irish Red Ale - Complete

If you've been following this blog, the riveting story of my first solo batch is now at an end. I won't pull a "Lord of the Rings" on you and post like seventeen different endings. I haven't tasted a fully conditioned bottle though, so there may be one more.

My friend Doug came to help me remove the labels and bottle the brew. We started with that bucket of bottles I showed you in the last post, but I was able to remove the Newcastle and replace them with some proper brown bottles. I won't bore you by repeating the process. Let's just say that it looked good on paper but had a few surprises. Oh and I falsely identified the insect residents as spiders; they were in fact: silverfish.

My memories of removing labels for the last batch is about as fond as memories of my New Years Day hangover. We made all kinds of mistakes last time (soaking the bottles outdoors in dishwasher detergent and vinegar didn't work well at all.) This time, I tried the logical opposites: baking soda and dawn. While this did get the labels to come off in one piece, the glue on the bottles was still a problem. The level of filth in the water made it look like a moldy Coca-Cola so I decided to break out some PBW for a second soak.

PBW worked astoundingly well. All the glue rubbed off with ease; we didn't even need the steel wool. We ended up with pristine clean (although not sterile) bottles. I don't use the word "astounding" lightly, since we were both astounded by how slippery it made our hands. It goes like this, in third person narrative:

"My hands are so slippery, I can't hold on to these bottles!" exclaimed Nick. Doug rolled his eyes and thought Nick was just prattling like a twit, but held his tongue. Moments later upon switching jobs, Doug exclaimed, "My hands are so slippery, I can't hold on to these bottles!" Nick rolled his eyes in amusement.

It's no Shakespeare I know, but I think that gets the idea across. On the torpedo shaped bottles (like Anchor Steam), there was really no way to hold them from the side. When we squeezed they just shot out of our hands like a cartoon banana.

Interestingly enough, a quick dip in Star San makes your hands super grippy. I guess it dissolves the outer layer of skin or something. I still don't know how this stuff is safe to handle. Anyhow, we eventually finished cleaning and sterilizing the bottles. We filled them up from the bottling bucket, and voila! homebrew.

I'll let you know how they taste in two weeks.


  1. Duder, Starsan and PBW rock! I use PBW on everything in my house now that I've discovered it. It's for your car, your sink, your kitchen your RV, your boat, your desk-you gettin' this camera guy?-see this? this here's your mildew, this is your mold, this is gonna smell like shit-PBW, I don't know, it practically sells itself!