It’s been a tough week at the brewery. I bottled two brews last weekend, and I used different priming methods with each bottling session. With the Cream ale I used Cooper’s carbonation drops; and the Amber ale was primed using the ‘traditional’ corn sugar method. After two test bottles consumed, I can say assuredly that the Amber is not carbing properly, if at all. I will say though, that the beer had a wonderful nutty aroma and flavor... I was a bit surprised by that! However, this is not why I'm writing today.
It’s part of the story to understand a bit about this beer. The Amber ale was the first beer LRCB brewed back in May 2011, and it came out pretty well. I shared the beer with a friend, who enjoyed it, and he asked if we could brew up a batch for him to give as Christmas gifts this year. I wanted to change up some things with the beer, so I decided to do a test batch to see how it came out. The changes I made were to the yeast, I switched up to the Wyeast American Ale, and I used Irish Moss as my fining. I documented each step as I’ve been doing from brewing to bottling. I’ve gone through every step of the process to see what could be the cause, but other than the noted changes, I could see nothing wrong.
After reviewing my notes, I started thinking about what I had done (or did not do) after bottling. It’s important to note that the weather in the Northeast cooled off significantly the weekend of the bottling and for some days afterward, and the lower level of our house (where my brew room is) cooled down as well. While the brew room cooled, I did not do anything to moderate the temperature. As I thought back on this, I recalled something I’d read on a forum or in Papazian’s book about starting bottle conditioning at room temperature or slightly higher for about a week. So, after 4 days of low 60’s in the brew room, I pushed the temperature up to the low 70’s. Is this too late? We’ll see.
So, today (October 16) I took a ride to my local home brew store (LHBS) to pick up a few things I needed. I enjoy speaking with “my guy” there and in my ramblings I brought up the problem I’d been having with carbonating the Amber. He said the same thing had happened to him recently… he and a friend split a batch they’d made, and where his friend’s beer carbed nicely, his did not. His friends brew room was warmer, in the 70’s, where his was in the 60’s (sound familiar?).
The more I brew, the more I learn; the more I learn, the more I realize just how much I have to learn. It’s a good thing that I like to learn. So, while I can’t do much about my Amber (or my Cream ale) at this point, I can make sure my post bottling and conditioning temperatures are properly maintained. But the more important lesson learned here is, a beer is not finished until it’s consumed – and my notes and record keeping will better reflect that.