How to Make Your Own Herbal Beer (Part Two)
Making your own herbal beer is an art and a science! It's just a great feeling to create your own herbal beer, know that it's health benefits are working for you, AND it tastes delicious! My husband has told me we need to have a constant supply going now! lol If you want the recipe for this particular beer, and directions and pictures for the first part of beer making, you might want to read How to Make Your Own Herbal Beer (Part One). I was inspired to create this particular recipe because I'm currently taking the Herbal Fermentation Course at the Herbal Academy of New England and loving every second of it! Now, in this second article on how to make your own home brewed herbal beer, we'll take a look at how to prime your bottles, what kind of bottles to use, and bottling....and finally, what we've all been waiting for: the taste test!
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What Tools Will I Need for the Bottling Stage?
Sugar (about 1/2 tsp per 12 ounce bottle)
Capper and caps (unless you are using Grolsch/swing top bottles)
What Kind of Bottles Should I Use?
The absolute best bottles for brewing beer, in my opinion, are swing-top, or Grolsch bottles. One of the reasons I prefer Grolsch bottles is that they have a tight-fitting, safe lid attached to the bottle. Just plug the opening of the bottle with the lid, and flip the metal swing down. Another reason I prefer Grolsch bottles is they are safer than your average bottle. There is a very thick layer of glass around the neck, generally, and the lid clamps down instead of being twisted or pushed on. My final reason for loving Grolsch bottles for our home brew is that they are attractive! You can find them with designs or just plain--but I think they look very cool. You can purchase them in different sizes, clear or amber, or reuse some you already have!
Other options are previously used or even new beer bottles (but not the ones with screw on caps). You'll need to purchase caps and a capper for new regular beer bottles. If you plan to use regular beer bottles, be sure to have enough caps on hand. You won't be able to reuse these caps either, as the edges will be crimped down by the capper.
I actually have Grolsch bottles being used for other beers in storage right now, so I only had two to use for this project. Since I had a half gallon of beer left to pour after using the two Grolsch bottles, I also reused a lemon juice bottle (yes, with a screw on lid--which I felt obliged to "burp" twice during the wait time because the potential build up of carbonation made me nervous) and I also used a quart Mason jar, which I burped about four times during the week-long wait time because I could see the pressure building up the lid. You don't have to burp the Grolsch bottles---another plus.
SAFETY NOTE: The reason I decided to "burp" the lemon bottle and the Mason jar is because bottled beer can explode! If you see your air space increasing, that's a sign that you might just have an accident, and exploding bottles are dangerous!
Steps for Priming, Bottling, and Completing a Second Ferment of Your Home Brew
Note: Your brew should have completely finished its first ferment before you go into this next stage. See Part One here. After about two weeks, you'll notice the brew is no longer bubbling. I usually wait an additional day or two to be sure it's ready to go on to the bottling stage. For all the steps (and the recipe) in the first part of making your own beer, read Part One of this series!
Step One: Wash Your Bottles
Sanitation is extremely important in every step of the fermentation and brewing process. The last thing you want to see is mold! Although some brewers are adamant about using a special sanitizer or even bleach, I just use extremely hot water and mild dish soap. I've never had a problem. You can also use a wormwood tea to rinse your bottle with, if you want something antiseptic but don't want to use chemicals!
You might want to use a bottle brush, and I recommend it if you are reusing your bottles! They are wonderful!
Step Two: Prime Your Bottles
Priming involves placing a bit of sugar (about 1/2 tsp for 12 ounces or so of beer) in each bottle before you pour in your fermented brew. The sugar provides a little extra food for the yeast in the beer, which creates the carbonation in your beer!
Step Three: Fill Your Bottles
Now, grab that funnel and pour your fermented brew into your bottles. I like to leave about an inch and a half to two inches of head space because you will definitely have gas build up, and you want to give it some room (especially if you are not using bottles made specifically for beer).
Step Four: Cap and Store Your Brew
Now it's time to let those bottles sit for awhile longer! I KNOW! You want it NOW! I know just how you feel. But, it's important to allow at least another week to go by so the yeast has a chance to consume the sugar, which will add more flavor and fizz to your bottles of beer!
Step Five: Open, Taste, Enjoy!
A week has finally gone by! You are now ready to open one of those bottles and taste your brew! Pay attention to the final tastes---can you taste any of the herbs you put in your brew? What is your top note? Is it citrusy and refreshing? Or is it bitter? Does it taste a little fruity? This is the fun part! Will all your brews turn out? Who knows? Mine don't always come out as planned, but most usually they are wonderful!
You should plan on using your herbal ale within a year, just to be sure the flavors don't turn. BUT, I bet it won't last that long!
I hope you enjoyed this article, and our adventures in learning to make our own beer at home! I'd love to hear your thoughts, comments, and experiences and appreciate comments!
Hugs and Self-Reliance!
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