Thursday, December 6, 2012

Ye olde brew

Last week, while we were visiting and staying with people in houses with crazy luxuries like hot and cold running water and inside cooking arrangements, Pearl and I were very conscious of how these luxuries would affect the way we felt about our little house.
On the long drive home, we analysed our feelings and talked about the things we missed about living in a fully-equipped house. We both enjoyed having hot showers, though we were also happy to hop back into our fire bath. And that was about it. That is, until it came time to bottle my latest batch of home brew, my first since we moved onto our land.

Outdoor brewing/bottling set-up. A bit cumbersome, but also kind of nice in its sunny airiness

When I first started brewing, I read a lot of books. I talked to people at the local home-brew shop, and then I read some more books. In all of these learning ventures, one thing became clear: 90% of successful brewing is making sure your equipment is clean and sterile.
Sterilising the actual brewer was easy enough. I just filled it with sterilising solution and left it overnight, like I always do. When it came to bottling though, it was a different story. Usually, for the bottle sterilisation, I use all of a commercial-scale double sink, with hot running water and an electric kettle. Now, I was faced with the task of sterilising 40 long-neck bottles using only a couple of plastic tubs, a ground-level hose coming directly out of our rain-water tank, and a big saucepan of hot water boiling away on the barbeque. There were a few times, as I was squatting down rinsing bottles when I thought "hmm... a kitchen with a proper sink would sure be handy right about now". But I soldiered on, hoping everything would be clean enough, and I got it all done, with a little help from my Oski-friend who, in true 2-year-old style, needed to have a hand in everything.

Oski guards the fruits of our afternoon's labour

The bottles are now all safely stacked in our little house now, (hopefully) going through their secondary ferment as they rightfully should. In a week I'll crack one and see if ye olde outdoor-brewing shenanigans worked out OK. Because it is, in fact, a ye olde way of doing things. It kept going through my mind (in between "damn, kitchens are great" and "I sure hope that beetle hasn't contaminated my sterilising solution") that surely, at some stage in history, people did (and I'm sure still DO) brew this way. And they're OK.
One thing that was REALLY interesting was the way that this process allowed me to actually see (and then carry out and pour onto the veggies) the amount of water that goes into a batch of home brew. In total, including the sterilising and rinsing and actual beer content itself (which is in fact only 23 litres) I reckon it was around 300L. Quite a bit eh? But I reckon it's worth it.
That afternoon, as the sun was sinking in the sky, my reckoning was confirmed as Pearl and I kicked back with a few glasses of last summer's ginger beer (with a twist of lemon!). 

Home-breed ginger beer. It's a beautiful thing - give it a go! Recipe in the link above

Damn it was good. But it's almost all gone, so I think a little more primitive home brewing is definitely on the horizon.

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