Brewing the Ultimate Beer Pong Beer - Part 2
For the uninitiated, myself and Andy Simpson have decided to start brewing our own beer, a decision that we hope will result in a batch of delicious, citrusy ale, as opposed to a trip to the hospital and the end of our friendship. You can read the beginning of our dubious adventure right here.
Before we start the second part of our journey, please be aware that brewing your own beer is a complex and time-consuming process. Precise measurements need to be made, good quality ingredients need to be purchased, and the highest standards of hygiene need to be observed. With this in mind, let's return to the dirty bucket we left next to Andy's toilet two weeks ago:
I'm no scientist, but it wasn't hard to tell that something had occurred. Andy assured me that the brew is supposed to give off a rather unpleasant amount of scum, but to me this just sounded like a feeble excuse for why our bucket appeared to be full of sand. Time to open it up!
They say a picture speaks a thousand words. In this case, every word is 'crust'. Not only did it look vile, but the stuff that had formed on the lid and around the rim of the bucket was worryingly tough and had the texture of sandpaper. Fortunately the brew itself appeared to be (mostly) solid-free, so it was time for us to have a little two-week taster!
After only letting this brew for two weeks, you'd be forgiven for thinking it would taste unfathomably awful. However, in a shocking twist it actually tasted pretty decent! At this stage it's not exactly going to win any awards, plus I think my glass had chunks floating in it, but given we've got at least another month of brewing this is a good start!
With everything on track, we turned our attention to flavouring. As I mentioned last time we've been toying with the idea of splitting the batch into a regular brew and a citrus brew, with the possibility of an exciting, mystery third batch. Given the latter would require a modicum of intelligent thought, we instantly rejected the idea and popped to the shops to get some lemons.
Did you think we were going to fill our beer with chemicals and artificial flavouring? No way, we're going the all natural route! And remember: only one thing can beat the citrusy rush of a lemon, and that's a lemon with lime.
We actually bought a lot more than this, so go me for being impatient with the camera. Anyway, we grabbed the fruit, checked that the coast was clear, and made a hasty exit. Let's pretend we didn't pay, just to make this seem more like a renegade beer-brewing operation and not two guys making watery ale for a frat party.
Looks like we picked up more than just fruit! What can I say? Making your own beer is thirsty work! Plus, you could technically call this market research as we were sampling a range of our competitors' products. Also, how's this for a tagline:
"The Beer to slay a mighty thirst" - man, we need to come up with something that good! Incidentally the only progress we made with naming our beer was considering changing the name from The Rimshot to Balls Deep. Classy!
After that intellectual discussion, a strange glint appeared in Andy's eye as he announced he wanted to show me something in the garage. I've known and trusted Andy for a long time, so I only slightly feared for my life.
So what did he have to show me? Behold:
Now we're getting serious! I didn't enquire how Andy had obtained so many empty bottles of Gem in such a short space of time, so let's just assume he drank all of them an hour before I arrived.
With our bottles in place, it was time to consider how we were splitting the brew. It breaks down like this - twenty bottles are going to be filled with the regular ale, and another ten will be flavoured by adding lemon and lime straight into the bottle. These will all be bottle conditioned, in that we'll leave space in the bottle for them to continue to give off gas and get a little fizzy. The remaining beer will be poured into a new container with some chunks of lemon and lime in it, which will eventually be bottled. By doing this we can compare the two citrus batches and see which method works best when adding your own flavours. That's the plan anyway!
After a vigorous spin in the blender, we were left with a delicious, tasty pulp:
I don't know about you, but to me this pea-green sludge just shouts 'delicious!'. Incidentally, by this point we had already realised that adding pulp straight into the bottle might produce somewhat bizarre results, but whatever - we don't play by the rules! Speaking of which, our pizza was ready so we took an undeserved break and watched the classiest thing we could find on TV.
Eight slices later and we were back in the kitchen, and it was time to start spicing up our ale!
Yes, we scooped the mixture into the bottles using a teaspoon and a plastic A4 wallet cut into the shape of a funnel. When you start making the most radical beer in the world, feel free to complain about our methods!
It should be pretty obvious now that this flavouring method has a slim chance of actually working, so we figured we should just go balls-to-the-wall and push things to the EXTREME. By 'extreme' I of course mean we put a little bit more flavouring in some of the bottles and gave them silly names. It breaks down like this:
The dubious 'hyper lime' bottle actually had three times the normal amount of flavouring put into it, so we can guarantee it's going to be the sourest ale known to man. Obviously we don't want anyone accidentally drinking this and dying of shock, so we labelled some bottle caps like the responsible, mature beer-brewers that we are.
Time to get technical - do you remember the hydrometer I mentioned in part one? Well, we got it out again and put it in the brew to check the liquid density. By comparing the current reading to the initial one, we could tell that the fermentation process was well underway and we were good to start bottling some of the mixture.
At least, that's what I would be saying if we hadn't forgotten the original reading and therefore had to make an incredibly dodgy guesstimate. I've said it before and I'll say it again: life moves pretty fast, if you don't... oh wait, I mean making your own beer is serious business!
With the beer looking good, we decided to transfer it into a keg to make filling the bottles easier. Well, that and the fact the plastic keg was clean whereas the bucket resembled a swamp. Time to whip out the old steriliser again!
Cleaning and sterilising everything is a pretty tedious process, so we decided to open another drink. Unfortunately our supply of local brews was starting to dwindle, meaning we were left with this paltry offering:
Now I've never met Adam Henson and I have nothing against him personally, but Adam, your beer tastes like watery bumfarts. It was initially quite pleasant but the aftertaste was sour and repulsive, a bit like when a mate kindly buys you a pint and then you realise it's Carling. Having 'breed' in the name is very apt, because that's what it tasted like the beer was doing in my mouth.
After that disgusting analogy, let's return to our attempts to get the beer from one container to another:
I'm going to pretend this worked flawlessly without the flow stopping constantly or us spilling beer on the floor, just to make us look slightly professional. Anyway, do you remember earlier when I was talking about the importance of hygiene, and the reasons for us transferring the beer? Let's take a look at what was left in the original brewing bucket:
Who left all this mud here?! Honestly, it looked totally grim and the sludge was worryingly thick, a bit like wet sand or Marmite. Andy actually tricked me into trying some of this, saying we could tell how good the beer would taste judging by how sweet or sour the sludge was. I would label him an utter bastard for doing this, except in fairness he tried some too and we both agreed it was revolting. The things we do to entertain you guys, seriously!
Moving on rapidly from the sour to the sweet, it was time to add some Spraymalt to the bottles. I'd never heard of the stuff myself, but it is essentially a replacement for sugar which also retains the beer's malty flavour while adding 'extra body and richness' (according to the packet). Andy thought it was a good idea to use this stuff with our ale, but this is the same Andy who thought it was a good idea to buy two pitchers of beer for himself during the last World Cup at 2pm, so I'd generally disregard anything he says.
With our bottles pimped-out with Spraymalt and flavouring, it was time for the moment we'd both been waiting for - filling the bottles with sweet, sweet ale. We made sure to leave a little gap at the top or else most of the bottles would probably explode over the next month, which would be a slightly underwhelming finale to our adventure.
Look at that - it's almost like we're making a real drink here and not just arbitrarily mixing ingredients in a big plastic bucket! If you think this looks good, we added some lemons and limes to the remainder of the keg:
No joke, that is looking absolutely delicious. As you know, making beer is a waiting game so we sealed this badboy up and left it somewhere nice and warm - we'll return to it in a week and bottle it up. Incidentally we decided to put the keg in Andy's utility room, rather than next to his toilet. Hygiene lovers rejoice!
As a requirement, we left the best part of the bottling process until last - sealing up our bottles! This is when we kicked things up from amateur to pro, just by pushing down on two small levers:
Our first bottle of sealed beer! I would say we were like the proud fathers of a newborn baby, but that puts my relationship with Andy in a whole new light. Anyway, this was no time to celebrate - we had 29 more bottles to seal!
With our excitement for this drink at fever pitch, we carefully put the bottles in a box and left them out in Andy's garage to complete the brewing process. We'll return to them in about a month's time, but until then, this marks the end of the second part of our beer-brewing adventure! Stay tuned for the grand finale, where we'll find out if ruining Andy's kitchen and drinking liquid produced by Adam Henson was actually worth it!