This week was bottling week for my home brewery: last Friday I bottled a Celtic Ale (May 18 post), on Tuesday I bottled a Belgian style Dubbel (May 1 post), and yesterday I bottled my Christmas Ale, a recipe that attempts to copy Chimay Grand Cru “Blue”. I brewed the Christmas Ale on April 27, and racked it to a secondary fermenter on May 4, after the initial active stage of fermentation had settled down. Then it rested in a dark quiet closet for nearly six weeks until bottling day. Three days before bottling day, I pitched another dose of fresh yeast to prepare the beer for the second fermentation in the bottle. With most brews this second dose of yeast isn’t necessary, but when a beer has such a high alcohol level, it’s pretty standard procedure.
After cleaning and sanitizing the bottles and the bottling bucket, I racked the beer to the bucket and took a sample to test for its specific gravity after fermentation: 1.014. The original gravity of the unfermented wort was 1.085, and after some quick calculations I determined that this beer’s ABV weighs in at a whopping 9.23% (it may be even a little higher after further attenuation in the bottle). That’s what I call a strong ale!
I added bottling sugar to the ale – a combination of corn sugar and Belgian clear candi sugar for this recipe, boiled in water – then filled the bottles.
And then we capped them. At my daughter’s insistence I made a special trip to the store to buy green bottle caps for this special batch (pictured above). Now comes the most difficult part of the process: the waiting. This high gravity dark ale needs to condition in the bottle for at least six months! Expect the third installment of this thread in December.
For the first time in over a year, all my fermenters are empty! This is a situation that calls for action…