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How to properly store your bottled homebrew beer

How to properly store your bottled homebrew beer

You've done the hard work.

You've prepared a nice wort and it fermented well.

Then bottling day came and you got your golden brew safely away under cap.

Now what?

It's time to bottle condition your beer and that doesn't mean you hide it in a under blanket in an old swap-a-crate box and forget about it for a few weeks. 

Well actually you can do this, but it you want great tasting beer there's a few things to think about when storing beer. 

First with the warm and then with the cold


When you are bottle conditioning, you are adding a second round of sugar to your beer. This is so that a second round of fermentation can take place. 

The yeast still present in the beer will eat the sugar and convert it to more alcohol and CO2 - this gas is what carbonates the beer. 

So, just like when you did the first round of fermentation, the yeast does its best work at a warm temperature. So, to properly store your beer so that it is carbonated, the beer needs to be kept warm for a few days. 

The ideal temperature range is between approx 18 - 25°C for 5 to 7 days. 

After week or so, you should leave them in a much cooler place with a temperature range between approx 8 - 12°C. This will allow the beers to condition quite nicely. 

This thing about the correct temperature is real. 

Let me tell you a story. 

In the middle of a New Zealand winter I bottled a lager beer and left it in the shed for about a month. It was cold and the sun didn't warm the shed at all. 

When I when to crack open the first beer, I did not hear that usually reassuring hiss of gas as it escapes from the bottle. 

The silence was brutal. 

My beer was flat. 

So I opened another bottle and had the same result. And again for a third.

I wondered if I had destroyed my beer somehow. 'Had fermentation actually occurred'? I wondered.

Of course it had. What I had done was wrap the fermenter in plenty of old painting sheets which kept the beer warn enough to allow the the first round of fermentation to occur. 

For the bottled beer, the problem was the freezing cold. They had sat in the shed naked as the day they were bottled and bitterly cold. The yeast became inactive and no fermentation occurred. 

The solution was to bring the beers inside. I placed them in the living room and gradually they warmed up. After two weeks I opened a beer and boon, I was rewarded with the sound of CO2 releasing from the beer. The yeast had appreciated the warmer temperature, came out of hibernation and got to work on the sucrose. 

Problem solved. 

Conversely, it is unwise to store beer in too hot a place. For example, don't leave it in a hot attic room all summer. The beer will simply get cooked and probably taste like mouldy cardboard. 

Some points to ponder about bottle storage

  • It's really good to have a storage place where the temperature is maintained at a steady rate.
  • Ales are happy with lower temperatures
  • Lagers are happy with higher temperatures
  • The middle of your house is probably cooler than nearer the outside. That could be a factor where you store beer.
  • If you find your beers are in too hot a place, move them!

There's two other important things that can help with properly conditioning beer


1. Don't be afraid of the dark


Like a vampire, you should embrace the darkness. 

Beer does not like sunlight at all. Especially if you are using recycled green beer bottles. If your beer is exposed to too much light, it is said to be 'light struck' or 'skunked'. 

The UV light causes yet another chemical reaction in the beer - the hops are broken down by the light and they form a new compound when mixed with the proteins in the beer - giving off a horrid smell just like a skunk can do.

2. Now comes the hard part - waiting 


You have to let you beer condition. The rule of thumb is that your beer is probably drinkable after one week but is only beginning to get close to its best tastings at three weeks.

If you've ever found a forgotten beer in the shed that's had three months conditioning, you probably really enjoyed it right? 

That's just proof you need to give your beer time to mature. Sit back and relax, maybe listen to the new U2 song.

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