I realized I never posted how the homegrown beer turned out. I’ve been enjoying it for a few weeks, although “enjoying” is a bit of a strong word. It took some getting used to. I mentioned before that there were signs of problems during fermentation. The airlock was not showing any activity at all and during transfer it smelled like vinegar. Since the yeast seemed to be progressing slowly, I figured it would need to be in the bottles longer for carbonation to build up. After the bottles were capped, I moved them to the room where they would be least likely to get in the way throughout the day, which just happened to be the same room I’m using to overwinter my pepper plants. That was a mistake. I don’t want the plants to get too cold, so that’s the only room that’s being heated. The warmth seemed to have provided a suitable environment for the yeast, and the bottles probably only needed to sit for one week. Instead, let them sit for more than two weeks. This was partly because of the low fermenter activity and partly because it was finals week, and I was too busy worrying about exams to check on them or move them to the refrigerator.
I realized the mistake immediately when I opened the first bottle. It was a flip cap and opening it over the sink did nothing to prevent the mess. As soon as I pressed the wires the cap was knocked out of the way and a stream of suds hit the ceiling. I tried to force the cap back into position, but the pressure was too strong. Trying to wrestle the cap onto the lip only caused the beer to be emitted in a ring instead of a geyser. It was exciting, but by the time it was done there was only about three fingers of beer left in the bottle. On account of the time I put into making it, you better believe I savored every remaining drop.
Thankfully, only one bottle was a flip cap. The rest were aluminum crown caps so opening the rest was more controlled. I still lost some volume on each one. I had to continue opening them in the sink, and I did it by prying the cap off gently and letting the gas and foam be directed downward. It took a few minutes for each bottle to equilibrate and when it was finally ready to be opened fully there wasn’t much head to the product since most of the pressure was released during the opening. Despite this issue, for a first attempt at using homegrown ingredients for brewing, I’m satisfied with the results. I thought I smelled vinegar before, but it doesn’t taste sour at all. It’s a light beer and corn is the dominant flavor. I’ve heard beer described as liquid bread. Well, this tastes like liquid corn bread. In quality it doesn’t come close to anything that can be purchased in a store, but the most common style in my neighborhood is IPAs and this is refreshing after all the bitter brands. In conclusion, this was worth the effort, and I intend to try it again this year.
As a side note, I also tried making wine for the first time and found greater success. This was also brewed using homegrown grapes, but they from my neighbor’s plants instead of mine. I didn’t exactly have their permission to use them. We have a brick wall between us instead of a fence, the grape vines cascaded over the bricks so technically they were in my yard, and if I didn’t eat them the birds would have so I like to think I scored one for the humans. Anyway, I don’t have any experience making wine, so I decided to use a process similar to the Bug method that I use when making ginger beer. I put a portion of the grapes in water, crushed them, added sugar, and let that concoction sit for a few days. When it started bubbling, I put the rest of the grapes in a pot of water, crushed them, heated them into a sort of hot grape juice, and strained it. When the juice reached room temperature I added the bubbly starter and transferred it all into a 64 fluid ounce growler fitted with an airlock. Unlike the beer, that airlock showed activity within 24 hours. Once the bubbling stopped I replaced the airlock with a screw cap and let the growler sit for approximately 3 months. Some of that time was spent in the closet and some in the refrigerator. I don’t think the grapes had a high sugar content, so the final product didn’t have a high alcohol percentage and lacked the sting of the wines I usually buy. But the color is rich, and it tastes dry but pleasant. It’s a great dinner wine and it’s also something I want to try again. I don’t know how long I’ll be able to keep swiping grapes from my neighbors so this might motivate me to grow my own grapevine.