After brewing our beer, and waiting a few weeks, it was time to bottle it! Above you can see the hydrometer, which is used to measure the alcohol content of the beer— Greg's Chocolate Stout there is about 5.7% alcohol by volume.
This is what the beer looks like when you open it up:
and that is what it smells like. Like heaven, basically. Heady is the only word for it.
The next step is to add the priming sugar to the beer. This spurs a second fermentation stage in the bottle, where the CO2 produced is trapped and carbonates the beer. Not all beers use priming sugar, but it's a quick and easy way to produce carbonation. After the priming sugar is added, the beer must be quickly piped into well-sanitized bottles and capped with sanitized caps.
The nifty tool in the photo above is a spring-release siphon tube that releases beer when you press it against the bottom of the bottle and shuts off the flow when you lift it. On the other end of the tube is an auto-siphon, a little pump that starts the flow of beer through the siphon— once the tube is full of beer, physics takes care of pulling it through the tube into the bottle. All you have to do is make sure not to pick up any of the sludgy yeast residue at the bottom (or transfer the beer to a separate bucket first). As soon as the bottle is full, you clamp a cap on with another nifty little tool.
Voila! Bottled beer! And when we cracked one open about a week later? Complete success! Even my totally questionable, twice-boiled-over beer is pretty great (at least according to me— it's possible it's a beer only a mother could love). Greg's beer is, without reservations, the best chocolate stout I have ever tasted. I can't wait to taste all the other beers at the competition. If Greg and I can make one decent beer and one great beer on our first try, just think what some of the experts will bring to the party!