Menu Icon

Looking for homebrewing gift ideas? Check out our previous gift guides here or here!
Also, if you enjoy BrewUnited, please consider doing your Amazon shopping via our affiliate link!

Bottling the Yorkshire Square Brown Ale

Posted by homebrewdad on 1/30/2012 at 03:41:13 AM

After thirty days of fermentation and clarifying (fifteen days in primary, followed by fifteen more in secondary), the day had come to bottle my Yorkshire square brown ale.  

 I will admit to being a bit worried about the process.  I have done a lot of reading about bottling, and have read quite a few gripes about bottling homebrewed beer.  It's a tiresome process, it can be tricky, it's messy, caps don't always seal correctly - and on and on and on.  

My personal verdict?  Bottling is no big deal.  It's clearly a repetitive process to fill and seal forty-eight bottles of beer in one sitting, but I didn't find it to be an unenjoyable (or complicated) process at all.  Rather, I found it to be rather rewarding - I've put time and effort into creating this beer, and now, I finally have the chance to see it safely in bottles.  While it's cool to see your beer in a carboy, it's even better to see two full cases of YOUR brew in bottles. 

The prep and cleanup phases were honestly much more of a pain that the actual bottling.  I rinsed off and sanitized my bottles (fourteen at a time, as this was all my bucket would hold at one), then placed them into my dishwaser to fully drain (where I ran them through the drying cycle to be sure).  After they were out of my solution, I counted off forty-eight bottle caps and dropped them into the sanitizer.

Now, it was time to get my priming sugar ready.  At this point, the beer had no fermentable sugar in it; the yeast had processed it all.  Since I'm not force carbing or kegging my beer, I needed some way to carbonate it.  Priming sugar provides this - a few ounces of sugar boiled in two cups of water gives the yeast something to eat while in the individual bottles, which in turn provides enough CO2 to carbonate the beer.

I cooled my sugar solution and poured it into the bottling bucket first.  Next, I siphoned my ale from the secondary into the bottling bucket, being careful to avoid splashing, which would add unwanted oxygen to the beer.  The siphon created a swirl, which was enough to ensure that my sugar mixed fully with the beer.

Next, I hooked up my hose to the spigot on my bucket, attached my bottling wand to the other end of the hose, and started fillling bottles.  I basically filled each one to the top, then pulled out the wand, which left a near-perfect amount of headspace for the carbonating beer.

This process did require me to do a lot of bending and stooping; in the future, I think that I will cut a very small piece of hose and attach the bottling wand more or less directly to the spigot.  I have seen this trick online, and could see how it would make the process even easier.  Once all of the bottles were filled and sitting on my countertop, it was time to cap them.

I have wished that I had specifically asked for a bench capper for Christmas; my capper is of the "wing" variety, with two handles that must be pulled down at the same time to properly crimp the cap onto the bottle.  I have read many stories about how annoying wing cappers are to use, how they are difficult to hold, how it can be tricky to get a proper seal, etc.  After doing this myself, I wonder if these people also post about the difficulty of operating microwave ovens, or of chewing bubble gum while walking.  Seriously, capping bottles is a simple process; I am extremely happy with my Red Baron capper, and see no reason to buy anything else.

I sat down on the floor and began bottling.  The capper made it simple; you sit the bottle down, place a cap on it, then place the capper on top.  A magnet holds the cap in place, and all you have to do in pull the levers down with a little force.  Viola, the cap is crimped.  Put the bottle into the box, then rinse and repeat.

My two little boys, who usually "help" so much during my beer making proceedings, had been largely disinterested prior to this point. Once I started capping, this changed - they were very happy to get involved.  My four year old started by placing my completed bottles into my box, but by the time I was on the second case, he wanted to help crimp the caps... whereupon my two year happily took over moving the full bottles into the box for me.

Soon enough, I was down to cleaning up.  Sadly, I did end the day's brewing activities with a sour note; while putting up the five gallon carboy that serves as one of my secondary fermenters, I let it slip and fall three inches or so into its cardbox box on the concrete floor of my basement.  A sickening crunch followed... the entire bottom of the bottle had broken off.  So much for that $35.   

I think that my wife felt pretty sorry for me; she agreed to let me store my two cases of beer in our closet for the next three weeks, as opposed to the basement.  Since it runs five to eight degrees warmer upstairs, my bottles should be ready a few days sooner.

At any rate, my very first beer is now done for all practical purposes.  I'll print out some labels for the bottles, and the beer will probably do well witha little age, but I can no longer do much to influence how it will turn out - that task is now all up to the yeast.

Tags for this post: bottling, bottle, cap, capper, wing capper, homebrew, ale, beer, sanitizing, carboy, broken

Please log in to comment on this post
Don't have an account?


Wow. Sounds like a complicated process. Maybe the joy fades after the 10th or 11th bottling. Hope you enjoy your beer.

posted by Roger Briant on 1/30/2012 at 10:40:57 AM

sorry about your carboy, at least they are just $35 in the States, here in NZ they usually cost around $100 (US$80)

posted by Aidan on 1/30/2012 at 05:54:18 PM

I agree with you on bottling. I don't have a problem with it at all. While it does take a while, I find it just part of the hobby. It's almost ... relaxing. It's also awesome to look in my closet and feel like Scrooge McDuck staring at all my beer. I'll be bottling my 4th batch on Saturday.

posted by Mark on 3/14/2012 at 07:26:58 AM