They say that it’s most basic, brewing beer is simply a matter of 1) making sugary liquid (wort) and 2) providing a good environment for it to ferment. The yeast that you add to wort needs to stay within a consistent temperature range to stay active to do their job of eating the sugars and kicking out alcohol and CO2. The first post detailed my experience creating that sweet liquid from Brooklyn Brew Shop’s Coffee Donut Stout 1 -gallon kit, now let’s see what happens when you ferment in an environment that is a little less than stable.
Leading a nomadic lifestyle means that every thing does not go as planned and you have to be able to adjust to new obstacles. In this instance my brother and sister came to visit and we had a need for the cooler that I had set up to ferment in. Fortunately, we have a smaller soft cooler that fit the carboy with some minor adjustments and still provided some insulation and protection from the light.
The Brooklyn Brew Kit recommended bottling the home brew after primary fermentation which requires some empty bottles, bottle caps, and a bottle capper. I didn’t necessarily want to invest in these if I didn’t have since the whole goal of the project was to work with what I had. Kegging was out of the question (for now) as that involved an even bigger financial and spacial investment.
I had a couple weeks to research options as it takes the brew about two weeks to ferment. In the end I decided to bottle, but with 64 oz growlers instead of 12 oz bottles. A little research revealed that this is a reasonable solution and the beer should carbonate similar to smaller bottles. Of course the larger size of a growler makes them structurally weaker than a 12 or 32 oz bottle and if over carbonated they could crack or even explode.
This structural vulnerability instantly brought the Hydro Flask to mind. The double walled stainless steel growler would be much sturdier than the glass version. Plus the vacuum cavity would keep the temperature steady much more consistently which is important considering the RV has greater temperature fluctuations than a sticks and bricks home. We were gifted one by our friends at Nebraska Brewing Co and have been impressed with it’s ability to maintain temperatures for long periods of time.
Since I had 128 oz brewing in the carboy I would need to use two 64 oz growlers and since every brewer is part scientist I decided to “bottle” half in a traditional glass growler and the other half in the Hydro Flask to see how they differed. My hypothesis was that the hydro flask’s insulation and heavy duty screw top seal would lead to a higher carbonated beer.
I dissolved some maple syrup into the solution to give the yeast some carbonating fuel before sealing them up and putting them back in the soft cooler as the insulation provided a small measure of protection from the temperamental temperatures in the RV. It just so happend that we ending our stationary time in Cedar Key and were now going to be driving which meant adding a variable of vibration into the mix.
As we traveled south I grew concerned that the the vessels wouldn’t carbonate enough. I decided to let them sit for another week (three weeks total) before I chilled the growlers to stop carbonation. In that time we had traveled about 650 miles from Cedar Key to the Florida Keys and had experience temperatures ranging from the low 40’s to high 80’s. I started growing more pessimistic about the success of this endeavor and silently told myself it would be good starting point regardless of the outcome.
It was about two weeks later that I finally mustered up the courage to pop the cap on the glass growler and see what happened. Our fellow nomadic friend Bill and Debby were on hand for quality control purposes, so I was a littl enervous. I was releieved when I twisted the lid and heard that beautiful “tsssst” sound as the CO2 escaped. The samples pours sported a healthy brownish crown of foam and a delicious sweet roasty fragrance. It drank quite smoothly with some subtle coffee and chocolate notes.
There were some issues. We had a couple rogue peices of coconut make their way into the fermenter giving the drinker a hidden “surprise” with their sip. A better straining system should help fix this issue. This growler was also the second to be filled and thus received a bit a sediment from the bottom of the carboy during bottling.
Unfortunately, we didn’t open the Hydro Flask growler until a month and half later thus adding another variable of time into the comparison. After the glass growler turned out alright I thought the Hydro Flask might be over carbonated.
To my surprise it turned out to be under carbonated! The audible “pssst” of c02 escaping was slight and while it poured quite dark the head was fairly small. Since the lid was super tight I can only assume that yeasts were not quite able to complete the job of carbonation or they weren’t very effective at it. This could come from a temperature spike or maybe all the driving just shook up little guys.
The flavor had evolved as well as the beer was much more rich and notes of chocolate accompanied the roasted coffee and coconut sweetness. There was quite a bit of sediment similar to the glass growler which made the last pours undrinkable.
Overall I would say the first phase of the Road brewing Project was a success. I now have a home brew kit that takes up a modest amount of space and have proven to myself that fermentation in an RV is possible. We are already plotting our next brew, most likely a Brooklyn Brew Shop’s Jalepeno Saison. Eventually I would like to formulate my own brews. With our full time travel schedule we have access to many local home brew shops so scoring some good hops and grain shouldn’t be a huge hassle.
So if anyone out there is putting off home brewing because of spacial or monetary restriction know that it can be done small and cheap.
- The amount of grain needed for the 1-gallon batch was sizable. In the future I think any batch bigger than 2- gallons would need to be brewed out doors or with extract. This would obviously require an investment in more equipment i.e. turkey burner, bigger pots, etc.
- The prolonged periods of vibration caused by driving on some less than smooth roads did not seem to effect this particular yeast. I suspect this is not the case for yeasts.
- When bottling I wound up with quite a bit of empty growler in the second container. I did not take into account the loss that occurred from treb when transferring. I think next time I would try using a 32 oz hinged cap growler for the seocnd vessel.
- Brewing one gallon of beer takes about as much time as brewing 5 gallons. I would love to yield more beer for the effort but for now I’ll have to stick to super nano brewing (femto brewing?).