The carbonation, LUC (for some reason, Gmail didn't tell me I got a comment), went swimmingly. I was a little spooked when it warmed up this past week and we had a bit of a temperature excursion (~78-80 degrees for a day). But it ended up not being an issue. As with most dangers in brewing, I'm finding that patience and understanding prove the greater. We took some pale ales and Trapdoors up north to my parents' house for my mom's birthday to taste. I pried off the American cap and poured what I hoped to be my biggest win yet.
Always use a coaster.
The Citra hops hit you right on the nose. Gator, my brother, could not keep his nose out of the glass. It's a little darker than I wanted-- take typical unfiltered pale ale a couple SRMs toward an amber-- but it leaves a persistent, frothy white head and a torrent of bubbles. The taste is clean: it's not sticky or sweet, nor is it overly bitter. And the hops add a lemony-shandylike scent without dominating the brew. It's not complex. It's not gourmet. It's not going to win any awards. But damn, it is good.
My family suggested "Stoop Beer" as a name. While an excellent name, it doesn't really fit the intended purpose (a wedding present). Carrie and I are going with Ring By Spring, and she will be designing f'real labels. She is just the best.
As for now, two problems now present themselves:
1) What am I going to brew next
2) How am I going to keep that beer from tasting like a flower patch in a house without A/C
Allow me to explain the second one, because this involves some minor microbiology. If you're not interested, but you should be, skip to the bottom.
(Specifically, if you're one of my Facebook friends who endured biochem with me, this has everything to do with enzyme kinetics. Remember that lab where we had to wait a couple hours to make sure the enzymes were working at the right temperature and producing a predictable dose-response graph, and even then we had to start all over a few times? Easy now, put that hammer down.)
The yeast used in brewing is Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Until very recently, recently being the last couple hundred years of brewing out of about 6,000, we did not know that yeast had anything to do at all with fermentation. We did, however, know that temperature has an effect on beer. Anyone who has ever taken a wincing gulp of skunked beer can attest to that. It turns out that yeast cells perform fermentation with predictable effects (alcohol and carbon dioxide) inside a certain temperature range. The range depends on the strain of yeast. Most ale yeasts can tolerate warmer temperatures, but only up to about 75 degrees F. Any higher than that, and fermentation speeds up, and the yeast produces chemicals that are incomplete products (mostly esters). If you remember organic chem, you remember how esters smell. Not like beer.
Maybe I'll talk about some of the technical stuff later. I know a lot of my friends who are considering brewing their own beer read this blog, and if I'm feeling spunky, I might try summarizing what I know about the process. When I was just starting out, it seemed very complicated. It was often surreal to think about what was happening in the fermenter-- beer was happening.
As Guy Montag says in Fahrenheit 451, "I'll hold onto the world tight someday. I've got one finger on it now; that's a beginning."