Shawn and I finally got around to bottling our cream ale last week, and the bottling itself was actually less of a production than I remembered. Granted, we had washed the bottles and scrubbed labels already, and Shawn was in charge of sanitizing everything and kicking off the siphoning. I simply helped fill bottles and capped them all.
There’s me with the special bottle filling hose that releases liquid when pressed. Pressing the tip of the hose into the bottom of the bottle lets the beer in. It is fantastically easy. Some relatives of Shawn’s left these soft-sided coolers at our place a couple of years ago, and they make a good home for bottle conditioning beer. They’re easy to clean in the case of spills, boxy and soft at the same time, making them both stackable and somewhat protective, and the lid zips on firmly. We have never had any problems with exploding bottles, but it’s nice to have them zipped up and contained, just in case.
I don’t have any pictures of the bottle capper in action, but it’s fun to use. It takes a little while to get the hang of it, though, and I always feel like I’m going to snap the neck off of the first few bottles I do. This has never happened. The worst I’ve done is mangled a few bottle caps, but I like to think those ones were defective anyway.
Call me crazy, but warm, flat beer usually doesn’t do it for me. We tasted the beer before it was bottle conditioned anyway, and I’m happy to say that this one was actually pretty good. Obviously not as good as when bubbly and a little colder, but pretty decent. We let it bottle condition for just about a week before we tried it again, and we loved it. The ginger makes it crisp and spicy, and the cardamom gives it a subtle, almost fruity taste. Overall, it is light and refreshing and a good summer beer. The spices are not overly cloying, in part because the beer is not particularly sweet.
Look at those champagney little bubbles! The alcohol content is pretty low — I believe under 5% — making it ideal for those summer afternoons when you’d like to have a beer with friends, but don’t particularly want to get hammered. I am looking forward to sharing this beer with loved ones and to bottling up our next batch!
For those looking to spice up their own brews, we used a cream ale kit, adding 1/4 cup fresh sliced ginger and 1 tsp cardamom (removed from pods, but not ground) to the boil for the last 15 minutes. You might want to increase the cardamom a bit if you’re making a hoppier beer, but I highly recommend sticking with a cream ale or something else that’s subtle on hops with this spice combination, and I definitely recommend these quantities.