brittadotcom (brittadotcom) wrote,

Brittahytta Brewiversary

It's been a year since the debut of Brittahytta Brewery! Interestingly my latest two batches of cider turned out differently even though they were all the same juice purchased the same day, showing the same use-by date from late harvest Apple Hill unfiltered & unpasteurized juice. The only difference was that I lost a gallon in spillage while racking batch #9, and that was the batch that ended up sweeter. My guess is I lost enough yeast in the 5 gallons that it left more sugar in the juice, but I would have thought that the ratio of yeast suspended in the must would have been the same regardless of 6 gal for batch #10 or 5 gal for batch #9. I brought some to New Years Eve again and it was voted tasty, so I bottled the rest of batch #9 New Years Day evening after enjoying black-eyed peas, greens & cornbread. Since I now have an empty clean brewing bucket, I've also started batch #11 using Trader Joe's pasteurized unfiltered "Sierra Nevada" apple juice with the Safale s-04 yeast again. Not sure yet what I'll do with the 5 gallons of the drier batch #9 so it's still in the spigot bucket for the moment. Needless to say I've learned a lot in the past year, and I'm sure I will keep learning!

What I've learned in a year of home brewing
  • Natural yeast is unreliable but sometimes you get lucky (i.e. my very first batch from last year :)
  • Proper sanitation is your friend of course, but small amounts of bleach, a garage sink, hot water & lots of rinsing seem to do fine
  • My preference for fruitier brews is why I use British ale yeast, not champagne yeast (online research plus confirmed by my local fermentation store)
  • Trader Joe's has the best price for best quality unfiltered apple juice, and from the description of the "Sierra Nevada foothills" I'm willing to bet it's just the pasteurized version of my natural cider
  • Liquid yeast "smack packs" are supposedly better, but I had a giant mess bubbling out the airlock and ended up with the driest cider ever! It's more like apple wine now, so I kept it
  • Safale s-04 British ale dry yeast is my favorite so far for consistency and self-attenuation, so with my sweet apple juice I can get a 5% alcohol brew that's still what I like to drink but also ages well in the bottle. Nice to have yeast that just quit on their own vs. chomping up every last molecule of sugar like the natural yeast! ;)
  • Several gallons of very dry cider can be put to good use, like pineapple guava syrup added for 4th of July guava cider punch - used up 2 gallons that way!
  • The leftover guava cider punch refermented into yet another tasty concoction I'm not sure I'll be able to repeat
  • Butterbeer goes flat in 12 hours in the bottle, even if mixed & capped immediately - keeping it in screwtop 2 liter bottles is much easier to keep bubbly
  • Even with clear contact paper over them, normal paper labels run to the point of illegibility in ice or any moisture, so I now have invested in "weatherproof" label paper I found online
  • Fresh pineapple guava juice ferments like crazy, but didn't lend itself to a good final brew - maybe will try a wine yeast next time vs. ale or will try aging what I have now
  • Don't bother infusing rum with Costco strawberries, but roadside stand freshly-picked strawberries work great as long as you're patient enough to wait a month or more
  • Loud Lemonade (dry hard apple cider with lemonade added) must be mixed fresh, otherwise the yeast attacks the lemonade sugar & it's extra sour within 24 hours
  • I have so much dry cider now that I might get more equipment so I can try making apple cider vinegar - gotta do something with it!
  • The natural yeast cider needs to be consumed soon after brewing is finished for best flavor, otherwise the yeast keeps cranking away making the bottle as dry as a desert!
  • Early harvest apple juice from Apple Hill when they open Labor Day weekend isn't sweet enough (plus it's still too warm so ferments COMPLETELY in 36 hours!) so I won't bother trekking up there until Thanksgiving for late harvest juice
  • I need to develop a better bottling system for reusing bottles vs. bottlecaps - might be purchasing some half-gallon glass growlers with attached pressure-lock caps
  • I'd really like to figure out how to keg some vs. bottling, but not sure about the monetary investment & space for the equipment
  • The spigot on the bottom of my new brewing bucket was pretty worthless vs. all the sediment from the natural yeast batch
  • I like using the portable refractometer my friend lent me so much better I've stopped using my floating hydrometer, so I think I should purchase my own for $60 to read the BRIX directly
  • I need to bring another of my bottle labels to the local store in Los Altos (now More Flavor! formerly Fermentation Frenzy), since they had my label up behind the register with other customer labels & fun things for a long time until they remodeled, then they lost it. They requested I bring them a replacement, and they said they kept getting comments from other customers "Who is THAT?!?" haha...

    Last but not least, in late August I brought a bottle of my March 24th batch to the Windsor Castle Pub in Notting Hill to taste test vs. the original Addlestones that inspired it - not only had it aged quite well in the bottle with just the right amount of fizz, which surprised me from my natural yeast bottles being so dry, but I actually liked mine BETTER than the Addlestones on tap that day! I guess I don't have to go to Notting Hill for a pint anymore! ;)
  • Tags: cider, homebrewing

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