Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Great Beveragepalooza of 2009

My great expectations for a day-long roofing-fest were cruelly dashed by the carcass of Tropical Storm Ida, who waited until mid-November—MID-NOVEMBER—to come die on us. It started raining Tuesday night and rained and rained and rained straight on through into Thursday morning. So, no roofing for us!

But a cold grey rainy day laid the groundwork for The Great Beveragepalooza of 2009. It was a day-long campaign during which we managed to bottle fifteen gallons of hard cider and create a 2009 vintage apple wine. The process by which we made the apple wine was as convoluted as anything we’ve done—so convoluted it makes my head hurt to even think about it—so let me see if I can even remember the whole thing:

1. We gathered the dregs from four carboys worth of hard cider and set them aside.
2. Set aside one gallon of scrumpy from the six-gallon carboy.
3. Warmed up about 4-1/2 quarts of raw sweet cider (from the fridge) to room temperature, stirring vigorously with a whisk to aereate it thoroughly.
4. Warmed another quart of raw sweet cider enough to dissolve about 2 pounds of local honey in it, along with about ½ teaspoon of yeast nutrient.
5. Poured the dregs in the 2-1/2 gallon carboy; added both batches of sweet cider; topped it off with most of the gallon of scrumpy.

The initial gravity was in the neighborhood of 1.095, and with so many warm fat happy yeasties feasting on such a sugar-rich solution, the carbon dioxide output was almost immediate and phenomenal—one long stream of bubbles out the airlock even though the liquid volume is half that of a regular carboy. It’s about the ugliest stuff you’ve ever seen at this point, but in about a week it should calm a bit and get prettier, and once it’s racked, it can settle down for a nice long slow maturation process. I’m looking forward to it, anticipating a final ABV of about 10% with a dry finish. The question remains: Still or sparkling? Both?

The other benefit of The Great Beveragepalooza of 2009 is we now have four carboys freed up! Even anticipating the cider pressing to come when the gang is here for Thanksgiving, that still leaves us room to finally brew beer again! Woo-Hoo! Many, many good brewing ideas have been held in abeyance whilst the cider did its thing, and now it’s finally time to cry havoc! and let slip the yeasts of beer…


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