Home Brewing Journal #3
I sat down last night and went through the process of cleaning, sanitizing, and filling 46 bottles of my most recent home brew, the Weizenbier I discussed earlier in my home brewing journal #2. As I went through the process, which is incredibly long when you are doing it by yourself, I started to think about whether it would be worth my time or not to invest in a kegerator to avoid the hassle that is bottling by moving on to kegging. But with that came a bunch of questions that I am not sure I have answers too.
The first question that came to my mind was of course which is better, natural or forced carbonation.
In my experience I have noticed that both home brewers as well as craft breweries seem to be perplexed on which is better. Forced carbonation is used by most commercially available beers, simply because it is faster to carbonate beer that way. A necessity when it comes to getting beer out the door and into the market, but that doesn’t make it better, as many craft brewers force carbonate some beers while bottle aging others because their are benefits to both.
Being such a new brewer I have bottled both of my home brews using the bottle conditioning, natural, technique. It is inexpensive, should allow for greater maturation of the beer as the yeast continues to do its work in the bottle, and should offer more flavor obtained from the yeast that remains in the bottle. But without having any proof otherwise I am not sure those differences are noticeable enough to say that bottle conditioning is better than forced carbonation.
My second question was about the sugar.
Although the yeast is going to feed on the sugar in the bottles to create the carbonation, does it eat it all, and does the sugar also effect flavor? Belgian Yeast is a good guy to pick on as an example for how a bottle condition beer can create more flavor than a forced carbonated beer. Belgian yeasts are known for creating floral and fruit flavors and aromas in beer. And it does it when there are clearly no ingredients in the beer itself to create such a flavor profile and are therefore generally bottle conditioned; La Fin Du Monde being a great example of this. But can the sugar you put in your bottles sweeten you beer too, or is it all eaten off by the yeast?
Is it worth the money?
If you have switched to kegging this is an answer I would love to see in the comments. Buying the equipment needed to keg your beer and then serve it is going to cost several hundred dollars to get started. Is the savings in time worth the additional expense? Also let me know if you have noticed any differences in beers you have forced carbonated as compared to the same beer that you have bottle conditioned.
With only 2 brews under my belt I have learned more or at least been given the opportunity to find answers to questions about beer that I didn’t even know I had. This is hands down the most fun and educational hobby I have had yet.