The Brewing

What follows are the notes from our brewing weekend, transcribed word for word.

Saturday, July 21, 2001

3pm: Preparations begin.

Tap fitted to the boiler.

Wort chiller hangars trimmed slightly so that it hangs lower in the boiler.


READY TO GO: The boiler with wort chiller inserted.

Built brick base and stand for boiler.

Opened first bottle of homebrew to quench mighty thirst and donned lab coats.

Added water to boiler with two litres of white vinegar to clean out boiler.

Brought to the boil, which took two hours!

Put wort chiller in to give it a bit of a boil and clean. Came up a treat and wonderfully shiny (the vinegar did its work).

6.45: Rang Rico, the man behind the magnificent wort chiller, to tell him that his construction works a treat.

Filled up fermenter with cold water and brought to the boil.

8.20: Water boiling.

Added salt and calcium sulphate.

Left at a rolling boil while we took a curry break.

9pm: Turned off heat and allowed precipitate to settle out.

Added wort chiller to sterilise.

9.30pm: Started flow through wort chiller.

10pm: Added magnesium sulphate.

Began transfer to fermenters to allow precipitate to be discarded.

10.25: Half filled fermenter and turned back on burner.

11.16: Boiling, so took off heat and added two-thirds of the malt.


ADDING THE MALT: Geoff, with his head cut off, and Oliver pour the liquid malt into the boiling water.


COMING TO THE BOIL: The malt mixture starts to froth.


12.17: Boiling again. Added Fuggles and Goldings hops.


ADDING THE HOPS: Oliver, left, and Geoff add the hops.

Geoff suggested the bubbling mess looked like a New Zealand mud bath. “Rotabrua,” Oliver's girlfriend suggested.

“It's a long way to the top if you wanna rolling boil,” Geoff quipped, adding “We are mightily hammered now!.” As always, he spoke the truth.

Drinking Oliver's homebrew No.32.

Geoff: “It's a nice looking boil isn't it: rolling and pitching, pitching and rolling. This is what I call aromatherapy.”

“You are witnessing alchemy — turning beer into stainless steel.” What Geoff meant, who knows!

2.05am: Added Irish moss, Styrian Goldings and cooling coil (to sterilise) and covered with aluminium foil.

2.20am: Small overflow.

Turned off heat and started flow to the wort chiller.


COOLING: The wort chiller in and the water on.

2.30: Oliver's girlfriend had gone to bed and Oliver and Geoff partook in a secondary curry while the wort chiller worked its magic.

By this stage the lab coats had proved invaluable. Oliver and Geoff were filthy, covered in malt and soot. They looked like a couple of Welsh miners emerging from the pit at the end of a shift.

3am: Still cooling

3.30am: Took out wort chiller and brought the keg inside to begin transferring the cooled wort to the fermenter.


INTO THE FERMENTER: Oliver watches as the wort goes into the fermenter.

Added extra water and left overnight to settle and cool a bit more as the wort was still 32 degrees at 4am.

The boiler is a bloody mess of hops and malt on the inside and hops, malt and soot on the outside.

4.10am: Geoff brought in the aluminium foil that had been covering the boiler during the last 15 minutes (and that took the full brunt of the overflow). It was covered in hops and looked like a dirty nappy! So that's where all the hops went!

4.20am: Looking back, the mess is not nearly as bad as we had imagined it would be when we set out on this epic project.

4.40am: Bed.


THE AFTERMATH: The sight that confronted us the next morning.

Noon Sunday: SG reading: 1110. Boiled most of the rest of the malt and added it, which brought the level up to 55 litres (At some stage the previous night we'd worked out, somehow, where the 55-litre mark was). Another SG taken: 1145!!! Whoops! Added some cooled, boiled water to bring the SG back to about 1137 or so. It was above the 1125 in the recipe, but we figured that the champagne yeast would take care of any problems (i.e. fermentation) that the ale yeast couldn't handle.

1pm: Pitched the yeast, which was well puffed up by now, and fitted the lid.

Opened a bottle of Oliver's stout.

The Fermentation

Initial fermentation was vigorous, with a small amount of frothing from the air lock (and the loss, on to white carpet, of some wort due to a leaking tap). After a couple of weeks, it was apparent that the SG had become stuck about 1094. On August 11, The beer was racked into two smaller fermenters and a sachet of champagne yeast added to each. Fermentation began again.

On November 23, 2001, it had dropped to 1090. We added 10 litres of water, which brought it to 1072, then added a 1-litre yeast starter. By December 30, 2001, it was 1068. On February 24, 2002, it had dropped to 1050. At this point we added more yeast and yeast nutrient. The final SG was 1035.

To summarise: The Millennium Ale was racked after three weeks into two smaller fermenters, then spent more than a year in those before it was bottled.

The Bottling

Saturday, August 24, 2002

We grossly underestimated the time it would take to bottled the Millennium Ale.

When Oliver arrived at Geoff and Lisa's in Jan Juc, just over an hour from Melbourne, on Saturday, August 24, 2002, Oliver was hoping the bottling could be completed that day. Geoff had already soaked about 50 bottles and removed their labels, and had a bathful of bottles soaking when the cityslickers arrived. A production line was set up, on which Geoff would remove the labels and Oliver would scrub them to remove the glue. The remaining bottles were then placed in the bath in two layers and the labels were scraped off and the glue scrubbed off.


Sunday, August 25, 2002

 The next morning, after a breakfast that went until 12.30pm, we tackled the cleaning of the inside of the bottles. The idea was to rinse the bottles in a caustic solution and scrub the insides with a bottlebrush. But the bottlebrush wouldn't fit into the neck of the bottle (bloody Czech bottles!), so Oliver, working in the laundry, half-filled each bottle with the solution and gave it a good shake. Geoff then took crates of boxes into the kitchen and rinsed them inside and out with fresh water.


PREPARATIONS: Rejected dirty bottles in the foreground,
sterilised and rinsed bottles on the bottle tree and
bottles waiting to be sanitised in the background.


Due to interruptions by an Australian rules football game between Adelaide (Oliver's team) and Richmond (Geoff's), this process took about three hours. After an inspection of each bottle by holding them up to the light, 26 bottles were rejected because they still had a bit, or a lot, of grime in them.


BOTTLES AT THE READY: Sanitised and rinsed bottles ready to be filled with sweet Millennium Ale.


BOTTLES … From any angle, these Czech bottles are works of art.


… AND MORE BOTTLES: The shape of these bottles is something to behold.


LIKE A PROUD FATHER: Oliver contemplates the bottles, and the task ahead.


The bottles weren't primed, as we figure that it wouldn't be necessary considering they will need to last for 100 years. There is also a theory that yeast can work on residual sugars after bottling, and we didn't want overcarbonation of bottles drunk many years down the track (it turns out that this fear was ill-founded).

Then it was on to bottling. This was the easiest part of the whole Millennium Ale Project. No pouring huge quantities of liquid malt into a keg full of boiling water. No stuck fermentation. No leaking fermenters. No trying to take SG readings. No racking. Just bottling the bugger.


FILLING THE FIRST: Millennium Ale flows into bottle No.1.


THE HANDOVER: Geoff takes control of No.1.


THE CAPPING: No.1 gets its cap.


CELEBRATING NO.1: It took more than a year, but the first bottle of Millennium Ale is complete.


FURTHER CELEBRATIONS: Oliver is excited at No.1, while Geoff isn't getting carried away.


FINALLY EMPTY: This fermenter has seen plenty of action in its short life.


THE SLUDGE: The Millennium Ale was racked twice, but there was no shortage
of sediment in the fermenter when the bottling was finally complete.

We ended up with 105 bottles of Millennium Ale, which spookily — or perhaps just coincidentally — was the number of clean bottles we had. So there was no cleaning of any of the other 26 bottles.

ASIDE: The weekend of the bottling of the Millennium Ale was also a singles weekend. Oliver and Geoff had many bottles of homebrew that were the last of a particular batch and decided to drink them all this weekend. It was not, as our respective girlfiends initially thought and chucked a hissy fit at the suggestion of, a weekend where the ladies and the boys spent time separately.