Although we only started brewing at Pool Cottage Smallholding in late 2016, things have moved on rather quickly. None more so than in how we store and serve our efforts.
As with most "homebrew" we started out with the intention of bottling the beer, using re-cycled bottles. Having asked a number of friends to let us have their empties rather than chuck them in the re-cycling bin. The response was overwhelming, (it appears that our friends do drink a lot of beer)!
Now, even though we only brew 5 gallons at a time, this still means 40 bottles to de-label, clean, sterilize, add fermentation sugar, fill, cap and label. Surely there is an easier way? Enter the mini keg, these are the 5 litre cans that many of the leading breweries are selling in the supermarkets and have been well tested at Pool Cottage!
Supermarket 5 Litre Mini Kegs
The main drawback to these mini kegs is that unless you drink all 5 litres within a day or two, the beer does go flat, but 4 of these must be easier to fill than 40 bottles. After some internet research, we discovered that you can buy new kegs without the plastic tap, but the keg can be "tapped" with a chrome dispenser that holds a CO2 cylinder which pressurizes the keg. This allows the beer to be kept in great condition and makes it easier to pour. Therefore, 3 kegs were purchased from Brew UK and our very first Citra IPA was racked into them, with the remaining being bottled. 15g of golden caster sugar was added to provide the secondary ferment and, 7 days later the initial tasting took place. Family and friends gathered and 2 full kegs were consumed in as many hours! The verdict, awesome.
Pressurized Mini Keg
Whilst these kegs are much easier to fill and use, they're still not true draught beer. The problem being that both bottles and mini kegs need the addition of sugar to create a secondary ferment which forms the CO2 bubbles and frothy head of any good beer. Unfortunately, this also leaves a sediment in the bottom of the bottle or keg.
Enter the Cornelius keg. These are 19 litre kegs that can be pressurized up to 130 psi, using a CO2 cylinder. Once the brew has cleared it can be racked directly into the Cornelius keg and pressurized to approximately 20 psi. At this pressure the CO2 is slowly dissolved into the beer, thus it is conditioned without the need for sugar and there is no residual sediment.
Cornelius Keg and CO2 Cylinder
After about a week the pressure can be further reduced to 2 psi which is just right for pouring a perfect pint of draught beer. The picture below shows the first pint and a half from our "Golden Balls" brew, named after our Son, who in the eyes of his Nanny, can do no wrong!!