Back at the beginning of December Steve and I did something that we’ve been talking about for a long time. Something that we should have done years ago. After months of procrastination, and with the holidays just around the bend, we decided there would be no better time for it. We put up our first batch of home brew…or should I say boat brew.
We’ve had a couple brew kits kicking around that we picked up in Oz a while back. Since plain old beer has been available everywhere we’ve sailed so far (breweries are often connected to water purification companies) we though it would be fun to try making some apple cider, alcoholic of course.
I was surprised at how simple it was and how little equipment we needed.
We had a standard plastic water cooler bottle that we used as the carboy and with an empty pop bottle and a bit of hose Steve rigged up an airlock. The brew kit included a can of syrup, a packet of yeast and a packet of activator. All we needed to do was add was a kilo of sugar and some water and stir. In less than half an hour we had a 18 litres of wort. Now all we had to do was wait.
The first couple days nothing seemed to be happening; there was a little froth but no little bubbles in the the airlock letting us know that fermentation was happening. We figured the heat of the tropic had killed the yeast before it ever got into the cider mis, like I said we had the kit kicking around for a while. The next day a tiny bubble appeared in the pop bottle. And then another and another. Then like clockwork there was a bubble every 6 seconds or so. We left the wort bubbling away in the corner of the cockpit for a week.
Since we are in Fiji where one can’t just wander down to the home brew store and buy a case of bottles for such an occasion I had been saving Schweppes Soda Water bottles for the past couple months. We sanitized them with a light bleach solution, add the suggested portion of sugar to each bottle for carbonation and used a hose to gravity fill them. After capping them we loaded them into a milk crate and put them down in the pit beside the keel. We figured that not only is the pit about 10 degrees cooler than air temperature (it is summer in the tropics) but if one of the bottles should fail at least the fountain of sticky, fermented apple juice would end up on the outside of the boat instead of on the inside. And so would the clean up crew of ants.
Turns out that perhaps the fermentation was not completely finished when we bottled.
After a couple weeks the bottles were looking pretty distended and the caps had an obvious dome shape to them. We thought we were going to get away with it but the day after we noticed these abnormalities we heard something akin to a toy rocket hitting the hull and knew a bottle had blown a top. Thankfully we only lost two and were able to relieve the other bottles without worrying about contaminating the cider.
Last night we had our first official tasting (I did drink the dregs of second bottle that exploded, waste not want not and all, but it wasn’t really ready). We had planned to open a bottle on Monday on the first full moon of the year, 28 days after we bottled, but forgot to put one in the fridge.
Since this was such a success I see some other brewing experiments in our future. After all, we still have a kit to make Ginger beer.
We have 12 more 1.25lt bottles still resting in the cellar, so if you’re in the neighbourhood drop on by for a taste of “Kate’s Full Moon Cider” made by the Boatyard Brew Company. Tee shirts coming soon 😉