Making beer is a pretty easy process. Yeast does all the hard work. Yeast eat sugars (mostly from malted barley mashed to convert its starches to sugars). The main waste product from eating all those sugars is alcohol. Yes, yeast eat sugar and poop alcohol.
Another important byproduct of this process is carbon dioxide. Most home-brewers rely on this carbon dioxide to carbonate their beers. When I bottle my beer, I add some more sugar and let the yeast eat that up ... voila ... the little yeasties burp up just enough CO2 to dissolve into my beer and I've got carbonation. Most commercial breweries and some home-brewers carbonate in other ways. When you let the yeasties do it for you, it is called "natural carbonation".
Well, in my Whisky Wife Wheat beer, the sugars that I use to feed my little beasties come from honey. Or at least, that is the plan. When I was getting close to bottling time, I was in my local super walmart and grabbed a little bottle of honey. I'm not that picky about the type of honey, so I just grabbed what was the least expensive per once. Did not really look at it.
When I bottle my beer, I almost always do 2 or 3 liter PET (plastic) bottles and the rest in 12oz recycled glass beer bottles. The nice thing about the PET bottles are that they firm up as the yeasties carbonate the beer, so you know that the process is progressing.
This time, though, my PET bottles were not firming up at all. This has never happened to me. I figured my yeast had gotten lazy, so I sort of shook all the bottles to maybe get the little guys working again. But, after about 10 days, still nothing. I assumed my yeast must have completely died for whatever reason. So, my plan was to prepare a yeast slurry and re-open all the bottles, added a couple of drops per bottle.
For some reason, before I did this, I took a look at the bottle of honey. Right there on the front were the words "Sugar Free Honey". I turned the bottle over, and the nutritional information on the back confirmed: Sugars ... 0 grams.
What!?! Ok ... I probably should have at least looked at the honey before buying it, but sugar free honey? I do not know how a beer keeper teaches his bees to make honey with no sugars in it. I do not want to know. I do not even really know why anyone would want honey with 0 sugars of any type in it. I thought honey was a healthy processed-sugar substitute. Is the really honey? Do bees make this stuff? Again, I do not really want to know.
It is lucky that I looked, because the fix I was going to attempt (more yeast) would not have helped at all. More yeast with nothing to eat will not burp any more CO2 than my existing yeast could with nothing to eat. I ended up opening up all the bottles and added table sugar to each one. My existing yeasties attacked that sugar and when I left for the TRASH reunion, the PET bottles were firming up nicely.
So, I guess there is a lesson in there somewhere. My home-brewing blog-readers will probably check their honey now to make sure it is not sugar-free. I suppose my non-home-brewing blog-readers might also check.
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