My breakfast stout was perfectly quaffable, but not particularly noteworthy. It was low alcohol, and much more cloudy than I would have liked. Otherwise, it was a fine brew. I realized with the breakfast stout that while kegging is much less trouble than bottling, kegged beer is harder to share with friends.
I've learned that one coworker, and two of the students in my department, are into home brewing. Another coworker doesn't home brew but is very interested in sampling my creations. Transferring beer from my keg into a bottle or growler can be done, but the bottled beer will pretty quickly go flat. For that reason, I'm likely to start bottling beer again, despite my previous statements that I didn't ever want to bottle again. To make the bottling process more streamlined, I invested in a couple growlers and one-liter bottles, in order to minimize the number of containers I need to fill.
While buying the new bottles, I also picked up a Better Bottle, to use in place of a glass carboy for the secondary fermentation stage. The Better Bottle is "made from a special, scientifically tested, polyethylene terephthalate copolymer (PET), which does not have all the disadvantages of other plastics." It is, obviously, a lot lighter than a glass carboy, which makes handling it a lot easier to do.
I brewed an English pale ale with my buddy Andy recently. This was the first all-grain batch I'd brewed of my own (I'd previously only ever watched Tom do an all-grain brew). The brewing process itself was rather unremarkable, and I think I got a decent enough efficiency from the sparging process. Aside from doing an all-grain as opposed to an extract brew, the only other change in process was that I whisked the wort as it transferred from the brew kettle into the primary fermentation bucket, in order to better aerate it. This isn't something I'd ever done before.
As usual, the beer sat in the primary bucket for about a week. It was fermenting pretty vigorously at first, and the airlock was still bubbling at day eight, but I decided to rack it into the secondary anyway -- mostly because I was eager to put the Better Bottle to work. Here's where my process substantially changed from my past brews. I had set the primary bucket atop a workbench in my basement as soon as the brewing was finished, and I left it there for the racking process. With past brews, I foolishly lugged the primary upstairs, agitating it and causing a lot of the sediment to rise up and float around. This sediment was then transferred through the siphon into the secondary, which partly explains why my beers have been so cloudy. With this pale ale, there was little to disturb the trub at the bottom of the primary, and the beer I racked into the Better Bottle was remarkably clear.
The full Better Bottle weighs about as much as an empty glass carboy. I placed the full Better Bottle atop the workbench in the basement, and I plan to leave it there for the bottling process in two weeks. I'm extremely optimistic about this pale ale: it smells great, it looks super clear, and it should be one of the better batches I've ever brewed.
I need to invest in some all-grain equipment, so that I can transition into more all-gran brewing. Much of the equipment I need I can make myself: a mash / lauter tun can be made from a picnic cooler and some copper pipe. What I'd really like, though, is a fancy conical fermenter to completely do away with racking to a secondary. :)