Monday, August 25, 2008

Rhubarb Wine: It's fermented like beer

Yeah, yeah, this is a beer site. But, the cool thing about making your own beer is that you automatically have the equipment you need to make wine too. I have not had much success in the past making decent homemade wines from my homegrown fruits, but hope springs eternal.

"They" say that one of the most successful homemade wines comes from rhubarb. Well I happen to have a very large and prolific rhubarb patch, so this year I gave it a shot. The recipe was pretty straightfoward (I'm reproducing this from memory, so I may have to edit this when I can check my notes): Six pounds of chopped rhubarb to five pounds table sugar, water, wine yeast. I froze the rhubarb to help with juice extract, added everything to one of my plastic fermenters, and let it bubble along for a few days. Then I racked the still-fermenting wine off into a two gallon glass fermenter. As you can see, it was still very cloudy with yeast.

Now that has been sitting in my basement for a couple of months and much of the yeast has dropped out. Just last week I racked into two, one gallon glass jugs. I'll let it age in there for a few more months, then put it into bottles. I have it in mind to bottle half of it still and slightly sweetened and the other half carbonated, for rhubarb "champagne".

As I said, with your beer-making equipment you can make all sorts of fermented beverages at home. I have some cranberry mead that will be one year old this coming Christmas and I'm rather anxious to crack into that. I'll let you know how that and the rhubarb wine turns out.


Tim J. said...

Cool. I've never had rhubarb wine, but my Mom used to make a mean rhubarb pie.

I have a question for the Catholic Brew Meister; How long should the wort normally ferment? I know the airlock on my current batch bubbled well for a full day. The next morning the bubbling was down considerably.

Also, how long should it sit before bottling?

Tanks -

ThePalmHQ said...

It depends on your yeast strain and temperature, but generally I'll see a lot of activity for four or five days. On a few occasions I have had the really vigorous part of the fermentation take just a day or two, like yours.

I let the beer sit in the fermenter for four or five weeks before I rack it into a keg (or bottle it, in your case.) It used to be thought that letting it sit that long in the primary fermenter would cause off-flavors--you'll read this in certain brewing books--but that's been pretty well debunked. And for most beer styles you can forget racking it into a secondary fermenter. Just go straight from the primary into keg or bottle. It's a nice time saver. (An exception would be a very strong brew, like a barleywine or Imperial stout; they benefit from a longer aging time away from the junk in the primary fermenter.)

My experience is that after four or five weeks in the primary most of the yeast has settled out, the beer has mellowed nicely, and it's just about the perfect time to get it into the keg or bottle.

Hope that helps and let us know how your brew turns out!

Tim J. said...


Yes, most of what I've read has said to bottle the beer within a few days after fermentation has stopped.

My only question about going straight from the primary fermenter to the bottle is how you would add the priming sugar. Stirring it into the primary fermenter would bring up a lot of yeast and crud from the bottom, wouldn't it?

Again, thanks for your help. I really enjoy your posts.

ThePalmHQ said...

Hey Tim,

There are two ways you can prime the beer when bottling from the primary. One common way is siphon from the fermenter into a separate bottling bucket, add the priming sugar, and then siphon from the bucket into the bottles. Another way would be to siphon directly into the bottles and add priming sugar using pre-measured doses in the form of 1) commercially made tablets called "prime-tabs", 2) sugar measured out with a measuring spoon (there is some chance of infection with this, or 3) by boiling a measured amount of priming sugar in a measured amount of water and priming each bottle with a calculated amount from a sanitized syringe. I have used all of these methods successfully. I do encourage you to let your beer sit in the fermenter for a few weeks. There's still plenty of yeast in suspension to carbonate in the bottle, but so much crud will have fallen to the bottom of the fermenter and your finished beer will be clearer and more consistent, having matured all in one big batch.

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Anonymous said...

I have been make home brew off oand on for a couple of years but we have had a small set back with health conditions around here I have a batch I need to bottle but I'm afraid it may have been sitting to long I should have bottled it around christmas but that has not been the case is it okay to bottle or just throw it out the air lock has not been touched or removed

ThePalmHQ said...

Hi Anonymous,

By all means you should go ahead and bottle your beer. If you've kept the airlock in place, it should be just fine. In fact, if Christmas was when you were "supposed" to bottle it, you may find that the extra aging time will have done it some good. Two months isn't going to be a problem at all. Put it in the bottle and let us know how it turns out.

Cottage said...

I have just just started a batch of rhubarb wine in the beginning of July. Can't wait until it's done.