I bottled the first brew this season before I left for winter break. When I returned to Atlanta, it was refrigerated and ready to drink. It started as a Mr. Beer Oktoberfest, but I decided to spice it up a little because the base brews tend to lack flavor. To keep with the season, I added 2 tbsp of ground cinnamon and tbsp ground nutmeg to the keg just before adding yeast. In hind sight, I should have used while cinnamon sticks and partly ground nutmeg in a muslin sack and removed them before bottling.
Either way, the mixture fermented for about 4 weeks. I chose to let it ferment that long because the average temperature was around 60 deg F. During the bottling process, I tasted the beer, and immediately regretted adding the spices. There was a strange bitter aftertaste that was definitely not hops, and similar to the dry bitterness of a black tea steeped way too long. Not a good bitter. There was no turning back, so I bottled and hoped that an extended carbonation and refrigeration stage would mellow the off flavors.
Cracking open the first bottle, I was pleasantly surprised by the aroma. Both the cinnamon and nutmeg were easily distinguishable but balanced, and let the malty, caramel aromas come through. After just the first sip, I knew this was my best brew so far. The spices blended perfectly with the rest of the beer and provided a nice finishing note that my earlier beers lacked. The more satisfying aftertaste may also come from the fact that this is my first batch of darker beer with a more malty profile.
Overall, the extra time put into the long fermentation and refrigeration steps paid off, or judging the taste at bottling is not an accurate measure of the product.
For Christmas I received a second set of bottles and a hydrometer kit. This should up my production, and hope to have a new brew every month, as long as the weather stays cool enough. Instead of eyeballing the fermentation process, I can watch fermentation progress and bottle at the ideal time. This has been one of my biggest obstacles so far in brewing consistently because an extra week or two for every fermentation adds up quickly. The next batch, a wheat beer, is already in the fermenter, and should move to the carbonation within the next two weeks, depending on the hydrometer readings.