See how the other parts of this saga happened in January, but this one comes in February? It pretty much defines my relationship with bottling: I despise the process. The main pain is the fact that you have to sterilise and rinse a seemingly infintie quantity of bottles. It's not so bad if you have helpers and can set up an assembly line, but if you're doing it solo, be prepared for an hour or so of tedium (tunes help a lot, by the way). The alternative, and believe me, I have been tempted, is to just guzzle the whole batch straight out of the carboy. It won't have fizz, but it will still be awesome!
Ok. Assuming you have conquered your Viking leanings, let's get this batch in bottles. The idea behind bottling is two fold. First, you want to seal the brew away so that it can be stored and aged without any exposure to air. Second, most people like a little fizz in their beer, and this is your chance to add carbonation to the brew. To carbonate, we add a little extra sugar to the batch just before bottling. This gives the yeast something new to work on, but since there is a cap on the bottle, the CO2 they produce can't escape. Voila! Fizz! The key is to add just the right amount of sugar, hence the whole specific gravity thing. (More on that in a second.)
Most people (I think -- I don't know really, since I'm pretty Lone Wolf on this whole brewing thing, but from what I've read and from the weird looks I get at the brew supply shop when I mention my fly-by-night process) decide to bottle by measuring the specific gravity of their brew over a period of several days. If the specific gravity doesn't change it means that fermentation has stopped. This is a good thing to be sure of, since if you have a bunch of un-fermented sugar in your beer and bottle it, you can pretty much be certain that the fermentation will continue after bottling, the pressure will build up to extremes, and your nice bottles of beer will start exploding all over the place. Me, I let the brew sit around for a couple of weeks, I keep an eye on the air-lock, and decide to bottle when a) I finally work up the gumption to deal with this arduous process, and b) it looks like fermentation is done because the air-lock hasn't done anything in a few days. (I can't recommend that YOU do this, since I don't want your bottles to explode, I'm just explaining what I do at the FBNB -- Fly By Night Brewery.)
here for some more-or-less guidance on that whole nightmare.)
Isn't this a wonderful hobby?!
Then let the beer rest at room temperature for a week or so to give the yeast a chance to get its job done. Test a bottle now and then to be sure the carbonation has developed (if it hasn't, Charlie recommends all kinds of remedial measures, but -- knock on wood -- I have never needed them -- just keep waiting and relax!). Then you can move the batch to cold storage to let it age and develop or you can just start drinking it.