Tag Archives: mistakes

Pouring One Out

Contaminated pale aleFor the first time ever, I have dumped a batch of beer. Call it a rising sense of maturity, or a desire not to get into sunk costs but it is what it is.

The yeast didn’t start for 2 days, despite me making yeast starter. I was using a dry yeast, so making a starter was my attempt to jumpstart the yeast so the beer wouldn’t get contaminated.

That didn’t work out so well.

This beer smells of iodine, tastes of citrus, band-aid and metal. I seriously thought about bottling this anyway because who knows? Maybe a week in the bottle will improve things!

No. It won’t and I should stop pretending that it will.

Now, am I certain that the yeast is to blame? I am not, but it is the only variable to the process I’ve been doing for years, and certainly the only change since December. Nevertheless, I’m going to take some time to run a bleach solution through the equipment after this, because fool me once…

Here’s what I did, anyway:

Brew date: 6.7.20

Steeping grains
3 lb Gambrious Pale
4 lb Lamonta Pale

Fermentables: 3 lb ExLME

@60 1oz Southern Aroma, Cascade
@5 1 oz Cascade

Added 1 tsp Irish Moss @5

1.5 tsp Gypsum pre boil (for water conditioning)

Yeast: Mangrove Jack dry yeast-starter

OG: 1.065

FG: 1.014

Attempt to bottle: 6.17.20

ABV 6.9%

Work > Result

The day that Sherpa died, I had started to brew beer.

As you might imagine, everything stopped when we realized that he was going to have to go to the vet. I had water in the kettle moving towards boiling point and ingredients all laid out; that got put on hold. The rest of the day was difficult, to say the least.

After he died, the only thing to do was to continue with the work. Sitting around and mourning him wasn’t going to help anyone-although if I had decided to do that for the day, that would’ve been OK. However, I have found that when things go wrong, solace can be found in activity.

So I continued brewing pale ales because this year, that is what I am doing. The result was less than hoped for.


In one respect, I feel bad. I had hoped that this beer would be a tasty one, that it would be a way to remember a creature who had been very kind to me. That it got infected and poured a glass after glass full of foam makes me feel like I let him down. That’s not a very comfortable feeling.

It’s also a little silly, because he was a cat and cats do not care about beer.

On the other hand, I feel as though I can hardly hold myself accountable for doing less-than-exemplary work on such a difficult day. I did the work and on that day, that is what mattered.

There is also a bright side: the nose on this beer did have a distinct, although not very strong, nose of Galaxy hops. So I’m finally getting closer to a style of beer that resembles a pale ale.

Sorry it wasn’t this one.

Brew date: 4.23.16

Steeping grains
1.5 lb Full pint
1 lb Vienna

Fermentables: 7 lb Extra LME

1 oz Simco, .5 oz Galaxy @60
1 oz Simco, .5 oz Galaxy @10

Yeast: Imperial barbarian (3rd use)

OG: 1.068

FG: 1.02

Secondary  on 5/6
Added 1 oz Galaxy hops to secondary
Bottled 5/7

ABV: 6.5%

But Nothing Changed, Right

I can’t say that I’m surprised to read that Goose Island has had trouble with their flagship beer.

I don’t want to believe that this is a “big vs little” problem.

No, the problem is one of attitude. If your attitude is to make as much money possible, then quality comes in second.

If your attitude is to make the best beer possible, then money comes in after. I’ve seen the examples time and time again: The attitude always comes through in the end, no matter what you do.

So despite reading from GI employees that “nothing has changed”, there are facts that make me wonder who’s fooling who?

You Are Not Sancho

23337065874_b4b9ebb17f_zNew year? Let’s get to it.

I have started on a quest to make a pale ale. So I am purposefully going to brew them until I have made a beer that I find acceptable to my standards. Then I’ll try and repeat it. I should have a small repertoire of beers that I can make reasonably well and produce at will, I think.

This was not that beer. It looks OK: in the picture you can see there’s a pretty solid head on the beer and that’s often a good sign. However, it’s also a bit cloudy, which the picture doesn’t illustrate quite so well.

The flavor is off though and I couldn’t put my finger on exactly how, so I brought it to a group of homebrewers and the first thing they did was ask about the yeast. They said it had a phenolic quality, (which is not good for a pale) and suspected the yeast as culprit.

It was my third use of this yeast-a Windsor english ale dry yeast that I was told was old to begin with, so it’s entirely possible I just stretched this one too far. It’s also possible that in my handling of the yeast from batch to batch, it got infected or just gave up the ghost.

So it looks like it’ll be time to take another swing at this, soon.

Brew date:10-Oct

Steeping grains
7 lb Full Pint Pale
1.5 lb C40

Fermentables: 4 lb LME

1 oz Amarillo, Simcoe @ 60
.5 oz Amarillo, Simcoe@ 30
.5 oz Amarillo, Simcoe@ 5

Yeast: Windsor dry English yeast from Oct. 3rd, final use

OG: 1.075

FG: 1.01

Secondary on 10/31

ABV: 8.8%

Hardly Knew Ye

Oh man is this bad beer. I had to pour it out without even bottling it, because the finish on this ale was so bitter it reminded me of aspirin. It’s no fun pouring out beer, even bad beer. There’s that voice that keeps whispering: ‘I coulda been a contender’.

But it was either pour it out or waste time, water and effort carbonating this and finding out in two weeks that, yes, this is indeed undrinkable because it tastes like aspirin. Why put anyone, especially myself, through that?

The good news is that the folks at FH Steinbarts told me to bring some in, to see if they could tell me where I went wrong. I’ll try and bring some by this weekend, see what comes of it.

Shame On Me

You know how one of the last beers I made was sour, and I thought I’d fucked it up? Strangely, I can’t find the link to where I describe that beer. Internet fail! Dangit. maybe I didn’t write it up because it was a bad beer? Hm. Putting bad things out of your mind is frequently a good idea.

Anyway, I think I was using contaminated yeast because this beer has come out with the same sourness on the end as another beer I didn’t like. It’s pretty much identical from a flavor profile viewpoint and the yeast is the only commonality so it makes sense.

Now, the good news is that the undrinkable qualities of this beer isn’t my fault! I was using bad yeast, I just didn’t know it. On top of that, this was the last useage of that yeast so the rest of my beers should turn out just fine.

The bad news, of course, is that I have over 48 bottles of not-so-awesome beer to drink. Damnit.

Brew date: 10.12.14

Steeping grains
4 lb Munich
2 lb C60
2 lb Munich 20

Fermentables: 4.5 lb LME

1 oz US Tettang @ 60
1 oz US Halltertau @30
Handfulls of mystery hop throughout (approx 1/3rd oz

Yeast: Pacman yeast, 3rd use

OG: 1.062

FG: 1.018

Bottled 10.31

ABV: 5.96%

Off Flavors Workshop

The OBC put on a workshop last Sunday to help brewers suss out off flavors in beer. So while those little cups look normal, they’ve all been doctored to produce papery, Acetaldehyde (green apple) or 22 other flavors.

Twenty four flavors is a lot to try and pick out over the course of an afternoon. Certainly, some flavors were far easier for me to catch than others; DMS (creamed corn), Ethyl Acetate (esters, caused by bacterial infection), Spicy were all flavors I got pretty easily. But Metallic or Lactic or Acetaldehyde were all more challenging for me to glom onto.

What was far more likely was that I would notice the mouthfeel, often as a sensation of dryness, usually on the sides of my tongue, that told me something wasn’t right: Mercaptan (a skunky note) or Isovaleric (cheesy, usually from old hops) wouldn’t present as negatively, except when it came to how it felt. This was a little weird and I think I’ll need some more practice with detecting flaws but this was a very cool way to learn, and thanks to the OBC for setting that up.

Also, I’ll be out of town starting tomorrow, so no post for Friday!

Two Poor Tastes Together

On the upside, this is drinkable.

But the negatives are all over this beer. It’s what happens when you have the slightly funky note of the red ale coupled with the lack of carbonation of the fauxlager. It’s flat AND oddly tart from infection. What a losing combination! Plus, I forgot to take the original gravity reading, so I have no sense of how strong this beer is. It doesn’t taste strong and I’d guess that it hovers just above the 5% mark but I have no actual data.

To top it all off, there was a recipe mixup: the one for the red ale? That’s supposed to be for this beer, and the recipe I’m listing now is supposed to be for the red ale. But I’m posting the recipe anyway so I have it out there and because let’s face it, if I’m going to screw up, let’s just go all in.

Recipe for IPA thing

Brew Date: 4.13.14

Steeping Grains
2 lb 2 Row
3.5 lb Marris Otter
1.5 lb Victory

Fermentables: 4 lb LME

Added .5 Chinook and US Magnum hops @ 60, preboil
.5 Styran Goldings & .5 Glacier @60
.5 Styran Goldings @20
.5 Glacier @ 10

Yeast: Breakside ale yeast

FG: 1.01

Secondary: 4.12

Bottled 5.3

Lager (Or Not) 2013

Tt’s time to talk about how this beer came out.

There is a faint funk in the nose; something is off in this beer and it’s likely the result of the combination of old and new yeast. But it feels a lot like a saison or a wit and I like it. It’s lighter and would go well with some hearty cheese. When I put this into secondary on 2.17 and there was a bit too much malt sweetness; I was  concerned that it won’t dry out enough. I can’t say that this beer dried out but is isn’t sweet. All in all, things could have really gone wrong and they didn’t, so I’ll take it as a win.

Brew Date: 1.20.13

Steeping Grains:
.5 lb Honey
.5 lb Dextrin

Fermentables: 7 lb Extra Light malt extract


1 oz Mosaic used in Xmas 2ndary @ 60
.5 oz Saaz @ 30
.5 oz Saaz @ 15

Yeast: Reuse of McPolander yeast (whoa!)

OG: 1.058

TG: 1.01

ABV: 6.5%

Notes: added half Mosaic early before boil to smooth out hop bitterness
Added water to wort at about 68ish, waiting for startup before lagering
Added another package of yeast on 1.28, Ocktoberfest by Wyeast

The Results

A couple weeks ago I talked about submitting this beer as an American Pale to the annual Slurp & Burp competition. Yesterday, I got back the results.

As a short aside: well done to the people running S&B! Those results came back quickly!

And those results were…not good. Not good at all. An average score of 19.5 out of 50.

I have to admit, this is my own fault. Looking over the style guidelines, this beer should have been given more hops if I wanted to enter it into that style. If I really had been doing my research, I probably would have entered it as an American Amber ale, as the judging notes suggested I had stronger malt qualities in this beer.

I got some positives: the carbonation level was appropriate and visually the beer looked good. Then I got some conflicting information: one judge said that the beer finished flat, yet both judges said the carbonation was good. I don’t know what that means.

I also got some troublesome messages: one judge suggested that my beer tasted ‘infected’ but then didn’t use any words to describe what that infection tastes like; examples could include musty, vegetal, diacetyl (butterscotch-something mentioned in aroma but not flavor) etc etc. Again: I don’t know what this means, so I don’t know how to fix it but it may be a place to start.

It is also possible that the beer just went too long before being judged, or was kept too warm at some point. It’s hard to tell and once that entry is out of my hands, I prefer to just let it go. Obsessing over something I can’t control just wouldn’t help.

That doesn’t mean it doesn’t sting a little but the good information I can take from this outweighs the rest.