Monday, October 19, 2015

Don't get too Lax - First true infection

I have a confession, I have gotten too lax with my brewing.  I have caught an infection in my brown ale, and I possible have another off flavor in my most recent brew, a blonde ale.  Which is currently carbonating and I will reevaluate shortly.

I have been a big fan of all the exBEERiments taking place over on but I my be letting all their statistically insignificant data carry over into some actually significant brewing processes - I have neglected some cleaning/sanitizing and have been using unhealthy yeast.

Brown Ale Infection

For the brown ale, I have narrowed down the cause of the infection to three potential areas
  1. Unboiled DME
  2. Ball valve
  3. Contaminated yeast
I think my infection came from 1 or 3, while its possible number 2 was the cause, I think its slim. 

1) A little back story - when I kegged my brown ale I cleaned and sanitized my quick disconnect and silicone tubing and I sprayed starsan in and around the quick disconnect on the pot's ball valve. I then attached the hose and gravity drained right from the kettle into a cleaned and sanitized keg.  I grabbed a plastic cup in the brew area and weighed out the DME to use in the keg for carbonation.  I dumped it right in the keg (didn't boil it) and let it sit for a little over 3 weeks to naturally carbonate.

When I hooked up the keg and pull some off, it was all foam and had a very sour note.  I did my research and new I was overcarbonated and it was most likely caused from an infection.  I off-gassed the keg twice a day for over a week until it finally was not pouring foam.  The samples were getting less sour, but they were taking on new off flavors - phenolic, clove, spicey, and a slight "meaty" note all accompanied with an astringent bitterness.  The sourness had faded but this beer was not getting better.

Just like a baseball skipper, I made the call to pull my pitcher and dump the brown ale...

[moment of silence for dumping 5 gallons of alcohol]

Life is too short to drink bad beer!

2) Anyways, I did save a bit of the sample to test and the gravity had dropped 2 points from 1.011 to 1.009 so something unintended definitely got to work in that beer. As you can see from the pictures below, even though I clean out my ball valve and boil kettle after each brew, some stuff gets in those threads.  I have since disassembled and cleaned all of those parts.  I also don't think I am going to be fermenting in the kettle anymore - probably not the cause of the potential grime, but I prefer to see what is going on in the clear better bottles anyways.

You can see the dirt in the 7 to 8 oclock quadrant of the valve

Same picture with slightly different lighting

Flecks of crud on a napkin after brush out the inside of the ball valve

3) The last possible cause for my infection could have been the yeast.  I harvested the WLP002 from inTROduction ale by just pouring the yeast slurry from the better bottle into a mason jar which had been boiled.  It should have been fine, but who knows what was kicking around in the air from the time I finished racking to the keg, until dumping the yeast slurry.  It also took a good 2 days for that yeast to show signs of fermentation.  Definitely plan on making a vitality starter next time.

Off Flavor in Blonde Ale?

So I just kegged my blonde ale on Saturday and taking a swig from my final gravity sample I found myself shaking my head in shame again.  I tasted a little bit of a vegetal character, much like V8 tomato juice.  This is where I am really interested to see how this beer turns out after carbonation - did I get DMS from the 30 min boil?  Or was it the slow start to my fermentation?  A statistically insignificant exBEERiment would state it wasn't the boil time, but instaed was caused by the slow fermentation.

Yeah, you caught that did you?  I had an even slower start to my fermentation in the blonde ale than I did with the brown!  I used WLP090 San Diego super yeast which was a few weeks past its best by date.  I was TOO LAZY to make a starter, so I just took 2 L of my blonde ale wort and added the yeast to the stir plate.  About 8 hours later I pitched the yeast and wort into the rest of the wort to ferment.  It took right under 72 hours for it to start to fermenting - not optimal


I have been to lazy to make sure my yeast is at optimum health and pitch rate to ferment my beer to its best potential.  I need refocus my efforts toward better brewday preparation.  I will update when i have a better idea about how the blonde turns out.  If it is DMS I am going to have a constant inner battle with whether it was the 30 minute boil, or the slow fermentation start.

I can control both of those variable in my next brew.

Until then...everyone hug your uncontaminated and off-flavor-free beers for me.  You don't know how much you should appreciate them :)

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Bad Bear 2 - British Brown Ale

As you may recall about two years ago I made my first attempt at an English Brown Ale.  It had a nice malt profile, but there was this tangy sour character I didn't find appealing.  I went ahead and blamed it on the S-04 yeast I used.  But after further research I may have placed the blame on the wrong ingredient, or maybe not.

I looked back at the old recipe and noticed I had Victory, Biscuit and Special Roast.  I have come to learn that Victory is Briess' brand of biscuit malt.  I decided to swap out the Biscuit (think the maltser I use is Dingmanns) for all Victory in this recipe.  I then did some research on Special Roast.  Lo and behold it can produce that tangy sour character!  See description from Briess below.

"Special Roast is not only more deeply roasted than Victory® Malt, it is also produced from a proprietary malting/roasting process that kicks up the intensity of the toasty and biscuity flavors, develops noticeable bran flake notes and creates its distinguishing bold sourdough/tangy flavor" - Briess Malting

Harvest WLP002 English Ale Yeast
Harvested WLP002 from inTROduction
So I may have written of S-04 too soon, but I like WLP002 so much and I didn't want to take a chance on the sour/tart character coming from yeast either.  Plus I have been trying to harvest yeast using the simple method and had a couple mason jars left over from my inTROduction session ale ready to ferment away.

Anyways, now that I cut out the Special Roast and S-04, this beer is looking less and less like a slightly modified Bad Bear so I decided to go with pale chocolate, at twice the amount, instead of chocolate malt in the original.  I am a big fan of pale chocolate malt and hope this dosage works well for this beer.  I also am using Caramunich because its what I have on hand.

I made some modifications to my brewing procedures to speed things up on brewday and was able to make this All-Grain batch happen in 3 hours!  I did a 30 min mash and a 45 min boil.  I then fermented directly in the kettle - a practice I may need to implement more often in the future.  The only real issue with the speed brew was that I forgot to take an OG reading so I have no clue what this beers ABV is and am providing the numbers below as a rough guess.

Despite the numerous recipe changes, I am sticking with the name since I enjoy the label so much!

Bad Bear 2 - British Brown Ale

Brewed On: October 6, 2012
Kegged On: October 27, 2012
Style: 11C - Northern English Brown
Batch Size: 5 gallons
Efficiency: 75%
OG: 1.048?
FG: 1.012
IBU: 26 (Rager) 
ABV: 4?%
Yeast: Harvested WLP002 ~250 billion viable cells Fermented at 64°

Grist Mashed at 148 for an hour
80% - Pale Ale Malt (Rahr) -8 lb
10%  - Victory (Briess) - 1 lb
5%  - Caramunich - 8 oz
5%  - Pale Chocolate - 8 oz

Hop Additions 
.4 oz - Magnum 14.7% AAU - FWH in a 45 minutes boil- 26 IBUs

Water Adjustments
Montgomery County, MD Water - 1/2 Campden Tablet for all brewing water
2 grams gypsum to mash water
2 grams CaCl to mash water
2 oz of acid malt used

Tasting Notes: Batch Infected!  Maybe Bad Bear Brown Ale is destined to be bad...I plan on re-brewing this again in the future to try and conquer this style which continually seems to allude me!

See this post for further details