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 :)


  1. Happens to all of us sometimes. Last year I discovered unfriendlies in one of my kegs, apparently my cleaning of that one keg was not up to snuff and I lost 5 gallons of my house ale. The important part, and you already know this because you're doing it, is to determine where the problem was/is and correct it.

    1. Thanks for the empathy! There are some many nooks and crannies for bugs to get in our equipment. I guess it was bound to happen eventual.


  2. Let's not get too lax; the first true infection is a stark reminder of the ongoing challenges we face. Staying vigilant and following safety protocols is crucial. This serves as a wake-up call to prioritize health measures and adhere to guidelines. In times like these, a collective effort ensures our safety.

  3. Brewing is an art that transforms simple ingredients into a symphony of flavors. The alchemy of grains, hops, and yeast creates a beverage that transcends mere refreshment. Each brew tells a unique story, with skilled brewers as storytellers. From the hoppy embrace of an IPA to the smooth richness of a stout, brewing is a celebration of diversity. It brings people together, fostering community and camaraderie. With every sip, we savor the craftsmanship, passion, and innovation that make each brew a delightful experience. Here's to the endless possibilities bubbling in every batch—a testament to the magic of brewing! Cheers!

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