Home > Uncategorized > Good ideas gone bad

Good ideas gone bad

Well, it may have finally happened. I might have created my first homebrew candidate destined for an unceremonius end of its existence – down the drain. Thus is the plight of my S^4 Ale, “Stewarts Sloppy Seconds Strong Ale”.

Some weeks ago, Stewart’s brewed their annual barleywine, and Ric was kind enough to call me and ask if I wanted their strong runnings. They had sparged all they were going to need, but since it was a barleywine… lots of sugars were left in the grains. I very excitedly accepted and had my wife run over three carboys around noon. They filled them full sometime around noon or one, and I swung by around 5:30 to get the wort.

I got the wort home, poured 13.5 gallons of it from the carboys into the kettle and heated it up to 165 degrees. I then steeped some additional specialty grains (Crystal, etc) for extra color and flavor, and after 45 minutes began the boil. I boiled for about 75 minutes, adding 3 oz of Kent Golding 5.7%AA for bittering, 3 oz of Fuggles for Flavor, and 2 oz of Willamette for Aroma. The Willamette was a last minute addition because the Fuggles didn’t have any aroma to them at all… (they were about a year old, but sat in my deep freezer the whole time). I got about 9 gallons of 1.080 wort into the demijohn, pitched 2 packages of Nottingham Ale yeast, and it fermented like crazy for several days – everything seemd just fine.

Fast forward several weeks, and I have now kegged 5 gallons and bottled the other 4 or so gallons. The bottles have been sitting around for a week, and I figure I’d crack one open and see what it tastes like, even if it is still a little flat and young.

An initial flavor of cherries and ripe red fruit quickly fade into Nyquil and lighter fluid. Imagine 2 seconds of excitement followed by several seconds of washing out my mouth with water and spitting it into the sink.

WHAT THE SAM HELL HAPPENED?

Well, I am not sure… but lets run through the possibilities for giggles.

  • Sour wort – The carboys that went to Stewarts were clean, but not sanitized. I suppose the wort could have sat there and slowly soured between 1pm and 6pm, but that seems very unlikely.
  • Hot side aeration – I poured the wort from the carboys into the kettle, so there was significant splashing. That’s supposed to create cardboard flavors, not a phenolic onslaught that rips your tongue off, right!??!
  • Bad hops – Well, the Fuggles were a little sketchy since they didn’t have any aroma, but that shouldn’t have made the beer taste THAT bad, I don’t think.
  • Too many hops – 8 oz of low alpha English hops for 10 gallons of 1.080 beer?!? Dream on.
  • Fermentation temperature – Ooooh, ok this one is a possibility. It was in my Demijohn, and I had a beast of a time keeping it cool. It might have spit out fusel alcohols like no one’s business – And even thought the stick-on fermenter said it was 72-73 degrees… maybe it was alot hotter in the center of that demijohn.
  • Infection – I am usually pretty careful about sanitation, if not waaay overboard. This beer didn’t seem to want to clear for a while, but I assumed that was because of 2 packages of dry yeast (which is ALOT). The yeast all seemed to settle out, and I didn’t ever have anything funky-looking in the carboys, so I don’t think that was it. Maybe though.

Now, all that said – It may still be too early to tell what’s gonna happen here. With some extended aging, the fusels (if that is indeed the problem) may break down and actually mellow out. Same goes if I had a hop problem – those flavors should also mellow.

Is “S4 Ale” ever going to be a great beer? Doubtful… but at this point I’ll settle for something that doesn’t compel me to grab a match, or threaten to cause organ failure.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Anonymous
    October 25, 2006 at 1:00 pm

    Wow – what a shame. Lots of work for that to have happened. Fusels are my worst nightmare….

  2. Anonymous
    October 26, 2006 at 11:06 pm

    I’d dismiss all your suggested possibilities except for high fermentation temperature given your description of the taste. Perhaps it might be some other cause. In any event I suggest hanging on to it for at least a year to see where it’s headed. Louis Glick

  3. October 28, 2006 at 9:45 am

    I’ll hold onto it… I’ve got 1 1/2 cases of bottles and a 5 gallon keg full of it, so hopefully I won’t need either to put something in between now and then. I will say that I tried some of it out of the keg and it tasted better… perhaps the carbonation has something to do with that, or maybe I hosed the beer somehow during bottling. We’ll see.

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