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Old 02-03-2013, 04:51 AM   #1
Gavagai
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Default Asphalt Aroma in Sour Beer

I seem to be oversensitive to a particular aromatic compound that sometimes appears in sour beers. I haven't smelled it in any of the sours that I've made, but have in several well-regarded commercial beers. I can only describe the aroma as freshly laid asphalt, and when I've encountered it, it has been pretty overwhelming, and not in a good way.

I suspect it's some sort of phenolic thrown off by Brett or another wild yeast, but I really don't know. I love the classic barnyard/pepper/bacon aromas associated with Brett, but this is distinctly more acrid. I've encountered it in Boon Geuze, New Belgium's Le Terroir, and Drie Fonteinen's Oude Geuze. Clearly this isn't the impression that everyone gets trying these beers.

Has anyone else had this experience?

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Old 02-03-2013, 07:27 PM   #2
TNGabe
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Do you happen to own Wild Brews? I've lent mine to a friend, but it has a list of fermentation byproduct compounds and the associated odor/flavor. Would you consider what you're smelling to be similar to what's descried as 'electrical fire'? Maybe it's 4 ethyl phenol?

Do you find that you're more sensitive to other smells or tastes than most people or just the one? I'm fascinated by how much variation there is in how people perceive flavor and aroma.

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Old 02-03-2013, 08:01 PM   #3
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In reading the first few sentences I was going to ask if you pick it up in 3F OG, then you said you did, so I think I know what you are talking about. I pick it up, although just slightly, and have associated it with yeast autolysis. Since sour beers typically ferment and age in the same vessel, autolysis is inevitable. However, because they have brett in them, the autolyzed off flavors are eaten up and converted into more pleasant flavors. With some sours (and 3F OG), I pick up a sort of phenolic flavor. Its very slight, and I actually find it pleasant at that level. I'm guessing what you are picking up is the aromatic side of this?

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Old 02-03-2013, 11:07 PM   #4
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Interesting, I also thought it might be autolysis. If so, I should be able to minimize this flavor by using a secondary for my sours, yes? Would this also diminish the intensity of other Brett flavors? There are a lot of Brett flavors I really like.

I've never been in an electrical fire, so I'm really not sure what that smells like. I'm by no means a super-taster. I think I'm more sensitive than most to DMS, but it took me a long time to learn to pick out diacetyl.

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Old 02-04-2013, 01:38 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gavagai View Post
Interesting, I also thought it might be autolysis. If so, I should be able to minimize this flavor by using a secondary for my sours, yes? Would this also diminish the intensity of other Brett flavors? There are a lot of Brett flavors I really like.
Yea, I suppose you could eliminate it completely by racking your sours, and for many styles that might not be a bad idea. However, if you are looking for complexity in your sour, racking wouldn't be a good idea.
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