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Old 02-26-2009, 12:53 AM   #1
machbrit
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Default Newby-ish question...long read

So here is my situation (this may be a long read)…I started brewing in 1987, and back then you had very few choices as far as ingredients and no internet for info. Basically it was hopped kits and corn sugar, and not much else. I took about 16 years off from brewing, and started again a few months ago. I was pleased to see all of the new recipes and ingredients and kits, I had never heard of DME before, so life is good these days. Out of fear and habit, my first batch a few months ago was a Muntons Wheat kit (pre-hopped), I followed the instructions and added corn sugar and ended up with a very nice light tasty wheat beer, I was all excited about moving to the next level, especially when a friend at work heard me talking about it and gave me his unopened starter kit complete with fermenters and accessories and ingredients for a Coopers Amber. The stuff was in storage for over 2 years, and I figured the grain and hops were too old, but used them anyway. Long story short, it came out terrible, and I attributed my failure to old ingredients. So I ordered a few more kits from Midwest, and pressed on. The first was their “Superior Strong Ale” recipe kit, with specialty grains and hops etc., I also got a Muntons pre-hopped Stout (A friend of mine made it and it was delicious, using DME in place of sugar). The stout is in the primary, and the Superior strong ale is in the secondary. When I racked the ale after 8 days, I tasted it, just out of curiosity, and it was horrible. I can’t even describe the flavor. I followed the recipe to the letter, so I just don’t understand. I know that the way it tastes after 8 days won’t be the way it tastes at the end, but I also know that you can get an idea of the final flavor by this point. I’m betting my Stout will be delicious, so what about the unhopped kits am I doing wrong? I sterilize everything like it’s in a coma and I’m about to do brain surgery on it, and if I was lacking in this area, the wheat would have shown it. I don’t want to go in to every step of the brewing process unless you want me to, I’m kind of hoping that you guys, with your experiences with recipe kits that involve steeping grains and adding hops, might have had a few batches go south and have some insight of what a beginner to these might be doing wrong. I can throw a few things out there (for the Superior Ale, let’s not even count the stale ingredient kit) that I think might have contributed. First, I used gallon jugs of drinking water from Wal Mart (which I also used for the wheat and stout). Second, I used bag ice to cool the wort to 80 degrees for pitching. Third, I did not use a bag for the hops when I added them to the wort as Midwest suggests, I added them directly in to the wort. 2oz of Mt Hood, boiled for 55 minutes, then 1oz Sterling for the last 5 minutes, and when I poured the wort in to the primary, I did not strain it, I just poured it slow and left as much troob and hop debris in the kettle as possible….a bunch did make it in to the primary, but was settled by the time it went to the secondary. So could one of these practices have caused my beer to be lousy? Could it have had too much hop debris for too long and it “bittered” the wort? I did not boil the grains, just steeped at 150 degrees. I am hoping that someone will throw a question or a comment out there to make me smack my forehead and say doh! Reply with any additional info you think you may need to make a educated guess. I really don't want to ruin too many more batches, and I don't want to be restricted to 20 minute boil kits (even though I think they work pretty well). Thanks in advance.

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Old 02-26-2009, 01:03 AM   #2
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Long read is right...

We need to know the specific taste you're experiencing. Tasting any beer 8 days into the process is a doomed test for drinkability.

It doesn't sound like any specific procedure was wrong.

You'll hear it time and again round here....relax. Give your beer plenty of time to do what it needs to do.

Now...what does it taste like?

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Old 02-26-2009, 01:52 AM   #3
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ok...I'll do my best here...when you first tip up the glass, the smell is almost overpowering, I think it is a hoppy smell, my wife sniffed it and said it smells like stale strong beer. Keep in mind that this is my FIRST real batch involving adding my own hops, like I said, I am not counting the 2 year old batch, the ingredients were compromised. As for the taste….it tastes sort of like it had a pine cone soaking in it for a week or two. You can taste it long after you swallow it, and it “bites” in your cheeks. I know that this is not what it will taste like at the end, but I have sampled about 30 batches going in to the secondary (years ago), and none of them ever tasted like this, you can sort of get an idea of the end product at this point, at least I feel like I can, it’s the same flavor, just sweeter I guess. Could it be possible that the hops are just overpowering to someone who may not have known what to expect? Or could it be like I said, too much hop debris was in the wort in the primary?.

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Old 02-26-2009, 01:53 AM   #4
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By the way...I'm long winded...sorry :-)

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Old 02-26-2009, 01:55 AM   #5
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I rarely strain my wort- plenty of hop debris in the fermenter- but I've never had that problem. I wonder- did you use a "piney" hop, like simcoe?

I think that this issue will get much better with age. But for your next batch, try using a proven recipe in the style you want (check out the recipe database here, in the link above) and see if that solves the issue.

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Old 02-26-2009, 02:02 AM   #6
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I don't think I will strain mine either, I watched the Midwest DVD, and they mention that straining hot wort (running it through a strainer on the way in to the primary) can oxidize the beer. I'm not sure exactly what that means, but anything ending in "ize" can't be good. I watched a DVD made by the Samuel Adams guy on home brewing, he just ladled the wort in to the primary and the troob stayed on the bottom of the kettle.

Thanks for the replies!

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Old 02-26-2009, 02:06 AM   #7
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My favorite read is howtobrew.com- a free online book by John Palmer. I have the "real" book as well. I think that's a great place to start on reading up on technique, temperatures, flavors, etc. He has a wonderful chapter (maybe more than one) on brewing extract brews. I refer to it often, and definitely recommend it!

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Old 02-26-2009, 02:08 AM   #8
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I meant to respond to the mention of the recipes. I'll do that, it might be easier to "troubleshoot" if something goes wrong. The recipe I used was one of Midwests pre-packaged kits, with pretty good instructions, I figured it was proven, or they would have heard about it by now...do you know anyone more vocal and passionate about their craft than a home brewer? LOL

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Old 02-26-2009, 02:25 AM   #9
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You my friend are simply tasting fresh (green) beer.

Hop bite. Hop overload. Bitter astringency.

Those are all normal for a fresh beer. Trust me...those things will mellow drastically over the next few weeks.

Can you give a run down of the recipe and stats (gravity, IBU's etc...)?

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Old 02-26-2009, 04:28 AM   #10
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I was hoping that was the case...thanks BierMuncher :-)
Here's the recipe and stats.
Superior Strong Ale
Recipe For 5 Gallons
SG: 1.063-1.067
FG: 1.014-1.018
IBUs ≈ 52.0

6 lbs. Amber liquid malt extract, 3.3 lbs. Dark liquid malt extract, 2 oz. Mt. Hood bittering hops, 1 oz. Tradition aroma hops, 8 oz. Crystal 40°L malt, 8 oz. British Brown malt specialty grains, yeast and priming sugar

Mt. Hood hops:4.o% Alpha Acid, subbed Sterling for Tradition for aroma Alpha Acid 6%.

My procedures were as follows:
Steeped grain for 30 mins at 150 degrees, added LME and brought to boil, added 2oz Mt Hood and boiled 55 minutes, added 1oz Sterling, boiled additional 5 mins. Cooled to 80 degrees, with the help of some ice in primary, then pitched 7oz of rehydrated Coopers Ale Yeast (gold packet). Actual OG came out at 1.064, racked to secondary after 8 days, there was activity in the airlock after 12 hours, which ended after 3 days. SG going to secondary 1.027.

I have never experienced Hop Bite or Overload, but I can honestly say, overload is the perfect description. Now I will know what to expect in the future. I guess it stands to reason that the kits I am used to from years back would not have this, the extract was pre hopped and pre boiled, no real aroma or taste would be present, so when racking to secondary, it would basically be just a sugary version of the final product. Thanks for the replies all! Anyone have any other bits of wisdom concerning what to expect in future batches? Any advice on how to improve on the basic procedures that I picked up from Papazian and retail companys DVD instructions? I'm planning on reading Palmer, as recomended by Yooper. It's really good to be able to share stories and advice over the internet...it would have been useful years ago.

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