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Old 01-04-2013, 03:55 PM   #1
lopatkam
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Default Reflecting on Last Year’s Mistakes

Success is a poor teacher. A phrase that I live by. While I have been brewing for over 25 years, I still learn from my mistakes. Of the 18 batches (110 gallons) I brewed in 2012, I did dump two five-gallon batches.

My first mistake was a Czech Pilsner. This beer had a foul smell and taste. I assumed that the DMS rest was not that important. Guess what, it is. I made the same beer again, with the DMS rest, and it was perfect (IMHO). In the past, I always did the DMS rest because you are “required to.” I now know why it is required. It really is important. Down the drain.

My second “dump” was a Sweat Cherry Stout. What a great idea, right? Not the way I did it. I made a basic sweat stout with lactose but planed to add cheery extract. I had five ounces of extract. I should have used two, maybe three ounces. What does a guy do? If three is good, five must be better! Well, I ended up with five gallons of cough syrup. I tried and tried to drink it but could not. Down the drain.

I like to look at those as positive experiences, not bad ones. However, I cannot explain the sick feeling of watching five gallons of beer going down the drain and heading towards the largest sewage treatment plant in the world. That sick feeling is so unique; there must be a word for it. But the pain quickly passes and I consider it a learning experience.

One other random thought about being a home brewer. We hosted a large Christmas party at our house a few weeks ago. I love my wife with all my heart, but she does not want to deviate from recipes (she is an accountant if that helps explain anything.) I was assigned the task of making apple pies and she gave me a recipe to follow. Of course, I did not follow it at all. I added caramel cubes to one pie, Apple Jack to another, and used some whole wheat flour in the dough of the third. I could not help myself, I just had to experiment. When my wife walked in she said, “What the hell are you doing?! You are not following the recipe!” Looking back, I should not have experimented right before a big party. Is this why we are home brewers, or do we become this way because of home brewing? I am sure we all start out brewing beer following recipes, but soon we get creative. By the way, two of the pies turned out just fine. I should have used less caramel in the first one, but it was still OK. And success is a poor teacher.

Does anyone else want to share 2012 mistakes? Who else dumped beer? What lessons can we learn from your mistakes? Another saying I like is “Learn from the mistakes of others, because you can’t make them all yourself.”

I hope everyone has a great brew year with the greatest hobby.

Mark

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Old 01-04-2013, 04:11 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by lopatkam View Post
My second “dump” was a Sweat Cherry Stout. What a great idea, right? Not the way I did it. I made a basic sweat stout with lactose but planed to add cheery extract. I had five ounces of extract. I should have used two, maybe three ounces. What does a guy do? If three is good, five must be better! Well, I ended up with five gallons of cough syrup. I tried and tried to drink it but could not. Down the drain.
Mark
Did this (almost) exact same thing. The weird part for me was I had previously brewed this recipe and it was delicious. This time though... not so much.

Another time I had to dump a batch due to antifreeze contamination... DON'T USE THOSE BLUE FROZEN ICE THINGY'S FOR CHILLING WORT. 'Nuf said.
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Old 01-04-2013, 04:18 PM   #3
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Started brewing in Feb 2012 and crept up the learning curve. Two things stand out which are 1) use rice hulls for sticky grains or really fine crush and 2) decant yeast slurry if made from DME cause it can add "unwanted" flavors.

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Old 01-04-2013, 04:35 PM   #4
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If you get some new brewing gadgets for Christmas or a birthday, don't use them all on the next batch. Space them out.

My loving wife gave me a new maple mash paddle, a sparge arm, a new digital thermometer, a corona grain mill and a false bottom for Christmas.
The only thing I didn't use on my last batch was the false bottom.
The main issue I had was exteremely low mash temps. I am not sure if the thermometer is off or my temps dropped because my mash paddle was kept in the garage which was around 40F. Also, I was using the sparge arm to mash in, slowing it down.

Keep it simple, and control your variables as best you can.

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Old 01-04-2013, 05:28 PM   #5
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A few things I learned:

-Experiment slowly.
The guy I started brewing with at the end of 2011 only wants to make weird stuff. This would be fine if we had a few years of experience under our belts.
Now that I'm brewing on my own, I don't have to go as wild as he wants. But I still let other people's ideas (and my own gullibility) get in the way. I have 2 beers right now that are good but not great because I fooled myself into thinking it would be a good idea to give them a "twist". If I had left the smoked malt out of the robust porter and the chipotle out of the pseudo-pale ale, I would love these beers. Instead, I just kind of like them.
As a musician that likes to experiment, I don't want to always "stick to the style". But for 2013, I think I'm going to adhere to style guidelines a but more strongly until I feel like I have a good understanding of the ingredients.

-Buy stuff when you need it.
I had to toss an entire batch-worth of ingredients and dump an entire finished batch that was most likely gross because of not-so-fresh ingredients. I had all of the extra stuff because of a sale, but until I know I can keep a steady volume going, I'm going to only buy what I need when I need it at the LHBS throughout 2013, even if it means I spend a little more.

-Holy **** does temp make a difference!
Now that it's winter, it's easier to control temps with just a swamp cooler. But man, those two batches I made without temp control when the ambient temp was still swinging in the 70s-80s were nasty! The three that I've made since with a swamp cooler that keeps things 65-70 are all much, much better. I didn't have to worry about this before since we were putting things in my friend's basement to ferment, but I'm definitely planning on upgrading to a more active temp controller (i.e. mini-fridge or chest freezer) around spring time.

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Old 01-04-2013, 07:56 PM   #6
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I had two bad batches this year...

First was a stout which I bottled and it never carbonated. Going to try that one again but keg it.
Second was a frustrating stupid mistake...last check of temperature before moving my rye pale ale to the carboy, I broke the mercury thermometer in the batch...I now have a digital

Happy new year and happy brewing!

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Old 01-04-2013, 09:15 PM   #7
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Mine was my brew sculpture catastrophe. My brother had constructed a 3 tier, gravity brew stand for my jump to ag. Right after completion I hauled it to a parking lot with my brew club for national home brew day. I had no clue. Ran out of propane...had a loose gas line which caught fire...boil over...under sparged. I was too ill-prepared. Yes I made beer(not great beer) but should've had a few under my belt with my setup first.

Good times

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Old 01-04-2013, 09:38 PM   #8
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I had to dump a batch because I thought my new apartment's bedroom closet was "cold enough" for fermenting ales. Easily fixed that with a new kegerator for Christmas.

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Old 01-04-2013, 09:41 PM   #9
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I had one batch that I am dumping, it is a Graff. The idea sounded great but either I dont like Graff or I effed it up. I am learning more and more what I like and what I dont like so the mistake is assuming I will like everything LOL

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Old 01-04-2013, 09:43 PM   #10
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I learned that no matter how much Calypso I dumped into a pale ale, I couldn't taste it. Freakin Calypso..

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