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Old 09-21-2009, 12:56 PM   #1
The Pol
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Default First Infection Ever...

Well, it happened.

My Holiday Ale will be re-brewed. After a couple weeks in the primary it was finishing nicely, tasted great... all was well.

I dropped in 1oz of dry hops to finish her off.

A week later I return from work to a bubbling airlock... odd, but beer generally knows what it is doing. So I grab the refractometer... odd, the airlock was bubbling pretty steadily but the gravity is almost exactly the same as a week ago.

It was late, so I didnt have time to really investigate until this morning.

I wake up to take a small sample from the fermentor. The fermentation freezer smells... odd, vinegary... not the CO2 sting that I am accustomed to, but very sharp.

I pop open the fermentor, the top of the beer has small bubbles on it, like you would associate with a fermentation that is winding down.

I pull a small sample and smell it. I can almost not smell the cinnamon, ginger and allspice AT ALL over the scent. Again, quite sharp, vinegar like.

I taste it... very sour, sorta hot... I can taste some roasted malts, but none of the spices. It leaves a very bitter and sour aftertaste.

I have brewed this beer before, this is not normal...

A couple things that were different with this brew from the previous times I brewed it.

1. I re-used this yeast. I washed and saved this yeast from a previous match of beer.

2. I dry hopped this batch instead of a "flameout" addition. Though, there is a distinct possibility that there was grain dust on my scale when I weighed out the hops.

I have never had an infection from a dry hop, so I am placing blame on the yeast wash. I am not too heartbroken, for $12 I can re-brew this thing this week instead of making my IAPA... but I am concerned about what caused it in the first place.

The fermentor gets a good Oxi soak... then a thorough rinse, then a Star San rinse... after that it is filled with boiling hot wort. For these reasons I am ruling out the fermentor itself.

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Old 09-21-2009, 01:03 PM   #2
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Since an infection of my own, one extra precaution I am now taking is to put a blow torch to the outer parts of the spigot on the boil kettle. I doubt it gets hot enough during the boil.

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Old 09-21-2009, 01:06 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Laughing_Gnome_Invisible View Post
Since an infection of my own, one extra precaution I am now taking is to put a blow torch to the outer parts of the spigot on the boil kettle. I doubt it gets hot enough during the boil.
Good idea, though my wort is nearly boiling hot for a long period after it leaves the kettle.
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Old 09-21-2009, 01:57 PM   #4
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I think I would tend to think it was the yeast too. How long ago did you wash it? When you washed it...was it the first batch from a new vial/smack-pack? Or was it a wash of brew made with washed yeast?

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Old 09-21-2009, 02:02 PM   #5
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I think I would tend to think it was the yeast too. How long ago did you wash it? When you washed it...was it the first batch from a new vial/smack-pack? Or was it a wash of brew made with washed yeast?
I'm with SCA on this - I suspect the yeast. Can you give us any details about the strain, storage conditions, age, etc? There will always be some measure of contamination in a yeast cake; while this isn't always an issue, if the yeast health is compromised in some way, it can become one.
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Old 09-21-2009, 02:39 PM   #6
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This was S-04...

It was removed from the fermentor 48 hours prior to re-pitching. It was washed and stored in StarSan soaked mason jars in the fridge for 24 hours.

This was the first re-use. I made a stir plate starter from the washed yeast, that took 24 hours.

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Old 09-21-2009, 02:43 PM   #7
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Without actually seeing and tasting this beer, my diagnosis isn't grounded in anything but speculation; however, I will say that the few times that I have brewed any spiced ale, they always seem to go through that sour/bitter phase before hitting their prime.

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Old 09-21-2009, 02:49 PM   #8
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Without actually seeing and tasting this beer, my diagnosis isn't grounded in anything but speculation; however, I will say that the few times that I have brewed any spiced ale, they always seem to go through that sour/bitter phase before hitting their prime.
But, I have brewed this before, this is not the way it has been in the past.

Also, a week ago it tasted awesome... stopped bubbling and FG was steady.

Now, it is "fermenting" and tastes like vinegar, with no resemblance to what it was a week ago.

That to me, seems off.
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Old 09-21-2009, 02:59 PM   #9
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I have had a couple batches turn to vinegar on me. the suspected culprit was fruit-flies the carry the Acetobacter bacteria which will turn your beer to malt vinegar.

Richard

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Old 09-21-2009, 02:59 PM   #10
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I am experiencing the same thing (possible first infection ever) with my pumpkin ale. I don't have bad taste or smell yet but, without thinking, I added dry spice to the top of the beer when I racked to secondary and that a spice is bubbling and has turned into a blob of snot floating around the top of the carboy and airlock bubbling has resumed.

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