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Old 09-14-2011, 02:36 PM   #1
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Default Plastic strawberries....

I brewed up the Strawberry Alarmclock wheat beer in the recipe section a month ago. I just tasted the FG hydrometer sample and it tastes awful. It has a very strong medicine/plastic taste. I’d say it’s undrinkable. I’m going to sit on it for 2 or 3 months and see what happens but in the meantime I’d like to pinpoint the problem. My guess is that I got a wild yeast contamination from adding the strawberries to the secondary. The day I brewed I washed, halved, and froze the berries. I added them to a secondary and racked, once fermentation was done. When I racked off of the berries, there was no clear sign of anything out of the ordinary. The berries looked pretty good, the beer was crystal clear. I’d say it definitely has a phenolic/plastic taste. So I’m wondering if there is something other than a wild yeast that could be to blame. I’m very confident that my sanitation is sound. Also, I’m somewhat considering getting a microscope to try and confirm the wild yeast theory. Does anyone know where I could find one locally? As in, who the hell sells used microscopes, other than online?

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Old 09-14-2011, 02:44 PM   #2
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I'd be surprised is you could differentiate between wild and beer yeast in your product with only a microscope.

I'm no expert on fruit beers (having only made one and learned my lesson from that), but isn't some sort of heat pasturization neccessary before adding to beer?

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Old 09-14-2011, 03:12 PM   #3
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I never pasturize the fruit I add. I buy it frozen, thaw it, toss it in the bucket and rack on top of it. I figure between the Ph, alcohol and strong yeast presence nothing has a chance.

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Old 09-14-2011, 03:24 PM   #4
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That's what I thought. I've added fruit to ciders before with no issues but those are normally around 7% ABV where this beer was about 4.5%. My understanding is that most people don't do anything to the fruit prior to adding it. This was my first attempt with beer so I really don't know. My LHBS sells 3lbs cans of fruit. I wonder if I can pasteurize those prior to adding them?

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Old 09-14-2011, 04:52 PM   #5
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Those 3lb cans of fruit should be already sterilized as part of the canning process. If you are worried about infection, that could solve that.

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Old 09-14-2011, 04:57 PM   #6
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Freezing fruit won't kill any bugs or bacteria, it'll just make them go dormant. The alcohol and pH *should* keep infections from happening, but it's not 100% (if it was, there wouldn't be many infections!).

If you do heat the fruit, you don't want to go too high or you'll get pectin haze. The cans are a good option, as was noted they're sterilized as part of the canning process.

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Old 09-14-2011, 06:02 PM   #7
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I only froze the berries to break up the cell walls, thinking that would enhance the absortion of the strawberry "essence." I really though that the alcohol would keep me safe but I don't see any other point for infection, outside of something on the berriers. As noted above, chlorine could be to blame. But, I don't use chlorine. Unless the trace amount in my tapwater is to blame.

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Old 09-14-2011, 06:10 PM   #8
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Fruit can harbor bacteria/yeast in places that might not contact the beer or wort for a while (unless maybe your fruit is pureed). Under the right conditions, these can then begin feeding on the fruit itself. Unless it's sanitary (boiled/pastuerized), there's a chance for infection.

It could also be that the water you used to wash the berries was either contaminated or high in chlorine. I typically boil all the water that I use for 10 mins and then allow it to cool in a covered pyrex dish. Chlorine can cause plastic flavors to develop.

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Old 09-14-2011, 06:13 PM   #9
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Are we totally sure the phenols weren't present or forming prior to the strawberry addition? Bleach, over-mixed sanitizer, chlorine and Chloromine can all cause the dreaded band-aid beer issue.

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Old 09-14-2011, 06:59 PM   #10
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Was the knife you used to cut the berries sanitized? Did you wear gloves while dealing with the fruit? I'm surprised anything survived past freezing the strawberries, but that might help.

SWMBO and I made a strawberry blonde with some commercially frozen strawberries and it came out great. Our only pitfall was using a carboy instead of a bucket for secondary fermentation, as cramming those berries in the little neck of a better bottle would be a great way to infect a batch. Didn't happen for us, though. I suppose it's always a crapshoot.

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