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Old 10-08-2012, 06:58 PM   #1
y2jrock60
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Default Overpowering Alcohol Taste & Aroma

I brewed a Dogfish Head 60 Minute clone about 1.5 weeks ago and decided to take some gravity readings today. It was a 10 gallon batch split into two fermenters. One was pitched with Wyeast Ringwood Ale the other WLP041 Pacific Ale yeast. I made a 1 Liter starter for each three days prior to brewing. Both starters looked and smelled fine before pitching. The Ringwood batch fermented very slow with little airlock activity. It finished around a 1.016, which is what was expected. However, the Pacific Ale batch fermented vigorously for a week with a lot of airlock activity and finished low at 1.010. I was expecting it to attenuate as much as the Ringwood. The Ringwood sample I tasted was almost spot on. The hop character was perfect, but slightly more roasted than the original, probably due to a little too much Amber malt. When I opened the fermenter using the Pacific Ale yeast I instantly notice an overpowering alcohol aroma, almost like rubbing alcohol. I decided to give it a taste and the alcohol carried over into the flavor. It was like a burst of alcohol upfront followed by a hop bitterness. There was no malt character at all. WLP041 is suppose to be a good choice for English IPAs', I know something isn't right.

Most of the research into the solvent/alcohol like aromas and flavors results from temperature control. This can't be the case because the beer was split from the same wort and fermented side by side at 67°. Could the yeast have been bad? I didn't notice any overpowering alcohol aroma in my starter. It smelled like all of my previous starters. The only only thing I can think of is that the WLP041 batch had a lot of left over leaf hops that ended up in the fermenter. The wort came from the 2nd half of the kettle. However, I've had a number of other batches that were fermented with a bunch of leaf hops that ended up in the bucket and didn't have the overpowering alcohol taste/aroma.

Any input will be appreciated. I'm going to go ahead, dryhop, then bottle both hoping that the off flavor in the WLP041 batch will mellow out overtime. If not, I'm just going to give it to my buddy who will drink anything with alcohol in it.

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Old 10-08-2012, 07:55 PM   #2
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"Most of the research into the solvent/alcohol like aromas and flavors results from temperature control. This can't be the case because the beer was split from the same wort and fermented side by side at 67°."

2 different yeasts will respond differently to the same temp. Also, the vigorously fermenting batch most certainly had a higher actual temperature than the slowly fermenting batch. The WL041 is supposed to be under 68 degrees. If the ambient temp was 67, the fermenter was likely in the low to mid 70's. The Ringwood has a range up to 74.

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Old 10-08-2012, 08:25 PM   #3
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I understand that the temp may have been a few degrees high, but I've fermented with WLP041 at higher temps in the past without the Alcohol/Solvent flavors and aroma.

I'm thinking the hops in the fermenter might be the culprit. There is probably at least 3 ounces of leaf hops that got poured into the WLP041 batch from the boil kettle. I just don't understand how the excessive amount of hops would cause such an off flavor though.

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Old 10-08-2012, 09:03 PM   #4
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Here in the tropics, I've brewed a lot at high temps and yes you certainly can get noticeable fusels, but it does not seem to be consistent. I suspect there are also other variables which effect the production of fusels. I've brewed some great beers with no temp control at all and then had problems with other brews when only a few degrees too high.

Ironically, before I was aware of the relationship between high temps and fusel production, I rarely had any problems and brewed fat-dumb-and-happy at high temps -- and made some great beers. Now that I am aware of it, I seem to have the problem more often. ?

Bad news is that there is no practical way at a home brew level to remove fusel alcohols...unless of course you plan to add a reflux still to your equipment list. However, I have had some success with blending to minimize the fusel taste -- discovered braggot last year this way.

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Old 10-09-2012, 12:39 PM   #5
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Fusels are a problem with stressed yeast. You can stress healthy yeast with high temps. You can stress marginally healthy yeast with marginally high temps. So, if you don't have a proper pitch rate, or don't aerate well, or the yeast are old, or they weren't stored properly etc you can end up with more fusels in one batch than another.

Curtis2010 - if it is any consolation, you've probably trained yourself to be a better taster. That is the double-edged sword of tasting knowledge. The more you learn, the more you can pick out minor flaws that you would have just overlooked before.

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Old 10-09-2012, 04:49 PM   #6
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Too much 02 can also cause fusils. This in combination with high temps and low pitching rate / yeast health. There are a lot of variables.

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Old 10-09-2012, 07:00 PM   #7
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After reading everyone's replies, which I greatly appreciate, the problem seems to be related to the yeast and fermentation. While doing research I found that if a large quantity of the yeast remains in suspension too long this can result in the production of fusels. This seems to be the case since the beer finished low @ 1.010, when it was suppose to finish around 1.018. There was a large deposit of leaf hops sitting at the top of the fermenter when I pitched the yeast. I'm thinking that they absorbed some of the yeast and even blanketed some of it from floccutating. The hops are still floating on top of the beer as we speak, probably about an 1½" layer of them. Do you think that could be the likely culprit?

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Old 10-09-2012, 09:22 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by y2jrock60 View Post
After reading everyone's replies, which I greatly appreciate, the problem seems to be related to the yeast and fermentation. While doing research I found that if a large quantity of the yeast remains in suspension too long this can result in the production of fusels. This seems to be the case since the beer finished low @ 1.010, when it was suppose to finish around 1.018. There was a large deposit of leaf hops sitting at the top of the fermenter when I pitched the yeast. I'm thinking that they absorbed some of the yeast and even blanketed some of it from floccutating. The hops are still floating on top of the beer as we speak, probably about an 1½" layer of them. Do you think that could be the likely culprit?
After reading through the posts I think you've got it pretty good but also keep in mind that the beer is still quite young and a lot of what you are discovering now should dissipate with conditioning and carbonation. I say give it some time, let the yeast try and finish up cleaning house and things should get better.
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Old 10-09-2012, 09:43 PM   #9
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What was your mash temp? Did the recipe include sugar in the boil?

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Old 01-08-2013, 06:10 PM   #10
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Curious how this turned out. What were your experiences with WLP041 prior to this batch?

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