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Old 11-24-2005, 12:18 AM   #1
SpoogE
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Hey guys,

I mostly just lurk around here but you guys are great! This place has been an invaluable resource to me in my brewing endeavors so far. I'm having some trouble with my latest batch of beer and need some help figuring out whether it's worth trying to save or not. This is gonna be somewhat long so bear with me...

The recipe I used was this Fat Tire clone, extract+grain recipe from byo.com. It's my first time using this recipe. Before I begin I should mention that I am using a Mr. Beer plastic keg as my primary fermenter. It's worked well for me so far by simply cutting 5-gal recipes in half. So that's what I did with this recipe, I cut each ingredient in half.

I am pretty confident that I followed the recipe correctly, as I double-checked all my ingredients thoroughly before adding them. The only problem during the brew was a bit of boil-over as I heated it up to boiling (stupid mistake... I ran to grab the phone just before it started to boil and by the time I got back it was going over just a bit). I may have lost about 5% of the pre-hopped wort due to the boil-over, but I didn't think it should have made a ton of overall difference in the brew.

My local HBS was out of the Wyeast 1056 and the guy working suggested a dry Safale yeast which was apparently a 1056 clone. After the brew was complete and the full 2.5 gal wort was cooled to about 78 degrees, I shook the keg well to aerate the wort and then pitched the yeast. No starter, since the HBS guy said I shouldn't need it. I then left it to ferment at around 75-78 degrees (a little warm I know, but the best I can do here in TX).

My first clue that something may have been wrong with my brew was the starting gravity. It measured at a 1.040 prior to pitching the yeast, as opposed to the 1.050 which the recipe suggested. I figured this might be due to the over-boil incident I mentioned earlier, and didn't think too much about it.

Fermentation seemed to start within the first 24 hours. I noticed a lot of fizzing, but oddly virtually no foam as I've usually experienced with other brews. The fizzing kept up for about 2 days and then stopped. For the next 4 days there was no visible activity. 7 days after brewing, I took a sample and measured a gravity of 1.020 (as opposed to 1.011 which the recipe suggests). The beer was also VERY dark, similar in color to a bock (and way different from the Fat Tire I thought I was cloning...). I didn't notice the color until taking the sample since it had been inside the amber keg and the color was difficult to tell. No funny tastes or smells except for a strong sweetness which led me to believe fermentation was nowhere near complete.

At that point I read that yeast can sometimes quit due to poor aeration so I shook the keg to aerate it some more, and left it for 2 more days... but still no visible activity or change in gravity during that 2 days. Still no funny flavors or smells, just VERY sweet.

Finally I decided to try a new packet of the same yeast, just in case something had gone wrong. So I bought some new yeast, shook the keg and repitched the new yeast, and left it for a week. Still no visible activity during that week...

And that brings us to today. It's been 16 days since the initial brew and I'm still stuck at 1.020 with a VERY sweet, dark, bock-looking beer. It's way too sweet to drink and doesn't taste like beer at all, so I don't want to bottle it unless I can figure out what's going on and get it to finish fermenting.

Any ideas on what I could have done wrong? Has anyone ever had anything like this happen to them?



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Old 11-24-2005, 12:35 AM   #2
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It's just done. 1.020 isn't that far out of range. However.... you should *never* aerate the beer once it has started fermenting. It will probably taste alright for the first couple of weeks, but after a couple of weeks, you are going to start tasting the oxygenation, which has been described as "wet cardboard" or "sherry" flavors. Just prime and bottle at this point and hope for the best.



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Old 11-24-2005, 12:41 AM   #3
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Thanks for the reply. Man, I'd love to believe you, but I'm still just having a hard time believing it could possibly be finished... the gravity has only changed half as much as the recipe suggests it should have. 1.040 to 1.020 means an alcohol content of 2.5%, is that really possible with a beer this dark?

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Old 11-24-2005, 12:51 AM   #4
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Let's go back to the basics...you said your brew is VERY sweet - I'd guess you didn't add any hops.

Let's try to save it. You said you have about 2.5 gals of beer right? Is it already in the keg? Can you add ingredients to the keg? Do you have any hops in the 5-10% AA range that you can use for bittering? If so, I want you to take 2 cups of water and add 1/2 oz of hops and boil them for 1/2 hour. Strain the hops from the tea and add it to your beer. Then gently swirl it around for a minute of two to mix it. Let it sit for a couple of hours and repeat. Your beer should be ready the next day. I've done this in the past with great success.

Other observations:

Adding yeast again was just a waste of yeast. Yeast doesn't add the bitterness you need to balance your brew.

Chances are your brew is darker than expected because you burned some of it at the time of overboil.

When you take your samples and read the gravity you should also take a reading for the temp. You'll need to compensate the gravity on the temp scale. Like, what was the temp at 1.020? And what was the OG at 78F? These are important numbers if you want to take proper readings.

Maybe someone else will have something else to add that I may have missed.

Good luck. Keep us informed.

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Old 11-24-2005, 12:54 AM   #5
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Did you use the Laaglander DME? If so, that's what did it. It's only 65% fermentable and will leave you with a sweet brew.

You can try boiling some hops in water to make a hop tea then strain it and add it to your brew. The additional bitterness will balance out the sweet.

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Old 11-24-2005, 01:23 AM   #6
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Bill, yes of course I added my hops! I admit I'm still a bit of a newbie but I'm not THAT new!! I divided the recommended hops in half and measured them in a small food scale before adding to the boil for each stage of the recipe.

I didn't think about the possibility of the wort being "burned"... didn't know that can happen! But that could very well explain the darkness.

The OG of 1.040 was measured at 78 degrees, and honestly I haven't taken a temp reading since then. The room has been a constant 75-78 so I'm assuming the beer is in that range as well. I didn't think there would be enough temp difference between the OG and now to affect my readings much. But you probably make a good point... I'll have to make a habit to be a little more detailed with my record-keeping in the future.

I realize now that the extra yeast was a waste... I wasn't trying to add bittering, it just really seemed like the fermentation wasn't done yet because of my gravity readings.

The hop tea is a great idea which I would have never thought of. I have some 6.0% Cascades, as well as some 3.8% Hallertaus and of course the 4.0% Fuggles and Willamettes from this recipe. Should I try the Cascades for the hop tea?

Scott, yes I did use the Laaglander DME. That probably explains a lot about the sweetness! Hopefully some extra hops will perk it up a bit.

Thanks for all the responses so far! You guys rock. I'm about to run to the store for some turkey day supplies for my wife, and I'll look for responses and hopefully try the hop tea after I get back.

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Old 11-24-2005, 01:30 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SpoogE
The hop tea is a great idea which I would have never thought of. I have some 6.0% Cascades, as well as some 3.8% Hallertaus and of course the 4.0% Fuggles and Willamettes from this recipe. Should I try the Cascades for the hop tea?

Scott, yes I did use the Laaglander DME. That probably explains a lot about the sweetness! Hopefully some extra hops will perk it up a bit.

The cascades will give you a citrus note that may not be appropriate in this brew. I would use the Fuggles or Williamette in keeping with the flavor profile of this brew.
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Bottle Conditioning: Oatmeal Stout

Drinking from Keg: Ordinary Bitter, Kolsch

Drinking bottled: Brown Autumn Wee Heavy
Hefe Weizen
Peaches and Cream Weizen


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Old 11-24-2005, 01:31 AM   #8
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Wait until you peel some "black pastic stuff" off of the bottom of the kettle, then you'll understand burned.

Cascades would be your best bet out of that group.

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Old 11-24-2005, 02:18 AM   #9
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SpoogE: Like I said, I was only taking it back to the basics...that's why I asked about the hops and the other observations. Sometimes it's difficult to answer questions correctly when you aren't given all the info.

SpoogE: I would use some of the same hops you used for the brew, but then again...the choice is always yours to make. We can only recommend. When I made mine I had a 1/2 gal and only used 3 cups for the 5 gals batch. I tasted the hop tea the next day and it was like really strong tea. Very bitter. I thought about reheating it and adding sugar and milk so I could drink it. You can get hop extract tablets at the health food store. I don't think it's something we could use for beer though.

ScottT: Good call on the Laaglander malt. Would definitely be sweeter than desired.

David: OUCH!!!

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Old 11-24-2005, 02:53 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by homebrewer_99
SpoogE: Like I said, I was only taking it back to the basics...that's why I asked about the hops and the other observations. Sometimes it's difficult to answer questions correctly when you aren't given all the info.
No worries! I was only joking around, hence the face

Quote:
Originally Posted by homebrewer_99
SpoogE: I would use some of the same hops you used for the brew, but then again...the choice is always yours to make. We can only recommend. When I made mine I had a 1/2 gal and only used 3 cups for the 5 gals batch. I tasted the hop tea the next day and it was like really strong tea. Very bitter. I thought about reheating it and adding sugar and milk so I could drink it. You can get hop extract tablets at the health food store. I don't think it's something we could use for beer though.
Cool, thanks! I'm currently boiling a hop tea using a bit less than 1/2 oz of Willamette and Fuggles mixed together. I'll cool and strain it into my fermenter once it's finished boiling. We'll see how it turns out I guess!

I'm glad I decided to come on here and ask about this. I was just about ready to toss the whole batch but now I'm excited again to see whether it's gonna get saved or not


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