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Old 11-18-2009, 09:36 PM   #1
phasedweasel
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Default Help me identify an off-flavor

Good afternoon. Recently, two of our beers seemed to develop an off-flavor. The first, a red made over the summer, developed what my wife and I both thought was quite a strong off-flavor, nearly a dumper. I do not have a very sensitive palate, so it can take me a while to decide what it tastes like. It could be a sour flavor (lacto infection?), but I don't think it screams sour, it is more subtle than simply a sour apple or similar flavor. I might describe it as medicinal, which maybe could come from chloroamines in the water? (That is what our municipality uses). I gave some to my father who is a long time beer drinker and brewer, but he didn't seem to notice anything wrong.

We made a second batch, a steam brewed Octoberfest, which had a subtle undercurrent of something wrong when it was green, and then seemed to mature to a nicely drinkable state about three weeks after bottling. However, this last week (four to five weeks after bottling), the bottle I tried again was tasting maybe a bit sour, maybe medicinal - something! It was overwhelming the hops and the malt and was the dominant flavor both at the finish of a swallow and I thought in the nose as well, but only on the swallow, not on just sniffing the beer.

These are my thoughts on possible sources:
- High fermentation temps: we had not yet implemented a swamp cooler and I think the red was probably in the 80s at some point while it was brewing (this was late summer North Carolina)
- Chlorophenols from chloramination in the water supply: quite possibly, but we had made 10 batches previously and not noticed this problem
- Sour beer from an infection: possible. Both of these batches were made with equipment that had been sterilized in bleach at the tablespoon per gallons level (we had not yet switched to star san). Maybe a bug got in on a scratch or in a valve? We use plastic Ale Pails
- Poorly sanitized bottles: our bottles go through the dishwasher with a sanitizer. However, again we've not had this problem and the red, especially after a few months, had the same strong off-flavor in every bottle

Thank you for any insights. I currently have a Best Bitter in our newer Ale Pail about ready to be bottled, made with spring water, and a dubbel in brand-new Ale Pail where I controlled the fermentation temperatures very tightly, so maybe one of these two batches will shed light on where the problem may have entered. I wish I could describe or understand this flavor more clearly, though.

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Old 11-18-2009, 10:13 PM   #2
tmoney1224
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The first thing I would do would be to find a way to get your fermentation temperatures down. 80s is way to high for almost any yeast. That is the one thing that most dramatically increased the quality of my beer.

The other thing I would suggest is to get some starsan and a spray bottle, fill it with sanitizer and squirt some in every bottle before you fill just to be sure the sanitizer is actually getting inside every bottle.

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Old 11-18-2009, 10:40 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by tmoney1224 View Post
The first thing I would do would be to find a way to get your fermentation temperatures down. 80s is way to high for almost any yeast. That is the one thing that most dramatically increased the quality of my beer.

The other thing I would suggest is to get some starsan and a spray bottle, fill it with sanitizer and squirt some in every bottle before you fill just to be sure the sanitizer is actually getting inside every bottle.
Thanks - already did both! I'm in a swamp cooler now, and can keep the water bath reliably at 64°. I am also using StarSan and a spray bottle to make sure everything I work with is sanitized.
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Old 11-18-2009, 10:44 PM   #4
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Thanks - already did both! I'm in a swamp cooler now, and can keep the water bath reliably at 64°. I am also using StarSan and a spray bottle to make sure everything I work with is sanitized.
Have you brewed yet with these items? Did the off-flavor go away?
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Old 11-18-2009, 10:57 PM   #5
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I'm still waiting on the Bitter to bottle, probably tonight. It tasted fine in my hydro samples so far, but so did my previous batches.

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