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Old 04-27-2012, 11:17 PM   #1
dktoller
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Default Help troubleshoot this failed batch!

I've got several partial mash kits under my belt and am getting ready to go all-grain. Thinking I had everything under control I tried to make a 3 gallon all-grain smoked pale. It was a bit of a disaster.

Recipe: A basic pale ale (cascade) scaled down to 3 gallons, withsmoked malt. Included Carapils (5%) Crystal (5%) and hickory smoked malt (20%).

The hickory smoked malt I did on my smoker several weeks ago, by lightly moistening it and then putting on the smoker for 1+ hours.

Brew day went pretty well. Partial mashed at 152 F for 60 minutes, and then soaked/rinsed for another 15 minutes with 170 F water. Standard boil and hop additions, and then I cooled the batch down to 72 F. Poured it directly into the fermenter, and the OG was 1.040. Pitched one packet of Notty. At this point all seemed well. Tasted the hydrometer sample and it was quite smokey but at the time I didn't notice anything else unusual about it.

Over the next several hours I realized there was a bunch of trub settling out of solution to the bottom of the fermenter. More so than in any previous batch. I suspect that most of this *should* have been left behind in the boil pot, had I properly let the mixture settle and used a siphon to transfer.

A couple of days went by with no sign of fermentation at 64 F, so I moved it upstairs hoping warmer temps (69 F) would get it going. Four days in with no sign of fermentation I opened it up. It lacked the typical overwhelming sharp smell (is it CO2, or alcohol that I usually smell?). I decided to pitch another packet of Notty, wondering if perhaps the initial yeast had been cold-shocked or something.

Two more days later with no signs I was getting anxious. Checked the bucket and to my surprise the FG was 1.010! Tried some and I didn't notice any alcohol in it. That's not an scientific check of course, but I downed most of a glass rather quickly and it's just not alcoholic, or at least not much.

So at this point I trying to come up with possible ways to explain this non-alcoholic beer.
- It's possible the initial high OG reading was due to particles that later settled out. Note this was BIAB with a pretty fine crush. IF this is true, then it means my mash was the culprit.
- The BIAB mash was pretty thick. My bag is narrower than the boil pot so a good portion of the (1.25qt/lb) water wasn't well-mixed with the grain.
- Not sure of my mash pH. I try to adjust my water because it is very hard, by cutting it with RO water. Although this time I think I used "drinking" water instead. How much could a high pH impact the conversion?
- Used from a new bag of 2-row malt. Do people ever get 'bad' malt?


Well, all is not lost. I now know more about using smoked malt: next time I will cut the smoked malt down to about 5%. It was just too overwhelming, especially in a style without any significant dark roasts to balance/complement it. And I've managed to enjoy quite a few home brews in the process of trying to figure this one out.

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Old 04-28-2012, 02:07 AM   #2
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A brew that starts at 1.040 and finishes at 1.010 is going to have an alcohol content of 3.98% While that is certainly not "non-alcoholic" it would certainly be a low-alcohol "session brew". If you drank one of these beers quickly you probably would not taste much alcohol presence, and even chugging one of these would likely not produce any noticeable buzz for an experienced craft beer drinker.

Since I am still an extract brewer, I will leave the science of the mash temps and grain bill to someone more experienced in that area. If you used Whirlfloc or Irish Moss, then it is possible that the "trub" falling out of suspension is normal hot or cold break material.

You have not failed at making beer, you have just made low-alcohol beer. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

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Old 04-28-2012, 02:18 AM   #3
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Great description of process! You did nothing wrong and there is really nothing to figure out, you brewed a small batch, low alcohol session beer and it fermented after than you thought.

RDWHAHB and move on to AG, you seem to have a pretty good handle on things!

Cheers!

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Old 04-28-2012, 02:27 AM   #4
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Seriously, this 'beer' doesn't seem to have any alcohol. I'd guess no more than 1%, if that. I wish there were a good test for ABV. Mind you, I brewed a 3% ESB and I can definitely detect the alcohol in that one.

I've already resigned myself to dumping the batch. Any wild theories out there?

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Old 04-28-2012, 02:49 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dktoller View Post
Seriously, this 'beer' doesn't seem to have any alcohol. I'd guess no more than 1%, if that. I wish there were a good test for ABV. Mind you, I brewed a 3% ESB and I can definitely detect the alcohol in that one.

I've already resigned myself to dumping the batch. Any wild theories out there?
Are you trying to "detect" the alcohol by taste, or by buzz? Just curious. I believe a refractometer can measure the ACTUAL alcohol content of a beer. I still use a hydrometer, so I am not completely sure about that, but I am sure someone here can clarify that.

Even if the beer has a VERY low alcohol content (like 1% or 2%) that is not a reason to toss it out. Even if you don't particularly like the flavor right now, toss a 6-er or 2 in the closet and forget about them for a while. Come back in a month or 2 and try again. Obviously I have not tasted your brew, but I hate to hear about anyone trashing beer!
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Old 04-28-2012, 11:58 AM   #6
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I do not think you will be able to taste any alcohol due to the amount of smoked malt you used. The cold break material that you had in the fermenter will not effect you OG reading. You have a 4% session beer good luck on your next batch.

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Old 04-28-2012, 12:32 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dktoller View Post
Seriously, this 'beer' doesn't seem to have any alcohol. I'd guess no more than 1%, if that. I wish there were a good test for ABV. Mind you, I brewed a 3% ESB and I can definitely detect the alcohol in that one.

I've already resigned myself to dumping the batch. Any wild theories out there?
There is a good test for alcohol production and you performed it and don't believe the results. You took a hydrometer reading when you poured it into the fermenter (OG) and again when it had completed fermentation (FG). The difference in these two can easily be calculated into the alcohol produced and was done for you byDrummerBoySeth. You have beer with about 4% alcohol. A nice easy drinker unless the smoke is too strong. Give this beer 3 to 6 weeks in the bottle or keg and then tell us how bad it is,
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Old 04-28-2012, 12:49 PM   #8
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Yes I agree with the thought of putting it in the closet. I to hate tossing beer and learned that one the hard way. I threw a 12er in the closet and what 12 batches
Later it was tasting good could have kicked myself for throwing the rest out. I won't do that again. Cheers

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Old 04-28-2012, 12:52 PM   #9
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Oh yeah with the heavy smoke if nothing else you can do a reduction and have some nice BBQ sauce. Cheers

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Old 04-28-2012, 01:40 PM   #10
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I chugged 3/4 of a glass and got none of the usual buzz.

Ok, ok. Yeah I will bottle this up and hide it in a closet. Interesting long-term experiment on how the smoke mellows at least. I'm fooling with the idea of bottling some unprimed too, so I can play around with blending smokiness into later batches.

Quote:
Originally Posted by beerman0001 View Post
I do not think you will be able to taste any alcohol due to the amount of smoked malt you used.
Hmmm, yeah I was actually wondering if that might be the case.
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