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Old 04-09-2013, 08:01 PM   #1
ecarl
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Default Is there an easy way to tell when to punt?

I haven't been brewing for very long. Six months maybe. Since I started I've been looking for an answer to this question. In books, on websites, this forum, can't find one. So I'll ask - given the time it takes to ferment, rack, bottle, store - is there an easy way to tell that something has gone wrong (unfortunately I do not own a crystal ball)? The earlier in the process the better. My reason for asking is simple. Quite a bit of time and effort goes into this process. Now if I didn't enjoy it, I quite simply wouldn't do it. BUT, it would be nice to know if there were a few things to watch out for when brewing. That way I wouldn't have to wait a month to tell my beer sucks, throw it out, and start all over again. I could simply throw it out and start over again.

Answers, links, referrals to other resources...all would help.

Thank you in anticipation of your responses.

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Old 04-09-2013, 08:24 PM   #2
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I think the answer is that you should never dump you beer until you have tasted it and can tell that it has gone bad. You almost certainly will not know something is wrong much before bottling, so why wouldn't you just bottle it up and let the beer sit for a while? All you are out is the time it took to bottle and the cost of some bottles. Seems like a gamble worth taking at that point.

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Old 04-09-2013, 08:24 PM   #3
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There really isn't a single answer to this question. There are so many variables - personal tastes, recipes, time, various offflavors, patience, expectations, etc. Even some infected beers turn out fantastic. I think only experience can give you your answer since ultimately you will have to decide if something is worth drinking or giving more time or dumping.

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Old 04-09-2013, 08:27 PM   #4
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Learn what clean beer tastes like coming out of the fermenter. This takes time, but like any skill, is one that you can develop. I think if you can spot an off flavor before bottling or kegging, you can save yourself some heart ache down the line.

Granted, this is easier said than done when new to the hobby, but can be accomplished in a beer log with tasting notes through out each batch. Most infections will occur during the fermentation process, so you should be looking for perceived failures coming out of that are of the process.

As always, practice and learn good sanitary process and you will eliminate the majority of issues

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Old 04-09-2013, 10:35 PM   #5
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A lot of variables in play here. My take is that if you put in the time, money and effort to make a brew, then follow through to the end. A good example is a brew I did where I some how got the ingredients mixed up and made something that was no great. After bottling it was a MEH brew at best, not very good. I put the bottles at the back of the place I store my brews and totally forgot about them, for many months. After I found them again, I put a few in the fridge to taste them. Guess what? It turned out to be a great beer, just not what I was expecting when I brewed it.

If after a long time in bottles it still does not taste good, then make the decision to call in DR. Jack.

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Old 04-09-2013, 11:37 PM   #6
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Don't punt. Ever. If it sucks, put the bottles back in the closet and revisit it in a few months.

If you're worried about tying up your fermenter or bottles with a crummy beer, you don't have enough fermenters or bottles.

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Old 04-10-2013, 12:52 AM   #7
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Quote:
If you're worried about tying up your fermenter or bottles with a crummy beer, you don't have enough fermenters or bottles.
So true...
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Old 04-10-2013, 02:13 AM   #8
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I've only ever dumped one. It was my sole attempt at a GF beer. I'm not entirely sure what went wrong but it was horribly astringent.

I had one beer I ended up giving it all away. I didn't like it much but I had coworkers who loved it.

I had one beer that was my first attempt at a black lager. I missed the OG horribly bad and it got a bottle Brett infection from a previous pLambic. I didn't toss it.

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Old 04-10-2013, 02:17 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by More_Hops_Please View Post
Don't punt. Ever. If it sucks, put the bottles back in the closet and revisit it in a few months.

If you're worried about tying up your fermenter or bottles with a crummy beer, you don't have enough fermenters or bottles.
I totally understand if you do have the equipment to tie up with sub par beer, but some of us don't. In my limited experience I've been able to tell around a month after bottling whether something was worth hanging onto or not. I've kept around a 6 pack of the two dumpers that I've had and even over a year down the road they were not pleasurable to drink. Sometimes there is no point of hanging on to it. When exactly is hard to say, as it would even vary from person to person.
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Old 04-10-2013, 01:37 PM   #10
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There seem to be so many variable that can negatively affect the outcome. All you can do is what you can do.

Things you can do:

* Make sure you are getting fresh ingredients: If you don't trust your LHBS LME, buy DME (longer shelf life) *OR* buy we'll reviewed ingredient kit from one of the big online shops.
* Use the full boil method. Boil some water for an hour to figure how much you boil off. Use that info to know what volume of liquid to start with (see below).
* Use the appropriate cleaner/sanitizer & follow correct procedure: I use PBW mixed in HOT tap water to soak, clean & scrub; StarSan to sanitize.
*. Speaking of water - make sure your water profile isn't going to cause problems (search this site for Water Chemistry)
* Ensure you pitch enough healthy yeast. Instead of complicating things with starters, just use rehydrated dry yeast.
* Control fermentation temps. If you have a basement that stays in the low 60s, that prolly is the easiest. Otherwise search "swamp cooler" for the next cheap/easy solution.
* Follow recommended bottling procedures. I think Revvy has a sticky in the bottling/kegging forum. But buy a Jet Carboy/Bottle Washer, a vinator & a bottle tree.
* Be patient. it takes upward of 6 weeks before your drinking.

My recommendation now would be to start small. Seriously. You may not have a pot large enough for boiling 6.5 gals of liquid for a 5 gallon batch. There is nothing wrong with scaling a recipe in half to 2.5 gals, or even down to 1 gallon!

Focus on the same tried, true & tested recipe until it comes out how it was supposed to using the suggestions above.

If you have problems with any of the points above along the way, check back & more help will be given.

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