Thanks for all the quick replies,
To cover a few of the concerns brought up:
Regarding timeline: in almost all brews, it tasted great right up until bottling time. I started noticing the film a day or two before my planned bottling day typically, and then could taste it either in samples right before or on bottling day. After bottling, the sourness/thinness and general absence of "beer" taste got progressively worse. If the hops were the cause, could they really cause a pellicle/off flavors after just 5 days? Reading how long lambics typically take to develop a pellicle, I figured the contamination must have been early in the process.
-I'm using a glass carboy (6 gal?) as a primary, and no secondary. There was little headspace in the fermenter (was filled up to where the main body curves inwards)
-I also thought of the dry hops first, but this is the first time I've tried dry hopping. The other three had no additives post boil. It is possible all three had separate sources, but the visible signs/tastes seemed too similar to be a coincidental string of bad luck. I will either not dry hop or buy packaged/sealed hops as suggested for dry hopping
-I will try boiling the top off water (the one batch I had that turned out well I used pre-boiled tap water). I did however first look up water report for deer park distilled
(which I have been using for top off) - http://www.nestle-watersna.com/asset...nts/dp_eng.pdf
- sanitation includes distilation, micro-filtration, UV light & ozone filtration. Could be happening in shipping/warehouse storage I suppose. I'm willing to try anything
Do you guys think there is any point in switching fermenters or heat treating the glass carboy (ex. in oven)? I'm assuming a bleach soak should kill anything the glass could be hiding, although is it possible there are scratches etc. that I cannot see harboring the bacteria?
Another thought I had was cooling/pitching outside to eliminate apartment bugs, but I'm assuming that this would introduce a whole new risk factor.
Based on suggestions, I'll try this:
1) nuke my carboy again, and re-use this (possibly after sterilizing in the oven), as it is likely not the culprit. I haven't read anywhere of carboys that carried infections bleach couldn't kill
2) replace plastics again - (frustration combined with drinking near a computer & a credit card caused me to buy stainless equipment wherever possible anyway, so it's just a few items)
3) Use packaged/sealed hops for dry hopping, otherwise use the same method
4) Use dry yeast to eliminate contamination of starter (although I thought that my starter steps were the most sanitary/risk free part of the process, as cooled wort was practically never exposed to anything, including open air).
5) Boil my store bought distilled top-off water as an extra precaution. Should I chill it as I would my wort? or just let it cool and then pour it into my fermenter?
Thanks again for all the help. If this doesn't work perhaps I'll get really into coffee instead.