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Old 12-25-2008, 08:11 AM   #1
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Default What is THAT taste? Learning flavors in beers. The good the bad and the UGLY!

So after enjoying craft brews for nearly 2 decades and brewing my own for a little over 5 I am still trying to really pinpoint and describe flavors of beer. I think brewing was what really made me more aware and discerning overall. It is a good thing but with a price. It makes me a lot tougher of a critic and has raised and changed my standards of GOOD beer.

I find taking notes and reviewing beers has also greatly improved my understanding and appreciation. It has certainly broadened my beer "vocabulary" and helped to pick out enjoyable traits of beers. The thing I still have trouble with though is the un-enjoyable characteristics and off-flavors. I know when I do not like something about a beer but I find it much more difficult to describe and to identify what it is.

Some of these are easy. The unbalanced, sour (when it should not be) skunked/light stuck, etc. Fairly easy to pick out. Others I don't know. Maybe it is something wrong, maybe it something I just don't like but I do not know what it is.

Examples. One flavor that I have never been quite sure I understood but now I think I do is diacetyl. I know it is perceived as buttery. I have decided I do know this flavor now and I am really sensitive to it and cannot stand it. I taste it more as butterscotch than butter. The beers that helped me learn diacetyl... EVERYTHING brewed by Shipyard brewing of Maine. I have read peoples reviews of their beers and they say trace amounts of diacetyl. I say it WHOPS you in the face. I cannot drink any of their beers. No Ringwood yeast for me then!

One instance where I cannot pinpoint the funky flavor. Long Trail brewing. There is just something funky going on in their beers that does not work for me. Funny thing is this is recent. I used to enjoy many of their beers. For the last few years I detect something not quite right in those same beers. It could be yeast driven, could be a "house flavor", or perhaps their sanitation has gone down hill. I dunno, and I do not know how to describe it which makes tracking it down all the more elusive.

Any way, rambling on here at 3 am. This could really be a coherent discussion, but I fear I set it to words in the middle of the night. We'll see how it looks in the morn.


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Old 12-25-2008, 02:13 PM   #2
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Examples. One flavor that I have never been quite sure I understood but now I think I do is diacetyl. I know it is perceived as buttery. I have decided I do know this flavor now and I am really sensitive to it and cannot stand it. I taste it more as butterscotch than butter. The beers that helped me learn diacetyl... EVERYTHING brewed by Shipyard brewing of Maine. I have read peoples reviews of their beers and they say trace amounts of diacetyl. I say it WHOPS you in the face. I cannot drink any of there beers. No Ringwood yeast for me then!
Tastes like rancid butter to me. Same with RedHook beers. They are great except their house strain is supposedly derived from Ringwood Ale. I am very sensitive to diacetyl, so I can barely choke them down unless they are chilled to 34*F.

I have detected diacetyl in beers fermented with Nottingham yeast as well which is otherwise a clean strain. If it's fermented in the low 60's or below, it needs a diacetyl rest around 70*F for a few days before separating the beer from trub.


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Old 12-26-2008, 03:38 AM   #3
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Tastes like rancid butter to me. Same with RedHook beers. They are great except their house strain is supposedly derived from Ringwood Ale. I am very sensitive to diacetyl, so I can barely choke them down unless they are chilled to 34*F.
Interesting. I have been finding I do not enjoy Redhook beers as much as I used to either. That may explain it.

I am drinking a Southampton Publick House Altbier right now and I detect wicked diacetyl in that as well. Wonder what their yeast is.
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Old 12-26-2008, 07:46 AM   #4
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I have detected diacetyl in beers fermented with Nottingham yeast as well which is otherwise a clean strain. If it's fermented in the low 60's or below, it needs a diacetyl rest around 70*F for a few days before separating the beer from trub.
Thanks for this pointer. I wasn't even thinking about it because it is an ale and not a lager but I have English Brown wrapping up right now done with Notty. It has spent the majority of its time in the low 60's. I' ll test for diacetyl before I prime.

Diacetyl is a funny flavor because just tonight I drank something with VERY noticable butter to it but it was delicious. It was an Australian Shiraz.

In beer diacetyl = bad In wine = good
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Old 12-26-2008, 08:02 AM   #5
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I recently had a Brooklyn Lager with so much diacetyl I couldn't finish it.

Well, I could have, but I was at the Draught House.
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Old 12-26-2008, 08:16 AM   #6
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Two things I am sensitive to are extract twang and overdone homebrews. I find a lot of home brews are very often too much of something or other. malty, hoppy, adjuncty, etc. Makes it hard to enjoy more than one.
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Old 01-06-2009, 06:37 PM   #7
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just had another flavor epiphany recently. Until that moment I did not truly understand clove and peppery yeast phenols. I really get it now.

The beer that helped me understand was one that should not have those characteristics. It was a McNeill's champ ale which is supposed to be an American Pale ale I believe. I have had it before and it was a good APA. It was wicked clovey and peppery this time! Took me a bit to place it then I realized it had a definite Belgian character mixed with citrusy American hops. I did not enjoy it at all. Now I understand what it is about Belgian golden strongs, Tripels, saisons, and bier de gardes, etc. I do not like. I just do not care for that peppery clove phenol character.

One more flavor profile to add to my understanding...
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Old 01-06-2009, 09:21 PM   #8
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I used to enjoy the occasional Anchor Steam . . but now all I taste is "banana beer". I guess high fermentation temp = banana esters, but I never really noticed it before now.
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Old 01-06-2009, 09:46 PM   #9
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I haven't tasted banana in Anchor Steam but I definitely like my homebrewed steam (I call it a fog) beer much better.
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Old 01-06-2009, 10:52 PM   #10
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I haven't tasted banana in Anchor Steam but I definitely like my homebrewed steam (I call it a fog) beer much better.
I'm about to brew a Steam, so I was wondering, what yeast did you use (I've got some Saflager S-23), and at what temp did you ferm at? Do you think mid 50's to 60 is the place to be on temp?


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