I fixed a bad beer

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bradleypariah

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Just thought I'd share something for the newbies. I know we already have a "don't throw out your beer!" thread. This is a "maybe you can fix it!" thread.

I'm no expert. I've been brewing for about eight years. I still make mistakes. In August, I brewed a fresh-hop red IPA. Pre-fermentation, it tasted like a solid recipe. Oktoberfest came and went in September, family stayed with us and went. Life happened, and although I kept thinking, "I need to keg that red IPA, or get it into secondary," I left it. It sat for five weeks in primary.
The beer is finally kegged and carbed (been in the keg now for a month), and I just think the otherwise great beer has a glaring flaw. The beer smells and tastes of yeast. Malty, toasty, hoppy yeast. It's drinkable, but not pleasant at all, and after eight years, I've become quite a snob.

For the last two nights, I made a sort of mixed drink out of the beer. I took this beer from "dang it!" to "holy cow this is AWESOME!" If you make a bad-tasting beer, maybe it's oxidized, cardboard-like, band aid, or yeasty like mine, maybe try something like this.

What you'll need:
1) Your favorite 80+ proof spirit. In my case, gin.
2) A SodaStream or the like.
3) Hops.
4) A love of hoppy beers.
5) Medium charred oak chips.
6) Coffee filter.

Here's the method:

Step 1. - Fill a mason jar at least half way with the oak chips, then fill with your spirit, and seal the jar. After three days or so, the gin should turn orange and taste like the oak chips.

Step 2. - Put a gallon of water on the stove. Raise it to 185°F. Add a half ounce (maybe even an ounce) of your favorite hop to the hot water. Remove the pot from the heat, and put a lid on it. Let it sit for 20 minutes. You now have hop tea. Chill the hop tea with your favorite method. Get it soda-out-of-the-fridge cold.

Step 3. - Filter the cold hop tea through a coffee filter. Pour some of the result into a soda stream bottle, and carbonate it. Keep in mind, you don't want to carb this as much as plain water. Hop soda has a bit of head retention, so only "burp" the Sodastream once, and be careful when releasing the pressure and removing from the tower. Put the rest of your gallon of tea in the fridge for next time.

Step 4. - Get your favorite beer glass and add anywhere up to a shot of your aged spirit. Fill your glass maybe a third of the way, or up to half, with hop soda. Top off with your off-flavored beer.

Step 5. - Profit.

Normally, watering down a beer alone can help with off-flavors, but mouthfeel suffers from the lowered CO2, hops, mineral content, and alcohol.

This method hits every note. You're watering down the beer to reduce the off-flavor, but adding carbonation and more alcohol to give it body. Instead of only toning down your off-flavor, you're masking it with more hops and the oak-aged spirit. You effectively wind up with a beer that tastes like a fresh hop double IPA, aged in your favorite barrel.

I chose not to "fix" the whole keg, because maybe I might want to experiment as I go, so I'll likely just keep "mixing drinks" for the remainder of the keg. I can tell you, sober as I am this morning, that I have tried this method for the last two nights, and it is a solid, fun solution that removes the remorse that comes with having a disappointing batch, and feeling stuck with it, or worse yet, considering dumping. I took this beer from being almost undrinkable, to something I actually love. Had to share. I hope it helps someone.
 
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IslandLizard

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[EDIT - Rephrased] I'm not questioning your method of making a bad beer at least more drinkable and enjoyable. It sounds like a decent recovery method, but you're really diluting the beer character 30-50%.

What do you do with the rest of that 4 liter hop tea? That's going to oxidize as you're waiting to finish it over the next week or 2.

Are you sure it's "yeast" you're tasting, not oxidation? Or some other off flavor?

For a beer to sit on yeast for 5 weeks is really not all that long, definitely not long enough for autolysis to take place, you'd need to get past the 3 month range for that. Many high test beers take 5 weeks or longer to creep down to their FG, especially when bottling.

The need or even the choice of using secondaries has been debunked pretty much the past 5-8 years already. There's nothing they fix, while increasing risk of oxidation and infection. Leaving the beer in the first (and only) fermenter until packaging (on the yeast cake) has become quite the norm. Preventing air exposure, and the resulting oxidation, especially with hoppy beers, is today's hot topic.
 

IslandLizard

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reminds me of the one i fixed by dumping a pot of strong coffee in.....
Our club ended up with 55 gallons of a barrel aged 1.100 Old Ale that had turned sour. There were few takers, I took 3 kegs home and depending on my mood, mixed them with another, non-sour Old Ale or some other dark beer 30/70 - 70/30 in the glass. I really enjoyed that trip. I guess the other 40 gallons were dumped over time, as none of the members snobs who took some were sending out any positive vibes.

An afterthought, would have made a good liquor too.
 
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bradleypariah

bradleypariah

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Hey IslandLizard, I wanted to reply to each point you made, but I'm not trying to come off as combative. This is just intriguing conversation for me. Forgive the long-windedness. This is the stuff our home brew club yammers on about ad nauseum. If this just looks like a wall of text to you, and you want to skip it, I totally get it.

you're really diluting the beer character 30-50%.

Yes, sir.

What do you do with the rest of that 4 liter hop tea? That's going to oxidize as you're waiting to finish it over the next week or 2.

Drink it. I'm sure it will taste old and stale eventually, but if it does, it's just tea. I'll make more. For what it's worth, I already drank it all. Hop soda is a trending thing right now:








Are you sure it's "yeast" you're tasting, not oxidation? Or some other off flavor?

Well, it can't be oxidation; it was never exposed to oxygen. Perhaps I should clarify - this beer went straight from primary, closed-transferred under CO2 pressure, to the keg. I tasted the beer right out of the keg on day one, and it already had the smell and taste of yeast.

It's not infected. There were no pellicles or signs of any issues. No other typical "off flavors" to speak of.

For a beer to sit on yeast for 5 weeks is really not all that long, definitely not long enough for autolysis to take place, you'd need to get past the 3 month range for that. Many high test beers take 5 weeks or longer to creep down to their FG, especially when bottling.

Well, if a beer is actively fermenting and slowly dropping in gravity, I admit that you should not transfer it to a keg or secondary simply based on how much time has passed.

However, if a beer hits FG in a week, then has a Diacetyl rest for three days, then sits on the cake for a month longer beyond that, that's different, IMO. Beer sitting on anything (blackberries, blueberries, vanilla, coconut, mango, dead yeast, etc.) for a month will pick up on that flavor.

Food for thought: the Brulosophy Exbeeriment below actually backs up my experience. They only let half of a split batch sit in primary three weeks post fermentation, and the blind triangle test results came back significant:

https://brulosophy.com/2019/03/18/impact-of-extended-time-in-primary-fermentation-vessel-exbeeriment-results/

The need or even the choice of using secondaries has been debunked pretty much the past 5-8 years already. There's nothing they fix, while increasing risk of oxidation and infection. Leaving the beer in the first (and only) fermenter until packaging (on the yeast cake) has become quite the norm. Preventing air exposure, and the resulting oxidation, especially with hoppy beers, is today's hot topic.

It's this rhetoric that led me to leaving my beer in primary for five weeks in the first place, and here we are. I did it against my better judgement, and although the Brulosophy exbeeriment is only one more data point, in my mind, this issue is settled. It matters how long beer sits in primary.

I should point out, I normally don't do secondaries. I simply try to keg soon after my diacetyl rest is complete. When I don't have an available keg (which is rare), I'll transfer to secondary just so I don't have to stress about it.

Going along with this tangent, I think the point people mean to make about automatically taking the position against secondary, is that newbies might not have the right equipment or experience to be able to reap benefits from secondaries. For them the risk is too high. For me, not so much.

Since I only ferment in glass, I never use buckets, I have great sanitation processes, and I close-transfer under pressure with CO2, I receive nothing but benefit from secondary.

On the flip side of that, if I transferred to an old "secondary" plastic bucket with a dirty auto syphon, left a bunch of bubbles in the line, splashed around like a child in a kiddie pool, and left a bunch of head space, then yeah, I could see why transferring to secondary would be something you might tell someone to avoid.

We have this knee-jerk reaction to regurgitate the hype train against secondaries, because an inexperienced subset of our hobby culture ruins their batches of beer when they employ the technique. All the "Does this look infected?!" posts and what not. However, the argument against poor practice should not be conflated with techniques that have proven themselves to be effective, despite them being tricky to get right.

Anyhoo, yeah. Yeasty beer, diluted with fizzy hop water, then boozed back up with spirits tastes pretty good!
 
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