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Mo Betta Bretta Tastes Medicinal

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Janalon

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TL;DR My American Wild Ales brewed with Brett "A" in primary taste medicinal. I can reasonably rule out infection, and wonder if my problems stem from my approach to pitching.

Now here are the lengthy details. I've brewed 13 batches, ten of which use Wyeast Brett "A" or Brett-like "B". To narrow the scope of the problem down, I don't have issues with Brett "B" or Brett "A" in the secondary... only Brett "A" for primary fermentation. This leads me to the conclusion that I have issues with Brett "A" specifically, and not issues related to brewing at large (i.e. oxidation, sanitation, or infection).

The problem is easier to understand looking at my history of brewing Brett "A" beers: an extract Pizza Port "Mo Betta Bretta" (MBB) clone taken from Brew Your Own magazine (which I believe is similar to the Mad Fermentationists recipe). I typically brew MBB in between every other recipe because the price point is cheap at $36 for ingredients.

The problem manifested itself over five batches of MBB, spanning a time period of 18 mos. MBB Batch #1 had a yeast starter in a 1 gallon jug, shaken occasionally over a four day period. The air valve in the first 24 hours. I sanitized the outside of the carboy with spray and replaced the air valve. This batched tasted AMAZING!

I learned a great deal from my mistakes and upped my game for MBB Batch #2. The yeast starter was made in a one gallon carboy, shaken daily, with eight days to propagate. I added a blowoff tube to address the pressure built up in the first 48 hours of fermentation. This batch turned out just as good as the first.

MBB Batch #3 was made from East Coast Yeast pitched directly into the carboy (no starer). There was a period of complete inactivity for three days... and then the usual 48 hour period of violent fermentation. I made the mistake of keeping the blowoff tube rather than swapping out to an airlock. One of my kids knocked the tube out of the sanitizer solution... and the entire batch oxidized for an uncounted period of days. The batch tasted so much like band aid that I had to drain pour the entire contents following bottling and a patient period of aging.

I switched to the Mad Fermentationists "Sebastian God Damn" and created the yeast starter over eight days using a stir plate. There were no noted issues throughout the process... and the pre-bottled brew tasted very medicinal... but not as nearly as bad as MBB Batch #3; I was able to stomach through most of the five gallons because I couldn't bring myself to drain pour another five gallons. Not to mention my wife is a spend thrift, and was starting to get upset that my "funky beers" were producing less-than-desirable results. Not a beer drinker herself, she offered the sage idea that I start brewing regular ales.

MBB Batch #4 I was very, very careful around every step. I resorted to a two-stage yeast starter on a stir plate over an eight day period. All equipment was sanitized and sanitized again just to be careful. Like the other batches, this was brewed at a steady 65 degrees Fahrenheit with careful attention in exchanging the blow tube for the air lock. This batch tastes slightly medicinal once again!

For the record, I alternate my Mo Betta Bretta batches with other recipes and have never experienced the medicinal taste elsewhere. Although I am only a hobbyist, I strive to have consistent procedures from batch to batch. The Brett "B" Imperial Stout and Brett "B" IPA turned out just fine. The Saison with Brett "A" added to the secondary turned out just fine.

I am really scratching my head on this one. I can rule out infection. Outside of the ECY batch gone wrong, I can also rule out oxygenation. My reading leads me to believe that the medicinal flavor comes from phenols... but what is it about my approach to Brett "A" that is bringing this flavor to the forefront. Please help! I want to enjoy Mo Betta Bretta again!
 

TAK

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When I hear medicinal or bandaid, I immediately think chlorophenols.

Do you know if you have chlorine or chloramine in you brewing water? And I'll ask in another way, have you tested?

I got this off-flavor in my first Bretted batch. I researched a lot, and identified that chlorine or chloramine can be turned into chlorophenols that are often characterized as medicinal or bandaid. I got some test strips online that identify the presence of chlorine ("free" chlorine as itself, or "total" chlorine being free chlorine plus chloramine). My water doesn't have free chlorine, but it does have chloramine.

Campden tablets will breakdown chlorine/chloramine into other, non-worrisome compounds. Now I treat all my brewing water with campden, and this off-flavor has gone away.

It could be that the Brett A you're using is inclined to make chlorophenols more so than the Brett B your using. That could explain why you don't see it with all you're Bretted batches.
 
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Janalon

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Funny you should say that... there has been some issue with the city water lately. Essentially there are slightly unacceptable levels of iridium for the past year. The city attempted several methods of filtering without luck, and have applied for emergency funding to drill a new well. That being said, my wife has noticed a strong chlorine "scent" coming from the faucet, and has also complained of a chlorine taste in the water that comes and goes from time to time. Honestly, I never once thought to link the these events. I will need to give the Campden tablets a try and report back the results. I'm next brewing a Nugget Nectar clone for a friend, and will switch back to Mo Betta after that. I'll have to report back with the findings!!!
 
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Janalon

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On another note, my wife is a Chief Pool Operator. She's offered to bring home a chlorine testing kit. Do you know what levels would trigger the chlorophenols?
 

TAK

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When I test my water, it regularly comes up with no trace if free chlorine, but 0.5 ppm of total chlorine (i.e. that's the chloramine I was talking about). That's the lowest threshold on the strips I have.

I think that if a Brett strain (or any yeast strain for that matter) is going to produce chlorophenols, the it will do it with any presence of chlorine/chloramine. Perceptible thresholds, that's another story, and subjective to each individual.

By the way, most campden tablets will clean up 20 gal of water per 1 tablet. You can use a whole tablet for less than 20 gal, but here's a tip. I always crush up a tablet in a 1 qt measuring cup, then dilute to 1 qt. That allows me to measure out, say 1/2 a tablet for 10 gal of brewing water, e.g.
 
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Janalon

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OK. I tested my water with two different "pool testing" kits.

The first "drip" kit measured a pH of 7.2 and the Cl Br didn't appear to register.

The second "test strip" kit measured:
a hardness between 100 and 250 PPM,
Total Clorine (and Free Chlorine) between 0 and 0.5,
Total Bromine between 0 and 1,
pH between 7.2 and 7.8,
Total Alkilinity between 40 and 80 PPM,
and Cyanuric Acide between 0 and 30 PPM.

Do any of these numbers appear outside of the healthy range for tap water? Also note that I use a Pur attachment on my faucet that may or may not need to be replaced.
 

TAK

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I don't know enough about water chemistry to comment on most of that. I should, wish I did, but I don't. Hopefully someone else will shine in for you on you're overall water stars. In regards to the potential chlorophenols though, I'd say if there's 0.0-0.5 ppm total chlorine, then Brett can make phenolic compounds bonded to what's available. Above or below perceptive thresholds, I dunno, but I'd campden treat your water, and see if anything changes.
 
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