Sour beer? What happened?

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MissLeah26

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Hi all, I have a question about my first batch of beer (which explains why I'm posting to the beginner brewer forum... duh, Leah).

Anyway, I got a starter kit with the two buckets for fermenting and bottling for Christmas, and a Continental Light ingredient kit. I got it all started on Feb. 28, doing all the initial steps before putting it into the fermenting bucket according to the instructions in the kit. We bottled it (after cleaning out our recycled bottles with C-Brite [I think that's what it's called] and rinsing them well with water) on March 17, in honor of St. Patrick's Day. I was patient and anxious to drink it, which I finally got to do this past Tuesday, April 7.

I stuck a couple of beers in the fridge for a few hours before cracking them open and pouring them into pint glasses. It looked just fine, held a decent head, and smelled all right to me. Then, I took a sip and almost gagged. The beer tastes sour, like something went wrong with the hops in the kit or something. The only other thing I could think of was that it might have stayed in the fermenting bucket too long before bottling... does that have anything to do with it?

I'm trying to figure out what could have gone wrong with this batch before starting another one (I'm hoping to get a hefeweizen kit tomorrow) so I can learn from any mistakes I made. Any ideas?

Thanks for your help!
 

conpewter

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Hmm, I doubt it stayed in the bucket too long, I think you had it in primary the right amount of time (I rarely go shorter than 3 weeks).

It could be that the kit was old, but it shouldn't be that bad. I've had a sour beer before (my first one as well) and that was due to poor sanitation. After that I bought some Star-san sanitizer and cleaned everything well and made sure it was all sanitized.

Getting an infection (Bacteria that are bad for your beer, but won't hurt you) on your first batch doesn't happen often though. Are there any other descriptors you can think of besides sour that may help?

This page may help some. http://www.howtobrew.com/section4/chapter21-2.html
 

david_42

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Probably a lacto-bacteria infection. If they are all sour, it happened in the fermenter or while bottling.

Some people pay extra for sour beers, but I dislike them.
 

Yooper

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It definitely sounds like a lactobacillus infection. What did you use to sanitize all of the brewing gear and bottles with? I don't use C-brite, but if it's a no-rinse sanitizer, it shouldn't have been rinsed.

What kind of technique for cleaning and sanitizing did you use?
 

phatuna

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I looked up C-Bright and their website says something to the effect of it is actually a no-rinse sanitizer but due to some laws, they needed to package it as a "cleanser" and by law, they could not put "no-rinse" on the label because it is a cleanser...

Leah, I don't know enough about C-bright but you might consider buying a different sanitizer like Star-San on your next trip to the hb store.
 
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MissLeah26

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Hmm... it looks like I'll have to pick up a different sanitizer. Good thing I'm heading over to the shop this afternoon anyway, or I'd never remember to do it. Star-san seems to be pretty well-recommended, so I'll grab some of that.

The package of C-Brite *did* say to rinse well with potable water, so that's what we did. I had a brand-new 5-gallon bucket with the C-Brite and water mixture (mixed according to the package), submerged the bottle in the bucket, scrubbed out the inside with a bottle brush (included in my kit), then rinsed very well with water from my kitchen sink. I dried them inverted in recycled boxes so all the water drained out while they were drying.

@conpewter, sour is definitely the first word to come to mind... though vinagery and astringent sound like they might fit. Honestly, I was so disappointed by it that I tried not to taste it much after the first sip, which I now regret. Maybe I'll try it again tonight to see if it was just the bottle I drank or if it's the whole batch. :(
 

ChshreCat

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It's definitely possible for beer to get infected in the bottle, so it could be as little as one bottle that was bad. Keep checking them before you think about throwing out the batch.
 

LaurieGator

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Leah, when you run out of C-Brite, you can also use Oxyclean as a good cleaner (but not sterilizer). I got a tub of the perfume-free/dye free stuff at the grocery store (I also hear you can find the generic at a dollar store). I throw a scoop into a 6.5 gallon carboy after brewing and let it sit for a few hours. It really does a number on the dried krausen on the sides and cleans it out quite well. Oxyclean is also good for recycled beer bottles, soaking them in a tub or bucket will help remove the labels from the outside with no effort and the insides get really clean too!
 
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MissLeah26

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Great tip with the OxyClean! I was wondering if there was an easy way to remove all the labels... I'm assuming that I would sterilize the bottles afterwards with one of the sterilizers mentioned earlier, though, right?
 

LaurieGator

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I normally clean them then store the bottles until I am ready to use them. On bottling day, I go through my sanitizing routine when I am bottling the beer.

Everyone uses different methods for sanitizing. I am the kind that puts the whole kitten-kaboodle into StarSan and soak for 15 mins then take the bottles out, fill them and the hubby caps them up (with sanitized caps). Some people use dishwashers, some use bottle racks to dry them after the StarSan, some bake them in the oven. If you search, there are some good recent conversations about bottling and bottle sanitizing. Revvy has a great thread on bottling around here somewheres....
 

nasmeyer

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It definitely sounds like a lactobacillus infection. What did you use to sanitize all of the brewing gear and bottles with? I don't use C-brite, but if it's a no-rinse sanitizer, it shouldn't have been rinsed.

What kind of technique for cleaning and sanitizing did you use?
What do you mean by "it shouldn't be rinsed" I have used a no-rinse sanatizer and have rinsed the primary out with boiled and cooled water to rinse off any chemical residue, should what I am doing be OK if using boiled H2O?
 

llazy_llama

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What do you mean by "it shouldn't be rinsed" I have used a no-rinse sanatizer and have rinsed the primary out with boiled and cooled water to rinse off any chemical residue, should what I am doing be OK if using boiled H2O?
OK? Probably.

Ideal? Far from it.

They're called no-rinse sanitizers for a reason. I'd give you three guesses as to why they're called that, but I don't think you'd need the second two. Sanitize, dump, then rack as usual.
 

ChickenSoop

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My 2nd batch turned out sour, and in hindsite, I still cannot figure out what I did wrong. All new equipment. I double sanitize everything: sanitize after I'm done with items, then sanitize again when starting a new batch.

My 3rd and 4th batch are great. No sourness.

The only difference was that batch 2 was a kit supplied locally, while batches 3 and 4 were bought online from a different vendor and not kits.

It sure is disappointing, all that hard work and weeks of sitting patiently, only to get smacked with a mouthful of vinegar.

Keep trying. Don't clean your beer bottles in your fermenter. If your fermenter gets scratched, you have to throw it away.
 

SkewedBrewing

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If I'm reading this correctly, I can see a lot of different areas where an infection could have occurred.

The package of C-Brite *did* say to rinse well with potable water
No need to rinse with C-brite.

I had a brand-new 5-gallon bucket with the C-Brite and water mixture (mixed according to the package), submerged the bottle in the bucket, scrubbed out the inside with a bottle brush
Did you scrub with the brush after you put the bottles in the bucket or while they were in there?

I dried them inverted in recycled boxes so all the water drained out while they were drying.
Were the bottles coming into direct contact with the bottom of a cardboard box? If this is the case then the infection might have come from the box.
 

GuitarBob

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My 2nd batch turned out sour, and in hindsite, I still cannot figure out what I did wrong. All new equipment. I double sanitize everything: sanitize after I'm done with items, then sanitize again when starting a new batch.

My 3rd and 4th batch are great. No sourness.

The only difference was that batch 2 was a kit supplied locally, while batches 3 and 4 were bought online from a different vendor and not kits.

It sure is disappointing, all that hard work and weeks of sitting patiently, only to get smacked with a mouthful of vinegar.

Keep trying. Don't clean your beer bottles in your fermenter. If your fermenter gets scratched, you have to throw it away.

I also have a sour batch that has been sitting in bottles for the last 8 weeks that just doesn't seem to improve. It's a dry stout extract kit that I bought at local homebrew store. I first thought it was just acetylhyde and it would improve with age, but so far nothing.

How long did you let yours sit before dumping it?
 

WBC

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The biggest reasons for infections and off tastes are:

Lax sanitation and not keeping it cool:

  • Not using a sanitizer on everything including your hands.
  • Fermenting at room temperature above 62F or not keeping the fermentation in the lower end of the yeasts recommended range.
  • Not cleaning fermenters, bottles, tubing, fittings or kegs good enough and using sanitizer or using sanitizer but rinsing it off.


Bacteria thrive at or near 80F
 

Blender

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Does the Continental Lager kit use a fair amount of dextrose? My first beer was a Coopers kit and it included 2 pounds of dextrose to 3 pounds of the canned malt extract. Tasted terrible and I threw it out.
 

WBC

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Morebeer has kits that are a lot fresher as their products have a good turnover. They also have a nice selection.
 

ChickenSoop

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I also have a sour batch that has been sitting in bottles for the last 8 weeks that just doesn't seem to improve. It's a dry stout extract kit that I bought at local homebrew store. I first thought it was just acetylhyde and it would improve with age, but so far nothing.

How long did you let yours sit before dumping it?
I had it in the fermentor 2 weeks, 2 weeks in the carboy, aged it in the bottle for 6 weeks, then discovered it was sour. I dumped most of it, but now, at 10 weeks in the bottle, it is even more sour. I even put some in the bath tub and kept them warm at 75F for 6 hours - to see which way the sourness was headed. Rather than try a lab experiment, I am just dumping it to free up the bottles for something better. I don't want to wait 6 months to see if it gets better - just dump it and try again. Maybe others have more patience. My local home brew store taste tested it and said it was infected.

If you have the room, space, time and bottles, check it in 4 weeks. If more sour, from what I understand, there will never be improvement. But I am a newbie at this so I might be wrong.

I'll never buy a kit again, you have little control over what is happening and you don't understand why it tastes the way it does.

I find it neat, to cook up your own recipe, and then try to pick out the tastes of the components, figure out how they intermingle.
 
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MissLeah26

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Thanks for the tips, everyone. I guess my sanitation methods weren't quite up to par, but I'm claiming lack of experience in that one rather than laziness-- I really did try!

@skewedale: I've come to the realization now that C-Brite's packaging is misleading, but, again, it was my first batch, so you can bet I was going to follow the directions 100%. Learned my lesson the hard way :)

I might give it another shot tonight, just to see if it's gotten any better. I got a sanitation kit with Star-San and PBW in it, so I'm going to try that out for the next batch.

I have to say, I'm really dismayed with the contradictory instructions on C-Brite. It seems to me that the rinse/no-rinse instruction is kind of wicked important, and I'm pretty sure that was the downfall of the batch. :(
 

GuitarBob

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I had it in the fermentor 2 weeks, 2 weeks in the carboy, aged it in the bottle for 6 weeks, then discovered it was sour. I dumped most of it, but now, at 10 weeks in the bottle, it is even more sour. I even put some in the bath tub and kept them warm at 75F for 6 hours - to see which way the sourness was headed. Rather than try a lab experiment, I am just dumping it to free up the bottles for something better. I don't want to wait 6 months to see if it gets better - just dump it and try again. Maybe others have more patience. My local home brew store taste tested it and said it was infected.

If you have the room, space, time and bottles, check it in 4 weeks. If more sour, from what I understand, there will never be improvement. But I am a newbie at this so I might be wrong.

I'll never buy a kit again, you have little control over what is happening and you don't understand why it tastes the way it does.

I find it neat, to cook up your own recipe, and then try to pick out the tastes of the components, figure out how they intermingle.

I just hate throwing out 5 gallons of beer, and wish I knew exactly what want wrong. The only mistake I can think of is that I just bottled way too soon. I only had it in primary for 2 weeks and that was at 60F. Still I imagine there should have been some improvement by now.

I've already moved away from kits, and now I've started doing some all-grain recipes I found on this website. I'll defintely be letting those sit in primary longer then I did for the dry stout.
 

SkewedBrewing

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I wouldn't sweat it too much, Leah, its all part of the experience of homebrewing.

PS, I liked the Twitter style quoting there.

Now that you've got some Star San and HBT I think you'll find that your brewing will change immensely. :mug:
 
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MissLeah26

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True, I was just so excited and told like everyone I know about it, so now I have to tell them (when they ask, of course-- there's no way I'd be like "oh, hey, my beer came out crappy!" haha) that something went wrong and it's not really drinkable.

haha I find it's easier to figure out who you're talking to... plus I'm a huge Twitter fan. I even won a t-shirt (on Twitter, of course) that says "I'm kind of a big deal (on Twitter)"
 

carnevoodoo

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I just hate throwing out 5 gallons of beer, and wish I knew exactly what want wrong. The only mistake I can think of is that I just bottled way too soon. I only had it in primary for 2 weeks and that was at 60F. Still I imagine there should have been some improvement by now.

I've already moved away from kits, and now I've started doing some all-grain recipes I found on this website. I'll defintely be letting those sit in primary longer then I did for the dry stout.
Your beer not being ready to bottle would not cause it to go sour. Do you use a hydrometer to make sure your yeast has finished? That's really the only way you'll know. And if your beer was not finished in the fermenter it might be sulphury and your bottles might explode, but you won't get sourness from it.

I think everyone's estimate on an aceto infection are probably right on. With some air and some time, I'll bet you could turn a few bottles into vinegar.
 
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MissLeah26

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I'm now just about 100% positive it was a bottle sanitation issue-- my uncle gave me a call and said his beer was fantastic, so now I know it was just the bottle and not the beer itself. Whew! Now it's just going to be a surprise in each bottle :p
 
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