what went wrong?

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stageseven

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A couple weeks ago a friend and I tried to make our first gruit, and after taking a gravity sample I'm pretty sure there's something wrong with it. The fermenter smells strongly of sulfur, and the sample tasted super bitter, and bile-like. We're not exactly sure what went wrong, but we have some theories. First, this was our first all-grain brew, and not knowing our system very well, we ended up with more liquid in the pot than we wanted after an hour boil. We ended up boiling for closer to 2 hours. The only bittering agent in the boil for that time was a half ounce of wormwood, but one of our thoughts was that wormwood doesn't act the same way that hops do with only a limited amount of bitterness potential in a boil. Another thought was that the beer is still really cloudy and obviously not finished fermenting yet (it's gravity is currently 1.016 with an OG of 1.072), and since we've never used Brett before I thought it might affect the flavor being in suspension more than yeast does. My third idea was that maybe the recipe just isn't very good. Here it is:

7 lbs 2-row
4 lbs Pilsner malt
8 oz 30L
8 oz Wheat malt
1.5 lbs Dememera Sugar
8 oz clover honey

.5 oz Wormwood @ 60 minutes (actually ended up being more like 100)
.05 oz Chamomile @ 0 minutes
.25 oz Wormwood @ 0 minutes
1 oz Elderflowers @ 0 minutes
1.5 oz rose hips @ 0 minutes
1 gram Sweet Gale @ 0 minutes

Pitched 1 package each of WLP565 Saison I Ale and Brettanomyces lambicus.

What do you guys think. Bad recipe? Infection? Still needs conditioning? With how terrible this tasted combined with the fact that there are no hops acting as a preservative, I don't have a lot of hope for this batch. Is it a dumper?
 

hoppymonkey

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Have you ever used wormwood before? Are you sure its not just a combo of that, brett, and alcohol burn?
 
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stageseven

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No, we've never used wormwood before. It's possible it's a combination of those factors. We were guessing a little bit on the amount to use, which I got mostly from a website with gruit recipes that said a half ounce for 60 minutes would be standard. The taste really isn't at all like anything I would expect from a brett culture though. It was very similar to the taste you get in the back of your mouth after you've thrown up, but way way stronger.
 

cheezydemon3

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First AG and you did......gruit.......;)

:mug:

My first AG I did a lager. I thought that was gutsy.

Seriously, though, why do something crazy for the first AG? You have no idea what went wrong, because you created SOOOO many variables.

Baby steps my friend. Baby steps.
 
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stageseven

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Admittedly, it may have been a bit ambitious. Still, the all-grain portion of it didn't go badly other than the boil-off rate. We hit our gravity almost right on the nose.

I forgot to mention that our fermentation temperature was around 68 degrees for the first 2 weeks, and we warmed it up into the upper 70s for a few days after an initial gravity reading of 1.024.
 

jebsterr

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My local homebrew shop made a pale with wormwood as the bittering agent. It is amazingly bitter, almost like bile. I would say it was the wormwood that is causing the extreme bitterness.
 

Heimholder

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Can't give you any specific advice for that crazy brew, but I can tell you about the first time I did a strong IPA (~11% ABV). I tasted a hydro sample and thought it was ruined - tasted like bad stale whiskey or something. It was close to my FG but was so nasty I damn near pitched it. But I had some 1L poptops around so I let it set another couple weeks, then bottled into those figuring I'd minimize wasted work if it was ruined. Lo and behold, I chilled a bottle and it was great. Near as I can figure, it was a combination of high alcohol, still green beer, and who knows what compounds that needed to mellow out. Hope yours is ok - sucks to waste all that work & $$.
 
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stageseven

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My local homebrew shop made a pale with wormwood as the bittering agent. It is amazingly bitter, almost like bile. I would say it was the wormwood that is causing the extreme bitterness.
That pretty much confirms the theory for me. Doe anyone know if wormwood bitterness subsides with age? Otherwise I guess my only options are to write off this batch, or make another beer that's very lightly hopped to blend it with and cut the bitterness down.
 

cheezydemon3

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Wormwood eh?

I am so acclamated to bitterness that SNPA is a mild caramel ale with no detectable bitterness to me.

Maybe a little wormwood in the mix could satisfy the beast within.
 

rhoadsrage

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You do have an infection. But you added the Brett yourself so it was a purposeful infection. Have you ever had Absinthe? It is bitter as all get out, so I would assume that is what you are using. I hope you used fresh or dried wormwood in the brew because wormwood oils or extract are wicked bitter.

You probably won't see much Brett character right away unless you pitched it a few days before you pitched the yeast. It will grow the sourness as it sits for a few months.
 

LexusChris

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Definitely age it. That usually takes some of the harsh edge off herb & spice flavors.

When I use Wormwood, I like to combine it with Sweet Gale in a malty heavy beer, like a scotch ale. The intense bitterness gains some balance from the malty/sweet. Using Wormwood in a lighter beer will just overpower it.

Perhaps you could brew up a malty beer, and then blend when serving. At the very least, it will give you a better idea of spice proportions for your next gruit batch. :D

Good Luck!
--LexusChris
 
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