Troubleshooting Bad Brown Ale

Discussion in 'Recipes for Feedback' started by surfmase, Jan 31, 2015.

  1. surfmase

    surfmase Member

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    Hello folks,

    I just had the first tastes of my latest beer, english brown ale, and its pretty disappointing. Heres the recipe:

    4 Kg Pale Ale
    0.5 Kg Caramunch II
    0.25 Kg Caraaroma
    0.25 Kg Caraamber
    0.25 Kg Special W Weiermanns
    0.25 Kg Flaked Oats

    Mashed with 16 liter for 45 min from 68C to 66C. Tried to mash out by adding 4.5 liter 90C water, rested 10 min and the temp after the 10 min was only 66C.

    Batch sparged with 10 liter at 80 C

    60 min boil with 20g 6.4% Goldings and 1 tablespoon irish moss boiled 60 min and another 10g 6.4% Goldings boiled 15 min.

    WYeast 1084 Irish Ale pitched at 25C and fermented for 2 weeks primary at 15C. Bottled and placed at 25C for 2 weeks.

    14.5 Plato OG, 5.2 Plato FG Brewhouse efficiency was my 68% on this one. Average is 65%.

    I had been blaming alkalinity in the water for previous harsh flavors, so this time I pre-boiled and decanted the water. Added 0.5 tsp CaSO4 and 1mL CaCl 33% to water. Harsh bitterness is absolutely not a problem with this one. The beer has almost no bitterness and tastes flat alot like the sweet wort does after extraction. When pouring it makes a good head and it has constantly small bubbles coming out of solution, but it tastes flat. When the beer is turbulent entering the mouth it tastes true to its style, but after a short moment in the mouth it takes on a strong (what I consider) oxidized flavor, and the aftertaste stays the same. What did I do wrong?

    Thanks for your thoughts.
     
  2. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    Hard to diagnose at a distance but here's the order to look:

    - Sanitation. Yes it can affect flavors in the way you're talking about.
    - Fermentation management. Constant temperature, proper pitch, oxygenation all make for happy yeast and good beer.
    - Sanitation. Yes, it deserves a second mention.

    Water chemistry is in there but way down the list.
     
  3. surfmase

    surfmase Member

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    Fair enough. I had always considered myself pedantic when it comes to sanitation, but there is always room for improvement. I'll keep that in mind.

    As far as fermentation, it was pitched at 25C and kept there for a few hours before moving to the cellar where temps were a rather constant 17-15C. For aeration, I always pour the entire contents of the brew kettle into the fermenting bucket causing a vigorous splashing and foaming, I assume this is enough since fermentation always appears good and strong.

    Nothing about the recipe or process stands out as "wrong"?

    I will just hope that it improves with time, and clean and sanitize a bit better next time.

    Thanks
     
  4. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    Nothing stands out with the recipe. The biggest contributors to beer flavor are sanitation, the yeast selection and fermentation management. Case in point: I recently did a split batch of Pilsner, half fermented with American Lager and half with Urquell yeast. You can't tell they're the same beers, even though the fermentation was identical down to the last 20 minutes of processing (bottling). I don't use the Irish Ale yeast often so I'm not too familiar with its fermentation characteristics. Pitching at 25C is pretty warm - general recommendation is to pitch slightly cooler than fermentation temps and let the beer warm rather than the other way. Fermentation temp looks good. I'm not familiar with several of the malts you mentioned but the flavors you describe don't seem to be grist problems, rather fermentation issues. Guesses: Underpitched. Your wort was an OG of about 1.072 (sorry, don't use Plato). That's big enough you need a starter which you didn't mention. Underoxygenated. The method you mention would yield about 4 ppm, yeast like at least 10. No mention of mash pH so I'm assuming the water modifications were guesses, although I would imagine the chloride would take care of the harshness in the beer. The oxidized flavor is interesting to me: Could be introduction of oxygen at packaging or handling or could you be mistaking some other off flavor for it? Brett comes to mind, although "wet cardboard", the common description of oxidized flavor, doesn't come to mind. I think you have the right idea, let it sit for a while and see if it improves. Recipe is generally one of the first places people go when a beer goes wrong when it's likely far down the list of places to troubleshoot. Given the problems you reported with this beer, I'd look to fermentation first, then process, then grist, then finally water.
     
  5. surfmase

    surfmase Member

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    Thanks for taking the time to go through all of the points like you did Nosybear.

    Its been another 3 weeks in the bottles and I've tried a few more. The flavor has improved somewhat but something is still off. I still get the notion of oxidized. When I imagine oxidized, old brown apple is what comes to mind. I have never tasted cardboard, but I imagine dry and flavorless, wet cardboard is pretty hard for me to imagine. Maybe I just need to taste it once to find out. I'm not sure what Brett tastes like either. Something else to find out. With this beer I also get a sense of drinking a flat pabst blue ribbon from an aluminum can. I think it is too sweet, too flat feeling in the mouth, and too "something" oxidized or even slightly band-aidy. In any case, it's not terrible, but it's bothering me. I'll give it to some others and see what they say.

    The chemical additions were based on the calculator using the grain bill and aiming for balanced II and 5.2 Ph. I didn't measure it during the mash so I don't know if it worked.

    I used the XL package which boasts 100 Billion yeast cells. I honestly don't know what a starter is, but I will read up on this soon; as well as other methods of oxygenating. On bottling day after I sanitize I stand the bottles back up. Then before filling, I tip the bottle for a few long seconds to empty what no-rinse sanitizer that I can. Should I get one of those trees to let them drip dry completely? Before bottling, I open the fermenter lid and take a spindle reading, then lay the lid back on top while bottling. Is this too much exposure to oxygen?

    Something I did notice in the mean time is that my thermometer is broken. I can turn the entire background scale and thus make it read anything. I discovered this at the end of my last brew when the thermometer was reading 10 C higher than the true temp. Of course I can't say when this happened, but perhaps this would explain something?

    Thanks again.
     
  6. Smash café

    Smash café New Member

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    Please someone correct me if I am wrong as I am a noobie, but I thought temps over 75°C would draw out tannins from the grain.
     
  7. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    Smash, if you're referring to sparge temps, you're at risk of extracting tannins from the husk at 175°. I generally keep my sparge temps to 170° and acidify my sparge water to 5.4 pH to avoid this problem. If you're talking about the pitch temp of 25°C I mentioned (around 75°F), the problems that can cause are excessive esters (fruityness) and fusel alcohols (heat, spice, boozy flavor).
     
  8. Smash café

    Smash café New Member

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    I was refering to the high temp the original poster had mashed out, and sparged at.

    *Quote*
    Tried to mash out by adding 4.5 liter 90C (194F) water, rested 10 min and the temp after the 10 min was only 66C. Batch sparged with 10 liter at 80C(176F)
    *End of quote*

    John Palmer sugests not mashing at over 170F (76.66C) I think I had read 75C somewhere else.
    http://www.howtobrew.com/section3/chapter17.html

    I thought when reading the original post that the poster had sparged at too high a temp and maybe the tannins were responsible for the off flavours discribed?
     
  9. UgliestLemming

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    That's correct, but I believe that he was just trying to raise the temps existing in the mash. So adding the 90 C water only raised the overall temp to 66 C. Again, the batch sparge raised temps, but probably not above the temp required to extract tannins.
     
  10. Ozarks Mountain Brew

    Staff Member

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    one thing to note that the temperature and ph isn't as important in a 10 minute quick sparge, but a slow sparge with the sparge water soaking into the grain needs a specific temperature and ph.
    example: if you have 152 gain and you pour 170 water over the top and drain fast, it isn't going to heat up the gain to 170 and really doesn't do anything different than room temp water since your just washing sugar off the outside
     
  11. surfmase

    surfmase Member

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    Hello folks,

    I checked the protocol from brew day just to clarify. At mashout I added 4.5L at 90C, stirred and rested for 10 min, then lautered. This apparently had little influence on the overall temp. To sparge I added 10L at 80C, stirred and rested for 10 min, then lautered. This resulted in 70C outgoing wort, which was 4C increase in overall temp.

    To update, the beer is actually getting better with age. Still not a great beer. I have since then informed myself about yeast starters and started brainstorming on fermentation temperature control. My basement will hold a pretty steady temperature over a long enough time, but depending on the season this may be too cold or too warm... I dont know yet if I want to hack a fridge, but this may be the easiest option. Anyone made their own version of the more beer jacketed, controlled conical fermenter?
     
  12. Denbo

    Denbo New Member

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    Your OG= 14.5 and FG= 5.2 correct? If so that would be like 7% ABV. Sounds like you aftertaste is an alcohol bite.
     

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