Author Topic: VERY odd flavor - would love help isolating the instigator  (Read 1960 times)

Offline pikelakehomebrew

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VERY odd flavor - would love help isolating the instigator
« on: March 15, 2012, 08:40:00 AM »
So about a month ago I brewed up a variation on Northern Brewer's black Cascadian IPA but with a few substitutions based on what I had readily available in my grain bin, hop chest, and the yeast packs in my fridge.  Given that I was unfamiliar with the recipe (and the style) I brewed up a small one-gallon batch so that if it sucked bad I wouldn't feel bad about dumping it.

Now I must admit that I've never tried some of the commercial black IPA's out there (and I'm sure they're as diverse as the opinions about black/cascadian IPA's), so I really don't have a baseline of what they should taste like.  But when I sampled a bottle of the finished product, it was VERY odd.  I'm not even sure how to describe the flavor — it was medicinal, licorice-alcohol, and just nothing that reminded me of an IPA (black or not).  There seemed to be a lot of off flavors, but no hallmark flavors like buttery, butterscotch, etc.

So here's the recipe/mash/boil specs:

Quote
Yield: one gallon (test batch) - BIAB
IBU’s: 77, Color: 31°L,
Pre-boil: 1.050, OG: 1.062, FG: 1.016, ABV: 6.03%
[My actual OG: 1.076 / 18.4 BRIX]

2.3 lbs 2-row
.1 lbs crystal 80°L
.08 lbs simpsons chocolate
.08 lbs 2-row special black (500°L)

.4 oz Cascade (60 min)
.2 oz Chinook (15 min)
.2 oz Centennial (10 min)
.2 oz Cascade (5 min)
.4 oz Centennial (0 min)
.2 oz Cascade DRY HOP

Yeast: I used Safale S-04 but next time will try 1056 American Ale instead.

Mash instructions:
Sacc rest at 152°F for 75 minutes (3.8 qt water at 167°F)
Sparge with 3.3 qt of 180°F water over two minutes)

In actuality, I rested between 145°F and 152°F, so had more beta conversions than alpha.

Now I know that apart from actually providing everyone a sample, actually troubleshooting my brew will be quite difficult.  But I guess I wanted to ask the greater community to at least look at the recipe and see if there's anything about it that might produce some weird flavors.

I'm a clean/sanitizing freak and make sure that all my gear is clean and sanitized, so I'm pretty confident it's not a contamination issue.  Fermentation also appeared quite healthy, but offhand can't recall how much of the yeast I pitched (certainly not the whole pack) for this batch.

I don't know. It tasted really weird and maybe even phenolic — like alcohol-infused licorice bandaids.  It was just odd. 
pikelakehomebrew.com
On tap: Oktoberfest, Belgian Dubbel, Peach Blonde Ale, Surly Furious clone

Online morticaixavier

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Re: VERY odd flavor - would love help isolating the instigator
« Reply #1 on: March 15, 2012, 08:46:48 AM »
The plasticy bandaidy say's chlorine/chloramine to me although there are infections that could cause it as well. What kind of water did you use?

The licorice/alcohol says fermentation temp to me. What was the temp during the first 3-4 days of fermentation? actually the licorice might be a result of the dark malts and crystal combined with slightly higher than normal esters from a high ferm temp.
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Offline pikelakehomebrew

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Re: VERY odd flavor - would love help isolating the instigator
« Reply #2 on: March 15, 2012, 08:55:38 AM »
The plasticy bandaidy say's chlorine/chloramine to me although there are infections that could cause it as well. What kind of water did you use?

The licorice/alcohol says fermentation temp to me. What was the temp during the first 3-4 days of fermentation? actually the licorice might be a result of the dark malts and crystal combined with slightly higher than normal esters from a high ferm temp.

The water is your run-of-the-mill suburban water, the pH around 6.0 — and though I should have, I didn't put in any additives to bring the pH down.  And the fermentation temperature was around 65°F — the ambient temperature of my beer work room is about 62°F, so unlikely it ever exceeded 68°F.

And while I normally force-carb my beers and then bottle, I racked carefully to my smaller bottling bucket, bottled and primed them with the bottling sugar tablets.

I read somewhere that English strains of yeast can cause some phenol flavors — maybe the Saf-04 along with the combination of grains that I'm using?
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On tap: Oktoberfest, Belgian Dubbel, Peach Blonde Ale, Surly Furious clone

Offline hokerer

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Re: VERY odd flavor - would love help isolating the instigator
« Reply #3 on: March 15, 2012, 09:00:17 AM »
The water is your run-of-the-mill suburban water, the pH around 6.0 — and though I should have, I didn't put in any additives to bring the pH down.

If you're not doing anything to your water to get rid of chlorine/chloramine, like mort said, that could be the source of your medicinal off flavors.
Joe

Offline dmtaylor

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Re: VERY odd flavor - would love help isolating the instigator
« Reply #4 on: March 15, 2012, 09:37:26 AM »
My guess is either chlorophenol (caused by chlorinated water) or bacterial infection (sorry if it is).  Neither one is curable after fermentation.  Both can be prevented by use of Campden (kills chlorine) and improved sanitation practices.  Might also need to replace all plastic and rubber components in contact with your fermenting beer if you had any contamination, as the bacteria don't die easily once they've become established.  For your sake, I hope it's just chlorine, which is very easily preventable.  Add 1/8 Campden tablet to your brewing water and the chlorine is gone, instantly.
Dave

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Offline bluesman

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Re: VERY odd flavor - would love help isolating the instigator
« Reply #5 on: March 15, 2012, 09:40:14 AM »
+1 to Dave's response.

There are a few ways to remove chlorine and chloramine from your tap water. The best way is to use an activated charcoal filter. Adding some campden tablets will also work, and the third way is to let the water sit out for 24 hrs prior which will allow most of the chlorine to come out but that won't allow all of the chloramine to escape. It takes up to a week for all chloramine to evaporate.
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Offline bo

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Re: VERY odd flavor - would love help isolating the instigator
« Reply #6 on: March 15, 2012, 09:42:14 AM »
I chased an odd flavor with a couple of batches, so I started filtering and adding campden. The problem has never reappeared.

Online morticaixavier

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Re: VERY odd flavor - would love help isolating the instigator
« Reply #7 on: March 15, 2012, 09:52:27 AM »
The other cause of this problem that I have heard about is using a normal garden hose for filling your kettle ect. even if the water is good, it's trip through the hose can give it a nasty plastic note.
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Offline jmcamerlengo

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Re: VERY odd flavor - would love help isolating the instigator
« Reply #8 on: March 15, 2012, 10:47:06 AM »
The other cause of this problem that I have heard about is using a normal garden hose for filling your kettle ect. even if the water is good, it's trip through the hose can give it a nasty plastic note.

I can +1 to that in my early brewing days. ewwww
Jason
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Offline pikelakehomebrew

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Re: VERY odd flavor - would love help isolating the instigator
« Reply #9 on: March 15, 2012, 11:10:52 AM »
All good thoughts and will certainly try the campden.

My water comes directly from the sink — we do have a water softener so that probably plays a small roll in it too.  But I can't say that any plastic will be a contributing factor.  After chilling in the pot with my copper immersion chiller, it's poured right into my glass carboy.  I suppose I could try replacing the funnel as one additional step.

The thing is, no other beer that I've brewed since (and I've brewed a few) have had that same quality.  I dunno.  I'll replace my funnel, try the campden additive and keep up with my rigid cleaning and sanitizing schedule — but beyond that I thought I'd see if I had a bad choice in ingredients.  But since no one peeped up about my choice in Saf-04 (probably won't use that again) or whatnot, I'll go through and try the aforementioned suggestions.

Thanks all!  I appreciate your input and feedback. :D
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Re: VERY odd flavor - would love help isolating the instigator
« Reply #10 on: March 15, 2012, 11:12:33 AM »
I have not used the 04 but yeast could certainly contribute esters (licorice) and phenols (plastic) particularly if not treated well. but it sounds like you treated them okay so I don't know.
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Offline denny

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Re: VERY odd flavor - would love help isolating the instigator
« Reply #11 on: March 15, 2012, 11:15:01 AM »
we do have a water softener so that probably plays a small roll in it too

It's generally not recommended to use water from a water softener.  The ion exchange can add large amounts of sodium that can affect the flavor of your beer.
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Offline pikelakehomebrew

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Re: VERY odd flavor - would love help isolating the instigator
« Reply #12 on: March 15, 2012, 11:28:40 AM »
we do have a water softener so that probably plays a small roll in it too

It's generally not recommended to use water from a water softener.  The ion exchange can add large amounts of sodium that can affect the flavor of your beer.

Well, and to be fair, I'm also notoriously lazy at filling our water softener — so more likely than not it was empty.   :o
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Offline repo

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Re: VERY odd flavor - would love help isolating the instigator
« Reply #13 on: March 15, 2012, 11:31:20 AM »
Did you have your dark grains in the mash? Black IPA is tricky getting the color without an unwelcome clash in the flavors.

Offline pikelakehomebrew

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Re: VERY odd flavor - would love help isolating the instigator
« Reply #14 on: March 15, 2012, 12:11:16 PM »
Did you have your dark grains in the mash? Black IPA is tricky getting the color without an unwelcome clash in the flavors.

Yep.  I've mashed black patent with the rest of my grains before and can't say I've noticed any weird flavors before — but there's a first for everything!  I brewed up a variation on Basic Brewing Radio's "zombie apocalypse" brew that they did (a pseudo "Black" Belgian) and I didn't really notice any competing flavors.  Granted, it was a Belgian yeast strand and would obviously present a different flavor profile.

I think I'll have to try this again, with the campden tablets, a different yeast strand, and the replaced funnel and see if that changes anything.

The irony is that I brewed this as a "confidence builder" after a terrible brew day the day prior, where I was trying to concoct an all-grain, gluten-free beer that ended up looking like this mass of pea-green oatmeal mess.  To only add to the irony, after a little aging and settling out, the gluten-free beer tastes remarkably good (for no real malt profile) and the black IPA...not so much.
pikelakehomebrew.com
On tap: Oktoberfest, Belgian Dubbel, Peach Blonde Ale, Surly Furious clone