Author Topic: evaluating dark beers  (Read 802 times)

Offline homoeccentricus

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evaluating dark beers
« on: December 22, 2015, 11:50:54 AM »
We have a new brew group in my hometown and had our first tasting evening yesterday. There were quite a few mediocre beers of the dark inclination to be tasted, and I was shocked by the fact that I was totally unable to describe what the problems were. I went over the list of off-flavors, and could not really detect anything jumping out.  Like off-flavors blended together... What I think most of these beers had in common was some unpleasant, rather harsh bitterness especially when tasting the beers retronasally.  They all seem to have something in common - certainly an absence of crispness or freshness, but to describe what actually is wrong with them and to make suggestions as how to improve them was beyond me...

Any ideas? What these beers have in common is that they use our local tapwater, but with 185 ppm bicarbonates and nothing else really wrong with it, it's not the worst water in the world, especially for brewing dark  beers. Or is it?
Frank P.

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Offline PORTERHAUS

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Re: evaluating dark beers
« Reply #1 on: December 22, 2015, 12:25:46 PM »
Well the high Alkalinity/Bicarbonate might work well for the mash in a dark beer but if there was no adjustment or treatment of the sparge water there could still be some issues from that...possibly.

Maybe the beers are finishing with high ph leading to dull malt flavors and lack of crispness/freshness. The harsh bitterness sounds like a high boil ph. Which as mentioned could all stem from problems sparging.

Offline dmtaylor

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Re: evaluating dark beers
« Reply #2 on: December 22, 2015, 12:27:19 PM »
Could be the water.  Do you have a full water report?  Is the water chlorinated and treated to get rid of chlorine??

Could it be that everyone is using the same or similar poorly crafted malts or recipes?  Like too much black patent?  Can you share any recipes?

Could it be that the beers you tasted were just fine but you personally were just not in the mood for dark beers last night?
Dave

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Offline homoeccentricus

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Re: evaluating dark beers
« Reply #3 on: December 22, 2015, 01:15:20 PM »
Calcium     Magnesium     Sodium     Sulfate     Chloride     Bicarbonate
63             7.1                 33            52           46             181.78


Cl - not sure, but legal maximum is 0.25 mg/l, and I'm sure in practice it's lower. The water is quite drinkable as such.
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Offline homoeccentricus

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Re: evaluating dark beers
« Reply #4 on: December 22, 2015, 01:21:53 PM »
Could it be that everyone is using the same or similar poorly crafted malts or recipes?  Like too much black patent?  Can you share any recipes?

I don't have the recipes and I'm sure some of them are mediocre, as are some of the brewing methods. My issue right now is to  be able to describe all that is wrong with the beers themselves. But I never got much further than thinking "bleh".

And I was under the impression that our tap water would be good enough for dark beers.
Frank P.

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Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: evaluating dark beers
« Reply #5 on: December 22, 2015, 01:40:26 PM »
pH is huge for dark beers. Dark beers mashed at a lower pH are often harsh and acrid, leading a lot of brewers to decide they don't like/want to brew them. But mash the beer at 5.5-5.6 pH and it becomes a different beer, with much softer and rounder roast character. Not saying there aren't other possible issues. Just something to keep in mind.
Jon H.

Offline mabrungard

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Re: evaluating dark beers
« Reply #6 on: December 22, 2015, 01:43:29 PM »
Calcium     Magnesium     Sodium     Sulfate     Chloride     Bicarbonate
63             7.1                 33            52           46             181.78


Cl - not sure, but legal maximum is 0.25 mg/l, and I'm sure in practice it's lower. The water is quite drinkable as such.

I've not seen a legal maximum for chlorine that low. The more typical requirement for potable water is for a disinfectant residual to be below 2 or 3 mg/l. That is a protective measure for the water in the distribution piping. It does degrade in time and you want the disinfectant to reach all areas of the system with enough killing power.

If the brewers aren't taking measures to remove even that low disinfectant content, there is a very good chance that chlorophenols are being produced in perceptable levels. Chlorophenols ruin beer at far lower concentration than the original disinfectant.

As already mentioned, the bicarb level MIGHT be low enough to work in some dark mashes. But that water would reek havoc on the overall wort pH if it is used as-is for sparging. The bicarb content must be neutralized to a much lower level to avoid raising the mash pH and leaching tannins and silicates.

Employ campden tablets or carbon filtration and properly acidify mashing and sparging water to meet the requirements of each brew.
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Offline homoeccentricus

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Re: evaluating dark beers
« Reply #7 on: December 22, 2015, 01:44:24 PM »
[EDIT: crossed with Martin's post]

pH is huge for dark beers. Dark beers mashed at a lower pH are often harsh and acrid, leading a lot of brewers to decide they don't like/want to brew them. But mash the beer at 5.5-5.6 pH and it becomes a different beer, with much softer and rounder roast character. Not saying there aren't other possible issues. Just something to keep in mind.

Yes but if you don't treat your water at all (which I'm pretty sure they don't) and you have 181.78 ppm bicarbonates, is it still possible that your pH is too low?

I myself don't brew with tap water and use Bru'nwater. I'm planning to brew a London porter soon, so we'll see...
« Last Edit: December 22, 2015, 01:48:30 PM by homoeccentricus »
Frank P.

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Offline homoeccentricus

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Re: evaluating dark beers
« Reply #8 on: December 22, 2015, 01:47:31 PM »
The bicarb content must be neutralized to a much lower level to avoid raising the mash pH and leaching tannins and silicates.

Aha, tannins, that may be one of things I've tasted. Good point.
Frank P.

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Offline factory

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Re: evaluating dark beers
« Reply #9 on: December 22, 2015, 01:57:14 PM »
pH is huge for dark beers. Dark beers mashed at a lower pH are often harsh and acrid, leading a lot of brewers to decide they don't like/want to brew them. But mash the beer at 5.5-5.6 pH and it becomes a different beer, with much softer and rounder roast character. Not saying there aren't other possible issues. Just something to keep in mind.

I just brewed an American Stout and decided to adjust the pH at 5.6 after reading that a higher pH for a darker beer would have a rounder/more smooth malt character.  I had previously targeted 5.4 with this recipe.  It definitely made the final product less harsh.

Offline unclebrazzie

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Re: evaluating dark beers
« Reply #10 on: December 23, 2015, 11:55:33 AM »
Just to have everything out in the open: did my beer also present the offending flavours?

I brewed (what was intended as) an accessible chocolate porter, with no water adjustments and 6% chocolate malt, 11% weyermann rauch malt and roughly 5% cara/crystals.
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Offline dmtaylor

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Re: evaluating dark beers
« Reply #11 on: December 23, 2015, 12:07:24 PM »
I must say it again...... look into chlorine, and chlorophenol.  Campden is your friend with otherwise untreated tapwater.
Dave

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Offline homoeccentricus

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Re: evaluating dark beers
« Reply #12 on: December 23, 2015, 12:45:25 PM »
I must say it again...... look into chlorine, and chlorophenol.  Campden is your friend with otherwise untreated tapwater.
The problem is that we couldn't discern any band aid flavor. How else can we recognize it?

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Offline homoeccentricus

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Re: evaluating dark beers
« Reply #13 on: December 23, 2015, 12:56:50 PM »
Just to have everything out in the open: did my beer also present the offending flavours?

I brewed (what was intended as) an accessible chocolate porter, with no water adjustments and 6% chocolate malt, 11% weyermann rauch malt and roughly 5% cara/crystals.
Harsh bitterness I don't remember exactly, and I don't have my notes here, but it did end in the middle of the bleh-pack.

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Offline dmtaylor

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Re: evaluating dark beers
« Reply #14 on: December 23, 2015, 01:18:59 PM »
Okay, so maybe it's not chlorophenol.  Could still be regular phenols or who knows what.  I wouldn't know unless I tasted it for myself.  Hey, I know.... send me a plane ticket to Belgium so I can come over and taste your beers!  Then I can be of much more help to you.  ;)
Dave

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