My Beer Sucks. Now What?

I mentioned in previous posts that I entered a few beers into some competitions. Well, I got the scoresheets back on the first one of those comps and the results are… not good.

Woof.

Well, in the parlance and scoring of the BJCP they’re technically “good,” but here in reality where we live: they’re straight up bad. In fact, both beers got called “lifeless.” Ouchie.

To be honest, I knew one of these beers had significant flaws. The maibock definitely suffered from some fermentation issues, and had a noticeable green apple flavor that is a tell-tale sign of acetaldehyde. I also got dinged for no carbonation on both beers, which probably drove down the scores both because of the lack of carbonation (and it’s contributions to aroma and mouthfeel) but also from oxidation in the bottle. The stout also got dinged for diacetyl which I didn’t pick up but could be result bottling conditions.

So what now?

Obviously this was a pretty big shot to the ego, but a much-needed one. I get to enjoy my beers both as the output of my hardwork, but also under near ideal serving conditions. That’s not the case for other people, and it’s definitely something I need to take a long, hard look at improving.

For one, I need to do some more research on my Blichmann Beer Gun, because it clearly isn’t operating the way it’s supposed to in terms of bottling from the keg. I also think it may be time to ditch all of my fermenting buckets. I wouldn’t have thought fermentation was an issue with my process – outside of the lagers – but apparently I’m getting significant off-flavors.

I also probably won’t to look at how I store and care for my beer after it’s been kegged. Right now I’m sort of “between solutions” for my post-carbed beers. They tend to sit in a big chest freezer, but not constantly on CO2.

A big purge is on the way as the weather starts to get nicer around here. I have plans to dump a bunch of old brews and some unused equipment. I also plan to build a full-fledged kegerator over the Spring with some help from the guys in my homebrew club.

I’d been underwhelmed with my progress as a brewer over the past year, so this was a well-timed wake-up call. I’m going to revisit the basics and try to hone in every detail of my process. I expect 2018 to be an expensive year with a lot of trial and error, and hopefully some vast improvement.

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Yeast Wrangling and What’s Next

I don’t know about you but this long weekend has been a godsend. I was able to get a few extra days off from work for my best friend’s wedding; some friends were visiting from Baltimore; I’ve had time to get over my nasty eye ¬†infection; and I still have another full day between me and work. That’s pretty solid.

What I haven’t had time for is brewing. And that’s a real shame, not just because I love to brew but because I got my grubby little mitts on a HUGE chest freezer. 15.1 cu feet. It’s a little beat up but it should more than serve my purposes as a fermentation chamber (and potentially later as a keezer when I start kegging my beers). I bought a Ranco dual-stage temperature controller yesterday, so it should be here for next weekend, which is when I’m planning my next brew session.

I had initially planned to do a pumpkin beer, but I’m starting to rethink that. Here’s why: I think I’ve become a little overly ambitious with the projects I’ve taken on. I jumped into all-grain from batch #2 without any time to dial in my process. So I’m thinking of going back and doing some simpler brews. I had come up with the idea to do a series of SMaSH (single malt, single hop) pale ales using Marris Otter. I’m hoping that simplifying my recipe will give the opportunity to focus on my process and get everything dialed in. Plus, it gives me an excuse to post this logo I drew:

Maris Smash Logo white bg

Anywho…

I’ve been questioning my yeast wrangling (my catch-all term for harvesting and creating starters), as well as my fermentation in general. I’m hoping the new chest freezer will give me the chance to get the fermentation down, and this batch will allow me to practice my yeast wrangling. I have a vial of Yeast Geek 001 Green Mountain Ale – aka “Conan,” the yeast in Heady Topper – that I want to use ASAP and harvest from.

My hope is that if I can get that going, I’ll have an excellent “house yeast” to play around with for future brews. To get myself headed in the right direction (until my temp. controller gets here and I begin brewing again, in earnest) I’ve been rewatching a bunch of YouTube videos. I’ve copied them here, if you’re interested. I definitely think they’re worth the watch for homebrewers.

Cheers.