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Booze on the finish!

Hi All,

I gave my friend a 22oz bomber of NB Smashing Pumpkin Ale I made. It began 12/29 with gravity of 1.054 and after ferment landed at 1.010, 2week primary, 2 weeks seconday fermenters. Bottled 2/8/1 using 5oz priming sugar.
After he compliments the flavor, color, aroma and clarity of the beer, he complains it has too much alcohol on the nose, and in the finish. What did I do wrong? Thanks Brewers!

Sounds like it probably fermented a bit too warm. what temperature was the room it fermented in?

Do you agree with his assessment?

Definitely not too warm. My brew-room barely gets to 65 degrees.

interesting… Alcohol or solvent flavors are typically fusel alcohols caused by high fermentation temperature. If that’s not the case, then i dont know what the issue is. hopefully someone with more knowledge will chime in.

how much yeast did you pitch?

edit addition: +1 to 560sdl. do YOU think it taste boozy?

Just because your brewroom is 65* doesn’t mean your actively fermenting beer is. Especially if you accidentally pitched warm. Not saying that was the case, but it’s something to remember.

You need to measure BEER temperature, not room temperature. Grab a few $0.79 temp strips that go on the outside of your fermenter on your next NB order or @ your LHBS (though I don’t really trust the accuracy of them).

That fermentation could have easily gotten into the low 70’s in a 65 degree room, even if you didn’t pitch warm. When yeast ferment, they generate exothermic heat from the reaction (think of Tony Soprano sweating while he’s eating, or a room where people just ‘brown chicken brown cow’-ed…you’re welcome for the visuals).

Sounds like fusels to me. If you don’t have a temp controller and fermentation fridge, I HIGHLY recommend getting both if you have the room. If that’s not in the immediate cards, place your fermenter in a larger tub of 65 degree water in that room. When the yeast start their feastorgy, it will be harder for them to raise the temp of the beer with more thermal mass.

Also check your pitch rate. You need one vial in a 1.27 liter starter for a beer like you mentioned (http://www.mrmalty.com). Thats with a stir plate. A simple starter, you need one vial in 3.37 liters of starter wort. Underpitching can give you some fusels and acetaldehyde (green apple), and increase the likelihood of infection.

Your buddy may have a lower threshold to taste/perceive alcohol, but that can be a good thing to get outside evaluation. You can let the beer cellar for a few months. This will basically allow those alcohols to oxidize and create more smooth flavors (though they can be sherry-like), but some of your pumpkin spices will fade with time as well.

The fermentation process is exothermic, so it should theoretically be a few degrees warmer.

Still, I’d think most strains would be content with an ambient temp of 65*.

The fermentation process is exothermic, so it should theoretically be a few degrees warmer.

Still, I’d think most strains would be content with an ambient temp of 65*.[/quote]
As long as the wort was cool enough at pitching. If you pitched at 80* in a 65* room the fermentation would take off and the heat generated would not let the beer get cool enough until most of the fermentation had already finished. My first couple of batches had a very similar flavor(?) and when I started cooling my wort down to 60* before pitching the quality of my beer went up significantly. Was probably one of two or three single changes that made the most difference in my beer.

But the fermentation creates heat. What was the temp of the beer, not the room?

Very well could be. Using a wort chiller and cold water in the fermentation bucket, I don’t have that problem other than when I was really new to homebrewing. One of several reasons my beer started tasting a lot better when I got wort chiller.

[quote=“NanoBrew”]
When I started cooling my wort down to 60* before pitching the quality of my beer went up significantly. Was probably one of two or three single changes that made the most difference in my beer.[/quote]

Thanks NanoBrew. I’ve read a lot in my early HB learning and hadn’t heard that. Would you be willing to toss out the other two revelations? I am all ears… and I haven’t made an exceptional beer yet. But I’m trying, and I will, thanks to you guys.

[quote=“Altimate_One”][quote=“NanoBrew”]
When I started cooling my wort down to 60* before pitching the quality of my beer went up significantly. Was probably one of two or three single changes that made the most difference in my beer.[/quote]

Thanks NanoBrew. I’ve read a lot in my early HB learning and hadn’t heard that. Would you be willing to toss out the other two revelations? I am all ears… and I haven’t made an exceptional beer yet. But I’m trying, and I will, thanks to you guys.[/quote]

Assuming your ingredients are always fresh my biggest single impacts have been

  1. cooling wort down to or below optimal temp. When I first started out everything I read said to get it down to 80. Yeast will live and actually ferment faster in this condition, but does not make for the best beer. The manufacturers will publish optimal temps but that is optimal for the yeast to thrive, not make the best beer. If you are using a yeast like 1056 (my go to yeast), it is a clean flavor yeast and you want a nice clean fermentation, that requires starting at or below 65F.

  2. plenty of freshly grown yeast (I keep agar slants on hand and grow my own on a stir plate). The more yeast and the fresher, the less stressed it is = cleaner fermentation.

  3. Full volume boils. This may be more mental than actual flavor. When I went to full boils I also added in my wort chiller. The beer became noticeably clearer. That could be from the faster chilling more than the volume. The flavor may be the same, the clear beer may be making me think it is better.

I mentioned fresh ingredients. My last house pale ale was made with PacMan instead of 1056 and I used up some liquid extract that had been in the fridge for a long time (was about 1/2 the total extract used). It has an off flavor that my wife described as “what your beer tasted like back when you used kits before you started creating your own recipes”. I don’t remember PacMan making a flavor much different than 1056 so I am leaning to the age of the extract that I used giving an almost stale off flavor. But, since more than one variable was changed I cannot say for sure.

I’m surprised temp control isn’t on that list. Your 3 (esp. yeast health/volume) are up there for me, but when I got a chest freezer and controller, my homebrew became beer.

My basement is always 64 degrees. If I pitch at 65F or below I have not had temps get too warm. Until recently I had the temp stickers on my fermentation buckets (just moved to a 15 gallon vessel to ferment 10 gallons in one unit) and never saw the temps get out of hand. The few times I thought they were warm I set the bucket directly on the floor and they cooled off through the cold concrete.

If the “boozy” finish is not a result of base/residual fusel alcohol it could be a VDK created by the yeast strain itself. Two VDK that fall into this descriptor are Ethyl Acetate or Isoamyl Alcohol. These and other VDK can be created to some degree depending on strain, then depending again on strain and your conditioning protocols they are reduced by the yeast after primary ferment.

Here is some further information on these two VDK that could contribute to your issue if it is not strictly fusel based.

A. Ethyl Acetate
Detection levels 10-100 mg/l
Typical levels in beer 10-50 mg/l
Flavor threshold 30-50 mg/l

Fruity with solvent undertones when above the flavor threshold. Considered an off flavor in beer when in high concentrations.
B. Isoamyl Alcohol
Breakdown:
Detection levels 10-110 mg/l
Typical levels in beer 50 mg/l
Flavor threshold 70 mg/l

Can produce wine-like or solvent-like flavors when over the flavor threshold.

  1. So the question I have is what strain of yeast was used?

  2. You state this:“2week primary, 2 weeks seconday” Did the primary reach terminal in a few days and then was left on the main yeast cake a week or so or did it take a week to 10 days to reach terminal and it was transferred off the cake to secondary too early?

  3. To ring true with the other posters above a correct pitch count and healthy yeast conditions reduce the amount of unnecessary fusels, esters and asst. other VDK created initially that will ruin the flavor of beer when too high in the finished product.

I like the character I get from fermenting “cool”. This does imply that the beer in question fermented too warm… I’m just continuing the conversation. I used to ferment ales on my “cool” basement floor and ferment my lagers in a “swamp cooler” or large plastic tub filled with cold water and frozen water bottles. Now I ferment my ALES in the swamp cooler and my lagers in a fridge. I always like to get ale wort down around 60° before I oxygenate and pitch and lagers down to around 50° or possibly cooler. I know some styles are meant to ferment warm (hefe’s, Belgians, etc.) but they are not for me. Cheers Beerheads.

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