Back to Shopping at NorthernBrewer.com

First Drain Pour -- Easiest Way to Ruin a Beer?

I think I may have found the easiest way to ruin a beer without infecting it outright–oxidizing the heck out of it by not dry-hopping properly.

A couple weeks back I fermented the NB Houblonmonstre IPA, and it turned out perfect. Almost a twin of the Houblon Chouffe, and overflowing with good Saaz flavor. Still, the aroma was a little bit muted, so I decided to dry-hop with 1oz. of Amarillo. Chouffe uses it, and I thought the orange notes would play well.

Anyhow…

I put the hops in a muslin bag, tied it up with butcher’s twine and looped the twine through the screw-top opening of my Big-Mouth Bubbler. Screwed the top on tight and forgot about it for a week.

Then came bottling day. The first sign of trouble was that the sanitizer levels on both sides of my S-shaped airlock were exactly the same. I didn’t ponder that long, though, because I opened it right up and got a whiff of sheer oxidation. The butcher’s twine seems to have prevented the bubbler from sealing. I tried bottling it, but it tasted just as terrible with carbonation as it did on bottling day. It was never going to get any better, so down the drain it went.

So, I’m curious: does anyone have a more efficient way of ruining a beer via a single misstep?

While syphoning into your bottling bucket, leave the port open. If the bottling bucket is on a floor with a drain, it will go strait down the drain without you needing to put it in bottles. Much more efficient.

What does oxidation smell like? I can’t say that I’ve ever noticed. And it seems a bit of a stretch to think that you oxidized it by having that small opening. Not impossible, I suppose, but it seems unlikely.

More efficient but not as inventive. I have to admit that I probably wouldn’t have thought the butcher’s twine being an issue. But thinking about it, with the lack of a good seal and the wicking effect of the twine…

All of the hop aroma had vanished, replaced by a flat, musty smell. The beer still had hop flavor, but it was a weird muted lemon flavor. I can’t say I detected cardboard per se, but it shared a common flavor with a Sam Adams Imperial Pilsner I found in my in-laws fridge this Christmas (that I bought in 2010). Nasty.

I’ve posted this several times before, so my apologies if I’m repeating for anyone. Maybe if I tell the story enough times, my brain will eventually block it out. I planned on adding some lemon and lime zest to a beer once. At the same time, my wife was preparing sangria for a party. I had one lemon and one lime for myself (only planning to zest 1/2 of each fruit). I had another 2 lemons and 2 limes put aside for my wife’s sangria. I’m sure you can see where this is going… I began zesting while talking to my wife and enjoying a beer. I completely lost track of what I was doing right up until the point I dumped a large mound of lemon/lime zest in the brew kettle. I remember watching it slide in and think “Gee, that sure looks like a lot of zest”. I then snapped back to reality and realized what I had done. I still moved forward, finished the boil, fermented, bottled, etc. Several months later and several test bottles later, I decided it had to be dumped. I brought a bottle to my home brew club meeting for a laugh. The best and most frequent description was it tasted like drinking Pledge.

I find it really hard to believe that this is oxidation. Plenty of people conduct open air fermentations without any issues. When I cold crash, I just put some sanitized foil on top of my carboy to prevent the change in pressure from sucking in the sanitizer and have never had an issue

A musty smell sure seems to describe an infection.

[quote=“mattnaik”]I find it really hard to believe that this is oxidation. Plenty of people conduct open air fermentations without any issues. When I cold crash, I just put some sanitized foil on top of my carboy to prevent the change in pressure from sucking in the sanitizer and have never had an issue

A musty smell sure seems to describe an infection.[/quote]

Well, I won’t say never, but I really, REALLY don’t think so. The beer was clear and didn’t even have residual hop/yeast matter floating on top. Certainly nothing was growing in it. It looked visually perfect.

Musty may not be quite the right word. Stale is more like it.

I am willing to believe that I simply dry-hopped it too long (actually I think it was more like 2 weeks than 1), but it sure tasted oxidized to me.

Old stale hops maybe?

[quote=“Flashman137”]Well, I won’t say never, but I really, REALLY don’t think so. The beer was clear and didn’t even have residual hop/yeast matter floating on top. Certainly nothing was growing in it. It looked visually perfect.

Musty may not be quite the right word. Stale is more like it.

I am willing to believe that I simply dry-hopped it too long (actually I think it was more like 2 weeks than 1), but it sure tasted oxidized to me.[/quote]

It may be oxidized, but based on my own experience, it’s hard to think that the small opening is what caused it. My experience is that you need more than exposure to air. You need to get that air incorporated into the beer somehow, usually by agitation.

Just opening the carboy long enough to drop in the hop bag wouldn’t have introduced much air and even with a small break in the seal the CO2 should have protected your beer.

Musty, dank, lack of hop aroma or taste sure sounds like infection. I’ve had some experience with that recently.

Did you sanitize your hop bag and string before you dry hopped? Sanitize anything else like a thief that touched the beer? Are you sure your starsan was good?

My recent problems were caused by mixing starsan in a fairly high pH water then keeping it around for too long.

My thoughts: The beer at primary and the beer at bottling time usually tastes much different. Similarly, if you keg a beer it will taste much different (I call this yeast whang) during the first week as opposed to after it’s cold conditioned.
I doubt if it oxidized enough to cause the bad stuff you mentioned; however, I do believe a beer will oxidize a lot quicker the warmer it is (whether in primary or packaged).

It is possible it is oxidation, but a small possibility. Having the hops in a muslin bag may have introduced a muslin bag full of air in the beer.
Most likely is the length of time dry hopping. I have read dry hopping a couple of weeks with Amarillo will produce an earthy/grassy taste in the beer.
One person reported the taste disappeared from his keg after about a month.

[quote=“flars”]It is possible it is oxidation, but a small possibility. Having the hops in a muslin bag may have introduced a muslin bag full of air in the beer.
Most likely is the length of time dry hopping. I have read dry hopping a couple of weeks with Amarillo will produce an earthy/grassy taste in the beer.
One person reported the taste disappeared from his keg after about a month.[/quote]

I use a muslin bag every time I dry hop…no problems. Done it literally hundreds of times. Sure, I guess you could screw it up, but it’s hard to see how.

I have left Amarillo hops in the keg for months and never had a problem with it.

[quote=“dannyboy58”]Just opening the carboy long enough to drop in the hop bag wouldn’t have introduced much air and even with a small break in the seal the CO2 should have protected your beer.

Musty, dank, lack of hop aroma or taste sure sounds like infection. I’ve had some experience with that recently.

Did you sanitize your hop bag and string before you dry hopped? Sanitize anything else like a thief that touched the beer? Are you sure your starsan was good?

My recent problems were caused by mixing starsan in a fairly high pH water then keeping it around for too long.[/quote]

Everything was sanitized properly in fresh Starsan.

To clarify, I’m pretty sure the twine prevented the carboy from ever re-sealing properly. I think all of the C02 leaked out and it was sitting essentially open to the air for two weeks. You guys are the experts, but I think that’d be enough to get pretty bad oxidation, no?

[quote=“Denny”]
It may be oxidized, but based on my own experience, it’s hard to think that the small opening is what caused it. My experience is that you need more than exposure to air. You need to get that air incorporated into the beer somehow, usually by agitation.[/quote]

Denny, why do you think the size of the opening is so important? If we’re talking about a weeks-long interval, wouldn’t there still be plenty of time for air to completely replace the CO2 in the fermenter?

[quote=“Flashman137”][quote=“Denny”]
It may be oxidized, but based on my own experience, it’s hard to think that the small opening is what caused it. My experience is that you need more than exposure to air. You need to get that air incorporated into the beer somehow, usually by agitation.[/quote]

Denny, why do you think the size of the opening is so important? If we’re talking about a weeks-long interval, wouldn’t there still be plenty of time for air to completely replace the CO2 in the fermenter?[/quote]

C02 is heavier than air so you would need quite a bit of well placed breeze to displace all that C02 I would think.

[quote=“Flashman137”][quote=“Denny”]
It may be oxidized, but based on my own experience, it’s hard to think that the small opening is what caused it. My experience is that you need more than exposure to air. You need to get that air incorporated into the beer somehow, usually by agitation.[/quote]

Denny, why do you think the size of the opening is so important? If we’re talking about a weeks-long interval, wouldn’t there still be plenty of time for air to completely replace the CO2 in the fermenter?[/quote]

Of course I’m just guessing, but I don’t think so. I’m aware of much worse situations that didn’t result in oxidation.

[quote=“mattnaik”][quote=“Flashman137”][quote=“Denny”]
It may be oxidized, but based on my own experience, it’s hard to think that the small opening is what caused it. My experience is that you need more than exposure to air. You need to get that air incorporated into the beer somehow, usually by agitation.[/quote]

Denny, why do you think the size of the opening is so important? If we’re talking about a weeks-long interval, wouldn’t there still be plenty of time for air to completely replace the CO2 in the fermenter?[/quote]

C02 is heavier than air so you would need quite a bit of well placed breeze to displace all that C02 I would think.[/quote]

I really appreciate all the responses. I’m going to brew another IPA in a couple of weeks, and I’ll definitely be applying lessons-learned on that batch. I’m going to make sure the hop bag is flawlessly sanitized (or maybe dispense with it altogether), limit my dry-hop period to 5 days, and most importantly make sure the carboy is totally sealed. Hopefully that will solve the problem.

[quote=“Flashman137”][quote=“dannyboy58”]Just opening the carboy long enough to drop in the hop bag wouldn’t have introduced much air and even with a small break in the seal the CO2 should have protected your beer.

Musty, dank, lack of hop aroma or taste sure sounds like infection. I’ve had some experience with that recently.

Did you sanitize your hop bag and string before you dry hopped? Sanitize anything else like a thief that touched the beer? Are you sure your starsan was good?

My recent problems were caused by mixing starsan in a fairly high pH water then keeping it around for too long.[/quote]

Everything was sanitized properly in fresh Starsan.

To clarify, I’m pretty sure the twine prevented the carboy from ever re-sealing properly. I think all of the C02 leaked out and it was sitting essentially open to the air for two weeks. You guys are the experts, but I think that’d be enough to get pretty bad oxidation, no?[/quote]

CO2 is heavier than air. It can’t leak out. It can be displaced if the fermentor would have been given a good sloshing.

Back to Shopping at NorthernBrewer.com