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Intense pear flavor from WLP023 Burton Ale yeast

Has anyone ever gotten intense pear flavors using this yeast? I’ll post the full recipe below, but the basics are that we brewed an IPA using this yeast, and after 2 weeks of primary and 2 weeks of secondary, the first tasting was just a huge blast of canned-pear flavor. We know apple and pear are supposed to be present with this yeast, but this was way beyond what we expected, and it interferes with the hop aroma and flavor.

We’ve used this yeast before in many batches and never had this issue. I know it’s not esters from fermenting too high, because the fermentors were kept in a chest freezer that’s set to come on anytime the thermometer that sits directly in the wort gets near the top end of the yeast’s range. In fact, due to extremely cold weather, the fermentation temp probably never got above the mid-60s, even during peak primary. We hit our target final gravity, although it took a week or so longer than usual. Our hops are definitely citrusy, but not anything that’s far beyond what we’ve successfully used before. I haven’t found any other accounts of this phenomenon.

So, here’s the full recipe. Any thoughts on where this came from would be greatly appreciated.

Brew Method: All Grain
Style Name: American IPA
Boil Time: 60 min
Batch Size: 10 gallons (fermentor volume)
Boil Size: 11.2 gallons
Boil Gravity: 1.050
Efficiency: 75% (brew house)

STATS:
Original Gravity: 1.056
Final Gravity: 1.016
ABV (standard): 5.33%
IBU (tinseth): 83.8
SRM (morey): 6.19

FERMENTABLES:
16.25 lb - American - Pale 2-Row (78.3%)
2.5 lb - American - Munich - Light 10L (12%)
0.75 lb - American - Caramel / Crystal 30L (3.6%)
0.5 lb - American - Wheat (2.4%)
0.5 lb - Flaked Oats (2.4%)
0.25 lb - German - Acidulated Malt (1.2%)

HOPS:
0.4 oz - Magnum, Type: Pellet, AA: 15, Use: First Wort, IBU: 6.89
3 oz - Amarillo, Type: Pellet, AA: 8.6, Use: Boil for 15 min, IBU: 24.26
3 oz - Centennial, Type: Pellet, AA: 10, Use: Boil for 15 min, IBU: 28.21
1.6 oz - Amarillo, Type: Pellet, AA: 8.6, Use: Whirlpool for 15 min at 185 °F, IBU: 4.12
1.6 oz - Simcoe, Type: Pellet, AA: 12.7, Use: Whirlpool for 15 min at 185 °F, IBU: 6.09
1.6 oz - Centennial, Type: Pellet, AA: 10, Use: Whirlpool for 15 min at 185 °F, IBU: 4.79
1.6 oz - Citra, Type: Pellet, AA: 11, Use: Whirlpool for 15 min at 185 °F, IBU: 5.27
1.6 oz - Sterling, Type: Pellet, AA: 8.7, Use: Whirlpool for 15 min at 185 °F, IBU: 4.17
0.8 oz - Amarillo, Type: Pellet, AA: 8.6, Use: Dry Hop for 6 days
0.8 oz - Simcoe, Type: Pellet, AA: 12.7, Use: Dry Hop for 6 days
0.8 oz - Centennial, Type: Pellet, AA: 10, Use: Dry Hop for 6 days
0.8 oz - Citra, Type: Pellet, AA: 11, Use: Dry Hop for 6 days
0.8 oz - Sterling, Type: Pellet, AA: 8.7, Use: Dry Hop for 6 days
0.8 oz - Amarillo, Type: Pellet, AA: 8.6, Use: Dry Hop for 3 days
0.8 oz - Simcoe, Type: Pellet, AA: 12.7, Use: Dry Hop for 3 days
0.8 oz - Centennial, Type: Pellet, AA: 10, Use: Dry Hop for 3 days
0.8 oz - Citra, Type: Pellet, AA: 11, Use: Dry Hop for 3 days
0.8 oz - Sterling, Type: Pellet, AA: 8.7, Use: Dry Hop for 3 days

MASH GUIDELINES:

  1. Infusion, Temp: 150 F, Time: 75 min, Amount: 26 qt
  2. Fly Sparge, Temp: 170 F, Time: 60 min, Amount: 26 qt, Hybrid
    Starting Mash Thickness: 1.25 qt/lb

OTHER INGREDIENTS:
2 tsp - Irish Moss, Time: 15 min, Type: Fining, Use: Boil
7 g - Gypsum, Time: 0 min, Type: Water Agt, Use: Other
2 tsp - Yeast Nutrient, Time: 15 min, Type: Other, Use: Other

YEAST:
White Labs - Burton Ale Yeast WLP023
Starter: Yes
Form: Liquid
Attenuation (avg): 72%
Flocculation: Medium
Optimum Temp: 68 - 73 F
Fermentation Temp: 68 F
Pitch Rate: 1.0 (M cells / ml / deg P)

PRIMING:
Method: CO2
Amount: 2-2.5 volumes

TARGET WATER PROFILE:
Profile Name: DC High SO4
Ca2: 105
Mg2: 7
Na: 21
Cl: 34
SO4: 211
HCO3: 64
Water Notes:
Adding 7 oz gypsum to jack up SO4 from the standard 52ppm for better hop bitterness and dryness, making it a “harder” water profile.

Have you brewed this recipe before? That’s a pretty busy hop schedule. In my experience certain hops have the ability to accentuate certain “fruity” flavors that might otherwise be subtle.

holy crap, i have to agree with the other guy. I’ve been finding that simpler hop schedules produce better results.

Are you particularly sensitive to pear-like esters? I know my palate is sensitive to clove phenols (so I rarely drink Hefeweizens), so sometimes you have to play the hand you are dealt…was the temp measured by thermowell or ambient (since actual temp could be much higher and therefore more estery results would be apparent.)

Give it time, too, as some esters fade with time.

Good call. “Busy” is putting politely, IMO. With that kind of hop load, there’s no telling what to expect. Although a pear flavor is not necessarily what I would expect from looking at that recipe, who knows? With that much going on in the recipe, I’d have no real idea what the beer should taste like, really.

One of the first things to catch my eye in this recipe is the acidulated malt. I’m not a big fan of that stuff, as I think it contributes a certain degree of unpredictability to the process. I’ve used that stuff in very small quantities in a pale ale in the past, only to find myself sitting on a case of lemonade in a couple of months’ time. It’s probably just my own ignorance on how to use it properly that’s leading me to call it’s use into question, but I don’t know. I’m sure you probably know what you’re doing with it, but if you don’t have much experience with it, I’d say this might be a sign that it’s causing some issues with your beer.

Maybe it has something to do with the almost half pound of gypsum. I really hope that note at the end was supposed to be 7g gypsum.

Was the yeast old or under pitched? Perhaps the yeast was stressed?

Thanks for the feedback, all. A couple responses.

  1. I know the hop bill has a lot going on, so I probably should have given some backstory. We’ve brewed variations of this recipe many times over at this point (including 200 bottles for a wedding!), and the hop bill has evolved as we’ve gone. I think it started as nothing more than Centennial and Simcoe, and we’ve tweaked it here and there to get a bit more pine, a slightly different citrus, etc., after tasting each batch. The hops have always come across a bit more citrusy by design, but the last couple batches have been slight tropical fruit notes, nothing even close to this pear bomb. In other words, this was a massive flavor departure from a well-used recipe.

  2. Dunno why I had ounces in there for the gypsum addition - should have been grams. Our water profile has a considerable net alkalinity, so we do need to adjust the mash and sparge pH. But there’s not half a pound of gypsum in there. Yikes! Same goes for the aciduated malt, although we’re always careful to keep it under 2% of the total grain bill.

I suspect the solution here is just to relax and let it condition in the keg for a while. We’ve got half the batch sitting in secondary in a carboy, so we’ll probably just hold off kegging that one until the other half improves. This whole thing just really took us by surprise - there’s no standard “off-flavor” that pear indicates, except too many esters. But we fermented at least 5 degrees below the recommended yeast temp range, and the yeast was definitely healthy, as it was harvested from a starter for a previous batch no more than a month or two previously. C’est la vie, I guess.

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