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My infected American Amber Ale

The fermentor I have this American Amber Ale in is probably the one which fermented the porter which turned out to be infected.

The porter was bottled mid July and just finished a few weeks ago when the infection was confirmed. I’ll soon know if it was just this fermentor that carried the infection from the yeast used or I have a more widespread equipment infection. An equipment infection is likely if my Dead Ringer at day 14 in the fermentor starts showing signs of infection. So far it is clearing nicely.

I had already bottled another porter fermented with the same yeast before the infection of the first porter became evident. I’ll drink the second faster before over carbonation creates a pour problem.

Surprisingly the SG sample of the amber tastes amazing. It may be the best American Amber brewed @sneezles61 that anyone else has tasted. Only change in this brew was using distilled water instead of our well water.

You’ve been at this hobby for quite some time now, I would have to believe you do have the equipment cleaning/sanitizing well established… My thinking would be the yeast… It doesn’t take much for some other bug to quietly mix in the yeast, then start to take over… I trust you tossed that yeast? Did you save alot of that yeast? I know you save some, and split a cake to use and save the other for build up later? I was thoroughly pleased with your offerings in the past… You made me want to sample other Amber Ales, and haven’t found any that would hold a candle to yours! What was the taste of you infected porter? Sneezles61

I tossed all of the saved WY 1332 and some other harvested yeast to play it safe. Won’t hurt too much to buy new yeast every few years.

I tried hard to find an off taste in the infected porter. There was a slight tang in the aftertaste. Could have been from the infection or the higher alcohol content. I may have been trying too hard to find a defect. Body was still good. A careful 12 ounce pour at 34°F from the frig would fill a 20 ounce glass. After 5 minutes the head would be a respectable half inch and warmed up to drinking temperature.

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Me had a bad megladon ale. Did toss it out. Why infection have no idea. Only thing i can think off. Got infection not cleaning. Properly. Normaly i am anal in this

Left Hand brewing in Colorado is suing White Labs, claiming they sold contaminated yeast. I’m not sure of the merits of the case; it just seems like, “We couldn’t possibly have screwed-up, so it must have been them.”

I’m pretty sure my infection is my fault. It was 3 to 4 years ago that the original pack of WY 1332 was purchased. Harvesting works out well 99.999% of the time.

If there was no off flavor and the beer was clear why do you think it was an infection and not just overcarbonation?

How many generations would you say it was? Yeast book says about 5-10 with careful sanitation and handling. Are you harvesting from the primary when you transfer to secondary or after you rack to bottle or keg? Seems like 3 to 4 years would give you plenty of time to have a mutation or pick something up. I think I’ve harvested once and it just wasn’t worth my time even though it saves money and second generation often performs better being accustomed to conditions.

It is the change in the type and size of the bubbles on the surface that is indicating infection to me. The clear bubbles from the CO2 off gassing had almost cleared from the surface of the beer and diminishing in size as more of the surface cleared. Pressure in the air lock was remaining fairly static. These larger whitish bubbles began appearing across the surface. Some of the bubbles were a couple of inches across and an almost an inch high. Pressure in the air lock began increasing with an occasional burp.

Seems to be the same type of infection which dropped the the SG of the porter five points without causing a noticeable off flavor. The SG of the porter went from 1.008 to 1.003 after four and a half months in the bottle.

Hopefully an off flavor won’t develop in the bottle. The amber also won’t be around as long as the porter had been.

I had been attempting to track generations with a spread sheet but gave up as it became more complicated. I further complicated the process by using some of the yeast for an over built starter then making a new starter from the over build. And then I would have jar #1 and jar#2 from the same harvest but used part of jar#1 for a starter without an over build and part jar #2 for a starter with an over build and then harvested two jars of yeast each from two fermentors.

That’s when I decided to just see what happens and buy new yeast at some point. I was getting better attenuation with the harvested yeast. Typical FGs would consistently be 3 to 4 points lower for the same recipe.

I use the simple swirl and pour from the primary fermentor into jars after racking to the bottling bucket.


Sounds like a good description of a pellicle to me. The gravity could drop over the course of months, so proceed with caution. Recipe for overcarbonation and bottle bombs. If you do bottle it, give it a good three or four months, check gravity, and check again after another month.

The amber is favorite of visitors. I’m expecting this batch to last less than two and a half months. May only bottle only 4 of the 5 gallons to stay well under the pellicle if that can make a difference. No experience with a problem like this.

Racking under the pellicle doesn’t have any impact - it’s throughout the beer. The pellicle only forms at the surface and is a by-product of oxygen exposure. It’s a side effect of the infection, but not the infection itself.

Drinking it fast is a good option, just make sure you don’t keep them around any longer than necessary. Swing-cap bottles are pretty safe, since they’ll tend to leak if they get over-pressurized.

I usually give my glass carboys a thorough soak in oxy-clean for at least 24 hours with the hottest tap water I dare to put in them, which is just barely warm. Fill it to the top. Then a good 24 hour soak with star-san for at least 24 hours. I haven’t done a mixed fermentation batch yet that has carried through after that.

Boil silicon stoppers and any high temp parts you have. Plan on replacing auto-siphons, hoses, bottling wands, and any other plastic or soft cold-side parts that touch the infection. Or just dedicate these to mixed fermentation. Glass can be sanitized, so don’t worry about your bottles. Just don’t cut any corners on sanitation next time around. These things can be defeated!


Have you used bleach solutions to disinfect after a thorough cleaning for hard plastics?

I did when I found a dead mouse in one of my fermenters. Actually, back when I started brewing, I used bleach and thorough rinsing for sanitizing and it worked great. Definitely worth a shot to salvage possibly infected equipment. If you’re concerned about contamination from rinsing, nothing wrong with hitting it with star-san after.

Ahh…yea…the over attenuated one…i remember now.

I haven’t gone past 4-5 generations with my harvested yeast. Mainly because I use a variety of yeast and end up tossing ones that stay in the fridge more than 6 months or so.

I agree with @porkchop boil or replace any plastics and you should be good.

I’ll go with a combination of bleach and boiling. I’ve begun sampling the second batch of porter that is probably infected also. These bottles are getting a bleach solution soak whether or not I see some sign of infection. Easy to do so playing it safe.

I’ll replace tubing. Doesn’t cost enough to make it worthwhile to take the time to boil or risk not eliminating the infection. The two plastic buckets used for brewing will get bleached. Replace them if there is any remaining bleach odor. All of the carboys will get the bleach treatment since the infection ,may have been present before I noticed it with the first porter. Not sure what to do with the thief. Too tall to boil in kettle. May wait to do the thief until I find out if the buckets retain bleach aroma. May just give the thief a boiling water bath in a tub long enough to lay it in.

Stoppers, air locks, and spigots will be boiled. Probably find a few other things to boil or bleach as I go.

Most likely will not be brewing tomorrow.

Thank you for the advice.

If the thief is plastic I’d toss and replace it. If it’s one of the stainless ones just drop it in a boiling kettle…one end for a few minutes then flip it to boil the other end. Really only takes contact wtih boiling water to kill pretty much anything that could be on there.

I don’t think the air locks and thief will hold up to boiling water, but bleach should work well for those. Your buckets can handle boiling water, which is how I sanitize mine after a mixed fermentation batch. Boil some water in the brew kettle and drain it into the bucket, bam, sanitized.

If they do retain some bleach smell, leave it exposed to the air for a few weeks and it should off-gas. I wouldn’t toss it for that reason, it should eventually dissipate. Worst case, use an old fermentation bucket for storing grain. But I bet you can salvage it as a fermenter.

My amber has been in the fermentor 21 days. Usual amount of time before bottling. Checked it this morning and the whitish bubbles had diminished. Maybe not infected after all. Set up for checking the SG. Pulled the air lock and immediately knew it’s a dumper. Sour aroma. Tasted the SG sample which was a half point lower than last weeks. Sour aroma and very tart. No malt or hop character.

If the Dead Ringer at day 16 doesn’t develop signs of an infection the number of equipment pieces to disinfect is limited.

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