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New brewers! - Brewing mistakes that weren't that bad

Ok, I’ve only been at this for a year, but I remember when I started last January with my first kit. From not understanding a a word of jargon to trying to piece together the brewing process form videos and How to Brew (thanks, John Palmer), from the advice from guys like Denny and Nighthawk to all the random questions, I’m grateful for the learning. And the beer.

But here’s my point: I’ve been kinda shocked at how hard it has been to really f— things up so much that what comes out is not beer. It’s kinda hard to not make beer! (Granted great beer is a lifelong pursuit with so many nuances it makes my head spin…)

So let’s do this for all the new brewers (inspired from a different forum): share a story of how you made a mistake that is laughable, but still made beer.

I’ll start: once my heating oil went out in the house while we were gone for the holidays and my ambient temp was 37°F. Kicked the heat back on, roused the yeast, three weeks later I was drinking (not so carbonated at first) red ale. But it was MY red ale.

Good idea. All of these variables have some value as you learn to make the best beer possible, but this is a hobby, and you can make good beer pretty easily. In fact, these ingredients want to become beer. A couple things I remember doing, none of which I recommend, but which did not ruin everything.

Forgot to sanitize my fermentor, which lived in the less-than-waterproof basement of the apartment I lived in at the time. Beer turned out fine.

Forgot to sanitize my bottles. Beer turned out fine.

Had temperature drop, causing suck-back from the airlock or blowoff tube. Beer turned out fine.

It wasn’t really a process problem, but over the summer we added sweet cherry purée to a Hefe. Instead of a nice light flavor and the bright pink I expected, it truned a muddy rusty-brown, like the pad of a used band-aid. It wasn’t a nice flavor either, the yeast fermented all the sweet out of the cherry, leaving it just tasting like cherry skin. It was drinkable, but not enjoyable.

Moral of the story. Research and understand your ingredients before tweaking/designing a recipe. The yeast gets first crack at whatever goes in, and what comes out can be quite different.

I would say that the premise of this thread, that it’s really hard to fail at brewing with good process and good recipes is valid, but can also lead to the overconfidence that caused us to brew our Cherry Hefebarfin.

Not too very long after I started brewing I made a cantelope wheat beer. I saved some of the juice to add at bottling time. The juice got left out at room temperature for way too long. I ended up with a cantelope lambic type beer that was pretty good.

I did a full boil on an oatmeal stout with the lid on. That stout was really good…think I’ll brew it again with the lid off this time. :roll: Also until just recently I have not been paying close attention to the difference in temp between the wort and yeast when I pitch it. That may have contributed to a very slight off flavor in a couple of beers.

This is a good subject. I have about 6-7 brews so far and all have been from drinkable to really good. But I have made some sort of mistake from very minor to major on virtually every one. My porter yesterday I thought was nearly perfect until I noticed burnt mash coming up when I was stirring. The English Brown I did 2 weeks ago was only about a 3.9% ABV and should have been 5%…too much water in the boil…not thinking I rinsed the LME bottle out with hot water and that put me at almost 6.5 gallons (about 5.5 at the end of the boil) Looking back the JP Elevenses was my best beer and I made no real mistakes on that one. Still it could be a little stronger…may adjust with a bit more DME next time.

Masquelle, you have a really great point about at least being able to make a drinkable beer…even my 1st (worst) beer was better than the majority of store bought beers.

Very first batch…all went without a hitch. Then went to put the airlock into the lid (bucket), the grommet went right into the wort I had just pitched the yeast into.

Kinda reached in up to my elbow without thinking to get the grommet.

Worried for several weeks thinking I’d end up with junk…was just fine!

:cheers:

The morning of my first all grain brew I cooked a nice bacon & eggs breakfast for me and the wife. Then it was out to the garage to dive into all grain brewing, an oatmeal stout. Everything went great. I hit my temperatures, times, volumes, etc. on the money. When my 60 minute boil was finished I brought the hot wort inside to run through my CF chiller in the kitchen. Wort goes on the stove, chiller on a step stool & carboy on the floor for a very efficient gravity-fed chill setup. About halfway through chilling I noticed that the wort in the brew kettle looked like it had some sort of oil slick on top. Every time I checked it the oil slick got bigger…WTF?!? Then I saw it. A drop of water dripped into the pot. The steam coming out of the pot was collecting on the vent hood of the stove, combining with the bacon grease that had sprayed/been sucked up there during breakfast & dripping back into the wort. I saw all of my hard work on my first all grain batch being lost to some rancid, meat fat infection. But whatever, I wasn’t gonna dump it after spending almost 6 hours on this brew day. Alas, the beer ended up delicious. Everyone that has tried it says it is my best beer yet.

Now I make sure to clean the vent hood before my brew days & chill with the lid half on.

Three ‘issues’ come to mind:

  1. AAA: my first all grain and I had a really bad crush. I didn’t recognize the fact that it was bad and mashed as required. I ended up with about 2.9% ABV but it tasted great.

  2. English brown: I over hopped it. Nasty bitter beer. I let is “condition” for over 18months, in bottle, hoping it would mellow with age. It didn’t. Only beer I’ve ever dumped.

  3. Not switching to AG because of the “boogieman tales” suggesting it was so much more difficult/challenging than extract. What a bunch of crap that “story” is. AG is not rocket science (I know because I’ve done that). There is nothing difficult about it. It is a process just like extract brewing and not a difficult process to understand. Follow the process and you’ll make beer. Reality is, if you can brew coffee you can brew AG. That’s about how difficult it is.

:cheers:

Even more general than that. So many non-brewers I talk to think brewing sounds so cool, but don’t actually do it because it seems so hard, and requires so much time, effort, specialized equipment, and even perhaps a bit of witchcraft. They’re half right about the specialized equipment, but for the rest, it’s no worse than any other hobby.

Once I was preheating my mash tun with 175 degree water and the thermometer fell in so I reached in to grab it without thinking, my hand and forearm were a little red for a few days. The beer turned out fine.

I have switched to the no-sparge method. Once, among the 12-15 times that I have employed this method, I stepped away from my 10 gal cooler after adding the top-up volulme of water. The cooler was completely filled to the brim and I had carefully stirred in the mashout water.

As I puttered in the other room doing who knows what, I heard a loud crash followed by an ominous slushing gushing noise.

10 gal of hot mash and wort made a tidal wave through my kitchen (hardwood floors BTW). It seeped through the floors and dripped to the basement below.

Needless to say, a HUGE mess, by far the worst of my brewing endeavors. The floors temporarily warped but eventually flattened back out.

My first beer (sometime in the late 80s) was an Irish Red Ale brewed from a kit that had apparently sat on the shelf, near a large window since the late 70s. I followed the directions and waited for some signs of fermentation. After a month or two, I stopped by the brew shop and asked for some advice. The proprietor assured me it had certainly completed fermentation. He also advised me to add some yeast at bottling because the yeast had probably dropped out by that time.

Shortly after bottling, bottles started exploding. No problem! I knew cooling the bottles would reduce the pressure and prevent more explosions. I put the bottles in the kitchen sink and dumped ice on them. It turned out that Ice cubes on one side of a bottle cause uneven stresses. More bottles exploded and a piece of glass hit the back of my left arm. Two sutures, end of that problem.

Not one to learn from the obvious, I opened the remaining bottles, dumped them into my fermenter, let fermentation finish, re-bottled the beer and enjoyed it.

My son in law walked me through my first brew when he and my daughter were home visiting for Christmas. He kegged, hadn’t bottled for years, and told me that I should add a pound of corn sugar when bottling the five gallon batch. I dutifully followed his instructions. When I would open one of them and pour I would end up with a pint glass of foam that would eventually settle into beer that tasted fine. I didn’t know about bottle bombs then or would have poured all the bottles out. Drank them all without injury and learned the appropriate amount of sugar to add prior to bottling my next batch.

[quote=“Steeler D”]I have switched to the no-sparge method. Once, among the 12-15 times that I have employed this method, I stepped away from my 10 gal cooler after adding the top-up volulme of water. The cooler was completely filled to the brim and I had carefully stirred in the mashout water.

As I puttered in the other room doing who knows what, I heard a loud crash followed by an ominous slushing gushing noise.

10 gal of hot mash and wort made a tidal wave through my kitchen (hardwood floors BTW). It seeped through the floors and dripped to the basement below.

Needless to say, a HUGE mess, by far the worst of my brewing endeavors. The floors temporarily warped but eventually flattened back out.[/quote]

Oh, man. This makes me have that sinking feeling just reading. What an amazing mess that would be… But at least you collected some of the wort in buckets in the basement and made beer right? Hardwood floor flavored?

Perhaps the best example I’ve had of this type of thing is some of my fruit beers I’ve made with fresh fruit. Didn’t sanitize them before racking the fermented beer over them in the secondary. I was expecting the yeast to go active again working on the sugar in the fruit, I wasn’t expecting the bacteria that hitched a ride in on the fruit to make gushers out of my bottles (the bacteria works more slowly, and kept going after I thought everything was done). The batch was annoying to deal with because of the gusher problem, but tasted fine - just a little bit lambic-like. Now I make sure to keep beers with fresh fruit in secondary for at least a month before bottling. Occasionally I get a batch with an infection, but that only changes the beer and has never ruined it.

This is a copy-paste from a post a while back, but it’s my worst brewing offense:

Once my autosiphon wasn’t working, so I had to use gravity siphon. I couldn’t get the siphon started, so I resorted to sucking the tube, which then resulted in a mouth full of beer, which by reflex (from my aquarium days) I immediately spit out… right into the bottling bucket. And of course, once the siphon was going I realized the tubing was cracked at the midsection (which explains why I had trouble getting it started) which resulted in a crap ton of bubbles in the transfer. I also overprimed that batch, because I lost some volume in the transfer. That beer turned out to be fantastic. No sign of infection or aeration or anything. Not one of my best, but even with a flawless bottling day I don’t think it would have been any better. The one thing that I’ve found that is easy to mess up on and really makes a difference is temperature control. The worse beers I made (which weren’t even dumpers themselves) were my first few batches that fermented above 70 degrees.

OK this goes to the OP topic…I just tapped that beer…13 days in the primary and 5 days in the keg at 10 PSI …holy sh!t…this is smoooooth and tasty and must be a little above 3.9% because I got I bit of a buzz on 3 beers!!! This just goes to show you how you really must have to make an epic mistake to have a bad beer. Damn I think I’m going to have another and watch the game !!!

[quote=“CliffordBrewing”]This is a copy-paste from a post a while back, but it’s my worst brewing offense:

Once my autosiphon wasn’t working, so I had to use gravity siphon. I couldn’t get the siphon started, so I resorted to sucking the tube, which then resulted in a mouth full of beer, which by reflex (from my aquarium days) I immediately spit out… right into the bottling bucket. [/quote]

When I bottle I use a small baster. The bottom end fits perfectly in the end of my racking hose and any that gets past the hose end stays in the plastic part and your mouth never touches the beer.

The LHBS recommended this one: Keep sanitizer in the racking hose, and use it to start the siphon. Divert it into another bucket, or let it go into the bottling bucket as it is only a small amount of water

I use this method: I have an extra bottling wand, and I take the plunger end off of it, using my mouth on the tube to get it started, then pulling the tube out. It really helps if you have one of those hose clamps to stop the flow while you remove the bottling wand tube.

[quote=“i_love_beer”]Man, this is great! I am a noobie and am brewing my first batch this weekend. This makes me feel so much more relaxed about what can (and will) go wrong.

Hopefully 6 weeks from now I can talk about what a great beer I am enjoying.

Thanks to you all![/quote]

I second this! Also, as a newb (and not afraid at a bit of brown nosing promotion), I’m grateful for Northern’s helpful website and explanations. Some of the others weren’t so helpful, and left me confused on what to buy. Looking forward to getting my kit this week and brewing next weekend!

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