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Off Flavor Ale

Hi guys, I have a couple of questions about off flavors with my last couple ales. I have brewed IPAs and had them come out fine, and my stouts & porters always turn out great, but the past two ales I’ve brewed have ended up with a strong fruity taste that just doesn’t belong there. I’m always careful with sanitizing, but since I’m hitting my temperature pretty much on the nose, I’m thinking this has to be an infection. Thoughts?

Some information about your beer would be helpful, such as style, grain bill, yeast used, OG and FG, pitching and fermentation temperature, etc. There are so many variables, it’s just about impossible to make any kind of educated guess without a starting point.

Sure, I can tell you the beers were Northern Brewer all grain kits, Brick Warmer Red Ale and Dead Ringer IPA. I can’t tell you the grain bills off the top of my head but I used the liquid yeast options for both, hit my mash temps and pitched probably around 75 degrees. They both fermented pretty aggressively and I put them in secondary after about a week. I use gelatin as a clarifying agent and it will grab some solids, but with both of these beers they developed what looked like a white mold on top in secondary. I think that’s where the off flavor and smell came from

Hmm, got any pics to share? It’s possible something got into your beers, but it’s kinda curious that it managed to get into both of them, if that’s the case. One other thing, I don’t know those two particular kits, but 75 is a little high for pitching temperature for most beers. I usually try to start at around 62 or so, maybe 65 tops for an ale, and let the temperature rise after a few days if necessary.

Pitching at 75 is way to high. You will get a lot of off flavors from that. Try to pitch in the mid 60’s and hold below 70( beer temp) for at least 48-72 hrs.

Agree with the 2 above, 75 is too warm to pitch and could definitely produce fruity off flavors.

However your statement that there was a moldy looking substance on the surface sounds like a pellicle, meaning your beer was infected. Probably during the transfer to secondary since that’s where the infection showed up.

Not so unusual that both beers have it either since it probably contaminated your racking cane and tubing used to siphon. If it turns out to be an infection you’ll want to toss any plastics and replace them.

Thanks guys, that will be the first thing I try. It’s hard in the summer because I don’t have a good way to control the temperature and we don’t really use air conditioning in the house. Maybe brew the ales when it’s a little colder

The white layer sounds like it could be an infection, but infections rarely produce “fruity” off-flavors. High-temperature fermentations though will produce fruity flavors.

I take summers off from brewing, originally because I didn’t have a good means to ensure temperature control, but now just because there is too much going on. But without controlling temperature, it is near impossible to get good results, so in my opinion, it is not worth brewing in that situation. Just wait till fall. If you’ve got a spot in your house that stays below 70F, you can look up “swamp cooler” to bring the fermenting beer temp down to a range that won’t overwhelm you with yeast off-flavors.

The “swamp cooler” method is a pretty efficient and cheap way to hit cooler temps during the heat of the summer if you don’t have a fermentation chamber (chest freezer or fridge). Requires a bit more monitoring though, as eventually your temp will go back up some. I did it with my first batch and was able to hit the lower temp easily.

White film on the beer sounds like aceobacter. Google search “acetobacter on beer” and see if the pics that show up look like what you had.

I haven’t done this (yet) but you can google “son of fermentation chiller”. Seems like a creative and relatively inexpensive way for pretty good temp control. I use a swamp cooler-like setup which works pretty well for me.

I learned a long time ago not to rush the primary fermentation. Always give it a solid two weeks in the primary, even though you see no activity in the airlock. The yeast needs ample time to clean up after itself. Follow up with a two week secondary and skip the gelatin altogether. I’ve never tried gelatin nor do I ever intend to do so.

Of course, primary fermentation temp plays a huge role in the final product. I always aim for the lower limit of the specified range for a clean flavor.

[quote=“Templar”]The “swamp cooler” method is a pretty efficient and cheap way to hit cooler temps during the heat of the summer if you don’t have a fermentation chamber (chest freezer or fridge). Requires a bit more monitoring though, as eventually your temp will go back up some. I did it with my first batch and was able to hit the lower temp easily.

White film on the beer sounds like aceobacter. Google search “acetobacter on beer” and see if the pics that show up look like what you had.[/quote]
I had the same first thought but the OP says it tastes fruity. If it was acetobacter he’d have the vinegar aroma and taste.

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