According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2014 is the Year of the Horse. For me, 2014 could well go down as the Year of the Bottle Infection. As you may recall, I've had multiple nice beers ruined by creeping bottle infections. The beer would seem to be great in my bottles for a few weeks, but invariably, I would get crazy foam gushers, the beer in question would see the body suffer, etc. It's bad enough to have an ale suffer this fate, but having it happen to a bock (with months invested in the brewing and lagering) was really, really painful.
I got lots of advice on the issue; some of it was good, some was more suspect - yes, I am quite certain that four weeks in the fermentor meant that gravity was stable whether or not I did multiple hydrometer checks! A thorough cleaning regimen - namely, long soaks in strong bleach solution, PBW solution, strong starsan solution, with plenty of rinses in between - did no good. At any rate, I developed the following plan.
2. Boil the silicone tubing for an extended period (my LHBS sadly does not carry silicone tubing).
3. Pre rinse all bottles with a bottle washer.
4. Keep the bottling bucket covered with a lid at all times.
5. Immediately place caps on bottles as they are filled.
6. After a thorough cleaning, keep all bottling gear stored in plastic bags (in the past, I would leave my bottling bucket open inside my basement).
I first implemented this plan when bottling my roggenbier. I have tried multiple bottles along the way, and now - better than seven weeks out, which is past the point that issues have always shown up in the past - I have strong reason to believe that my bottling woes are at an end.
The roggenbier sat at room temperature (~72 degrees F) for a month, and has since been at basement temps (~65 degrees F). A pour the night before last revealed nice, fluffy foam that stayed forever; previous issues have given tons of foam, but with large bubbles that break and end up with receding foam very quickly. I have fairly high carbonation on this batch, but that was intentional on my part, and the carbonation level seems to be consistent for the past month or so.
So this, my friend, is the good news. I am extremely pleased to report that (fingers crossed), I have ended the bottle infection issue. For those that were dubious that my gear truly could have been contaminated... this is enough anecdotal evidence for me. If you are having similar issues, I encourage you to invest the $30 or so and replace your own bottling gear; it's worth the peace of mind.
The bad news, though, is how the roggenbier turned out.
This beer was a bit of an experimental beer for me; a product of my muse, if you will. I had never tasted a commercial roggenbier, so truth be told, I don't really know exactly how good or bad this beer really is. That being said, I had this mental idea of the beer I would end up with, and reality simply has not measured up to my imagination.
The target for my beer was to be a big, spicy, malty brew with a major banana kick. My recipe seemed (to me) to lend itself to that - I had figured that a beer that was 55% rye, with the rest essentially made up of munich, vienna, and caramunich, would be quite malty. I overshot my OG a bit, ended up at 1.071.
Well, things didn't go as planned. For one, BeerSmith led me astray; I foolishly relied on it's projected FG number of 1.012 (from an assumed OG of 1.065, or 81% attenuation). When I finished noticeably higher (1.019), I was worried. Had I kept my head and looked at the yeast in question (WLP300), I'd have realized that number was probably unrealistic in light of the fact that the strain supposedly gets 72%-76% attenuation. At 1.019, I was sitting at 73%, which was just fine.
However, that rye created a monster amount of trub, leaving me with only four gallons of beer in the bottling bucket. Between undershooting my final volume and thinking that I had under attenuated, I was afraid that I'd have a cloying mess, so I cut the beer with another gallon of sanitized water, which brought my FG to 1.014. The end result is something I'm simply not crazy about.
The first bottle of this beer, only a week in, was a bit flat, but was spicy, a tad sweet, and just exploding with banana. That was probably the best bottle of the entire batch.
For nearly two weeks, the beer got... well, bad. Virtually no banana. Massive amounts of clove. Watery body. Unbalanced. Just... meh.
Since then, the beer has stabilized. It's so odd; one sip can seem a bit oily, but the next will be very watery. I do get some nice spiciness, but the beer isn't as malty as I was hoping, and all in all, it's too watery and weak. I get some banana on the nose, but it's almost nonexistent as a flavor element. I have grown to enjoy this beer somewhat as a "shake things up" variety type drink, but all in all, I feel like it is just lacking. If I had it to do again, I'd have bottled the four gallons and been happy with that. The more I think about it, the more I think that I'd have had much nicer beer for my trouble.
As painful as this brew was, I might end up doing it again, just to see if I can, in fact, end up with a good beer for my effort. It's rare that I feel like I really missed the mark with a beer, but this one certainly has.
Tags for this post: bottle, infection, infections, roggenbier, homebrew