Thursday, October 8, 2009

Better Beer Through Chemicals

Earlier this year, Mr Wort Hog brewed up a Maibock for the first time. Everything went well and, given that he is a brewing perfectionist, fermentation and lagering seemingly went without a hitch. We have a couple of freezers in the basement hooked up to temp controllers to keep fermentation & lagering temperatures stable, but something still went wrong:  it tasted fruity.

Fruitiness in beer is typically from undesired esters created during fermentation, a byproduct of ethanol meeting fatty acids. The potential for ester creation can be increased by underpitching yeast (causing fast yeast growth which generates esters), not giving your yeast enough oxygen, or starting off with a high-gravity wort. Whatever the reason, we definitely had some esters on our hands.

We slowly nursed this keg until deciding it was time to do something about it. I had "dump it" in the back of my mind, but Mr Wort Hog suggested adding apricot or peach fruit extract to mask the esters. I reminded myself how much I like to at least try fixing things before giving up on them, so I picked up a bottle of extract at Bacchus & Barleycorn to give it a shot.

Turns out it was a bigger success than I imagined - this was a good beer and we went through over 3 gallons of it at the last brew day. Moral of the story: unless your beer is completely ruined, consider changing it. Add some fruit or vanilla extract. Soak a few oak chips in it. Pour in a bottle of bourbon. Toss some mulling spices into some vodka, let them soak for a week or so, then add the vodka to the beer. If you're planning on tossing it anyway, there's no harm in trying to save it from the drain.


  1. Great post, and good idea. I have gallons of a dunkelweizen that somehow came out kind of tart. No idea what to do with it, except maybe serve it at a party and hope people drink it anyhow.

  2. I did a web search & found that someone made an almond-vanilla dunkelweizen by adding amaretto and vanilla extract. Not a bad idea. I'd stick with good, REAL vanilla extract ( and maybe do the same with almond extract instead of amaretto. However, the amaretto might add more sweetness to mask the tart flavor.

  3. You could add lactic acid to the tart dunkelweizen to taste and have a dunkel berliner weiss (okay the ABV would be too high and you would have the out of place banana and clove, but it might work).

    At the very least more acid would certainly cover up the existing tartness. :)

  4. Good idea! Since we started kegging, it's nice to have this sort of info. Out of curiosity, what kind of yeast did you use, and how much? Cheers.

  5. The yeast was Wyeast 2124, which is Weihenstephen 34/70 (White Labs 833 is the same strain).

    I would have targeted 1.5 million cells per milliliter per degree plato (per George Fix) and this was slurry from a previous batch and I would have used the yeast calculator at to determine the amount of slurry to use.

    I'm not sure how well I did though, since this fermentation was subpar in contrast to the prior fermentation of a Classic American Pilsner which was superb (and provided the yeast for the Maibock).

  6. That was really tasty Maibock. You had about 4-5 people camped out at the keg at Brew Day.

    btw - you're rocking out at Present


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