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03/26/13 11:53 AM  
Sour beer went bad?
I'm hoping someone here has had a similar experience because I'm going mad trying to figure this out... I recently had a lovely, funky, sour, golden ale go wrong on me in secondary.

I know beer can change color a bit through the process of aging, and certain flavors can become more intense, but this beer turned from lovely golden to shit brown, and went from tasting delicate and amazing, to unrefined, blunt, and somewhat metallic. I'm completely baffled.

Secondary was in glass, with no additives. (it was only removed from the barrel to make room for more fresh wort) Glass appeared to be clean, was sanitized etc.

The most logical explanation seems to be a taint of some kind, or a chemical reaction? Any ideas?

03/26/13 01:13 PM  
Re: Sour beer went bad?
The only times I've heard of a batch changing color in secondary was if it had been in wood or settled out enough to appear a little lighter in color.

This is out there enough to risk suggesting something that would be embarrassing if it ended up the case, forgive me! Are you 110% certain you did not get two carboys mixed up?

03/26/13 03:03 PM  
Re: Sour beer went bad?
Nope. The only carboys in the room were the ones we had racked this batch into, and a single cider, which helpfully had the packet of Montrachet taped to it. ;)

Trust me, if you tasted this beer, you'd know this is no normal affect of age. It has to be a contaminant of some kind.

I think from what we've been able to assume/rule out about this beer. I'm leaning toward oxiclean residue as the culprit. Someone else prepared the carboys for filling, and they looked clean, but I didn't inspect them to closely. (big mistake) I'm going to try a test with some oxiclean and sour beer to be sure.

I'd still love to hear if anyone has had this same affect before.

Dale Hair
03/26/13 06:43 PM  
Re: Sour beer went bad?
Maybe a fungus/mold. I had something like that happen to me many many years ago, and was what I concluded, maybe incorrectly.
03/27/13 09:28 AM  
Re: Sour beer went bad?
I've seen mold on beer, it leaves a visual clue. You can actually see it. Can't say I've seen mold on beer, but given the way it forms on bread I'd think that would probably be visible in clumps too. How tightly sealed was the carboy?
03/27/13 01:24 PM  
Re: Sour beer went bad?
**Sorry!** >>Can't say I've seen mold on beer<<

That should have been "Can't say I've seen fungus on beer..."

03/27/13 01:31 PM  
Re: Sour beer went bad?
Yea, this seems like a chemical reaction rather than a fungus/mold type infection. It already fermented out, so fungus/mold wouldn't be able to take hold.

The drastic change in color could support the oxidized "burning" of the beer.

03/27/13 01:37 PM  
Re: Sour beer went bad?
I had this happen once to a lambic, it was delicious. I racked a portion off onto cherries (which turned out fine)

Then the other few gallons I bottles some and put some in a 1g glass carboy.

Color changed much darker, all great tart, sour, funky flavor went flat in the bottles and the 1g glass carboy. I saved for a while to thinking it may change and never did.

Cleaned sanitized as usual, purged with co2 and turned out horrible.. no idea what went wrong.

I chalked it up to purging with co2 something nasty blew in there or something?

Wierd that it happened to every bottle and the 1g glass carboy. Never had anything happen like it again, so I know what your saying but am at a loss as to what.

03/27/13 04:31 PM  
Re: Sour beer went bad?
Yes, we can rule out mold based on lack of visual evidence. However it is interesting, that the only batch that survived this scourge, was the also the only one that partially reformed a pellicle. But that's more interesting than useful now.

The carboys were all stopped with rubber bungs and fitted with airlocks which were periodically topped up.

Tom, that sounds exactly like what's happened to us. I only pray it's a one time blighting like yours. I never want to see the stuff again.

I really wish we'd dumped it all as soon as I'd noticed it and not waited another six months, but them's the breaks.

03/28/13 10:02 AM  
Re: Sour beer went bad?
homebrewtalk is having the same conversation:


03/28/13 10:39 AM  
Re: Sour beer went bad?
Maybe the best clue we have is the metallic taste. One cause of that is hydrolysis of lipids. I'm out of my comfort zone here, lipids are simple components of fats and cell membranes. I did some digging on this...

This process (hydrolysis) can be catalyzed under acidic or basic conditions, and is actually how soap is made. Reacting the free fatty acids with some ionic salts actually gives you soap. The left over glycerol is more commonly known as glycerine, which is itself found in a great many products.

03/28/13 12:06 PM  
Re: Sour beer went bad?
The color of the first pic is kind of what mine ended up like. I had probably a 4 -6 srm light color and almost looked like an amber ale.

Like I said only happened once and hope it never happens again. What I find odd is the portion I racked onto cherries was fine

03/28/13 12:08 PM  
Re: Sour beer went bad?
Forgot to mention to the portion on cherries became very sour tart and acidic. Some little notes of acetic but not overpowering. I deffinatly had to be blended back
03/29/13 12:01 PM  
Re: Sour beer went bad?
Yeah, the other HBT thread on it is mine as well. Mine didn't get much interest, I'm guessing because this phenomena is so under documented.

In our case 3 out of 4 carboys went off. The one that somehow avoided this taint was with raspberries, and is thankfully pretty awesome tasting.

I think there's something to be said for the the idea that oxiclean + starsan could be the culprit.

I'm just glad the barrel is ok.

03/29/13 12:13 PM  
Re: Sour beer went bad?
I did not use oxyclean on mine. Probably pbw way prior to racking santizing and covering, then rinsing inspection and santizing before fill
03/29/13 01:46 PM  
Re: Sour beer went bad?
Mine changed color in the keg, which was sanitized with Starsan. No oxy or anything...
03/30/13 01:38 PM  
Re: Sour beer went bad?
I have seen cases like this and I always just assumed it was due to a rapid oxidation of the beer. So the beers that were racked onto fruit might have absorbed some of the antioxidants from the fruit minimizing this effect. Just thinking out loud here which tends to get me in trouble at home... :)
03/30/13 06:54 PM  
Re: Sour beer went bad?
Fruit will also add sugar and kick back up yeast activity -- i.e. antioxidation.

Due to the rapid progress though I still suspect the contribution of cleaning or sanitizing agents.

But I also wanted to add that if the beer the tastes good I bottle it. Why wait? I understand the desire to keg, but I really appreciate the flavor development I get from bottle conditioning.

04/01/13 08:55 AM  
Re: Sour beer went bad?
THe one case I had I am ruling out oxidation...I purged everything two or three times with co2, bottles, and carboys.

IMine was not very metallic everything just became very very muted and muddled. At first it was slightl buttery diacytel and I thought it might just go through a sick phase in bottling.

04/01/13 12:16 PM  
Re: Sour beer went bad?
I don't get why everyone says oxidation... It's like the homebrew boogieman, somehow responsible for everything. Unless someone can produce a study in which oxygen caused color change a color change similar to what's been described here, it's pointless to even suggest. Don't mean to rant, but I spend a decent amount of time on boards like this and people blame everything on oxygen, it's ridiculous. There's no evidence of that at all.

In fact, there's evidence to the opposite. We all know what happens to sour beer when there's too much oxygen introduced... ropiness (sick beer, whatever). These are microbes that form a protective layer for themselves in the presence of oxygen, they don't just give up and decide to turn purple.

No, there's definitely something else at work here, which is why I'm maintaining, until there's enough opposing evidence that this is a taint, not a mutation, or oxygen, or autolisys. A chemical reaction is the most likely cause.

The important question is, what could do this in a clean and sanitized carboy?

04/01/13 03:37 PM  
Re: Sour beer went bad?
I didn't see a reference to autolysis, I suggested hydrolysis which is a chemical reaction. Its consistent with a metallic taste as you reported and can be catalyzed in an acidic environment - perhaps like a sour beer.
04/01/13 03:43 PM  
Re: Sour beer went bad?
Ethan -- I agree with you mostly, but wanted to add a couple of thoughts.

1) Sour beer "naturally" changes color over time and micro-oxidation contributes to this process. A Flanders red or lambic can start out quite light in color and turn dark red after years in secondary.

Too much exposure to oxygen can produce more rapid changes in color and flavor, "spoiling" the beer. Oxidation also contributes to spoilage and color change of fruit and meat.

2) I don't suspect autolysis, but chemically-induced cell lysis is a possibility.

Mike T
04/08/13 04:05 PM  
Re: Sour beer went bad?
"In fact, there's evidence to the opposite. We all know what happens to sour beer when there's too much oxygen introduced... ropiness (sick beer, whatever). These are microbes that form a protective layer for themselves in the presence of oxygen, they don't just give up and decide to turn purple."

I'd like to see a study showing oxygen causes roppiness. I've seen studies suggesting higher glucose concentration induces exopolysaccharide production as does lower temperatures. Never seen anything about oxygen. Are you talking about Acetobacter?

For me the oxygen tie in with this is that it often seems to happen shortly after a transfer. Which is the time oxygen exposure is most common. If your only knowledge of brewing sour beers came from peer reviewed studies, there would be a lot of missing information with the current state of research.

04/11/13 10:18 AM  
Re: Sour beer went bad?
Steve G, hydrolysis, interesting. I'll have to look that one up.

Luke, I get you, and I think the most frustrating thing about the conversations I've had about this (not really here, more on HBT), is that I know an amount of color change is natural, and can occur without any ill effect to the quality of the beer. I've been brewing almost exclusively sour ales for years, and I'm fairly well acquainted with them. I also am fairly well acquainted with oxidation and the flavors it produces. Enough so to say with 95% certainty that this is something else. Problem is a lot of people are refusing to just take my word for that. This isn't a scientific endeavor. I wish it was. I also don't have endless time. Unless I feel like I'm on the trail of tracking this down, I'm not going to bother looking into any cause I don't feel is likely, and my gut reaction is this is not oxidation. And that comes from a substantial amount of experience.

I really wish more people could taste the spoiled an unspoiled versions of this beer next to one-another. It really tastes like some chemical sludge got dumped in it. But just enough to send it off.

Mike T, you got me. Something I read long ago. Surely from a reliable source, but I'm not a scientist, and I don't keep a stack of references around. If only I had those much needed interns. I could be confusing Aceto or Brett, even Lacto can produce a film under the right conditions, no?

I don't need peer reviewed studies, it's just too easy to sit back and say it's one of the two things everyone says are the scourge of all beer (even if there's also loads of info to the contrary). I just want people to think outside that box because i'm pretty sure that's where the answer lies.

The hard thing about the oxygen issue, is i've done this hundreds of times, exactly the same way. Shit, several times, I've been pretty rough on the beer too (read: introduced more oxygen than I ought), and mean absolutely gorgeous beers. Why one earth would I suddenly have one of the most cared for of the lot (meaning I was damned cautious about everything that went into /interacted with it) go off in such a way. Like I said on HBT, if oxygen was the case this would be an epidemic, there'd be hundreds of threads, and everyone would be very familiar with it.

To me that means oxygen alone can be ruled out. Maybe the presence of oxygen helped, but about as much as oxygen helps a leopard kill a wildebeest. There's something else at work.

Anyway, for anyone keeping score, Matt got back to me with his test. 1 cup sour beer, plus one ounce star-san, and one teaspoon oxi-clean solution, left for a week or so, no visible change. He's going to put it in the fridge just in case temp drop was a factor. His basement stays at about 65 year round, but the barrel lives in a basement with a much broader temp swing. (The barrel is fine however)

04/23/13 03:15 PM  
Re: Sour beer went bad?
I don't think the presence of oxygen during the transfer should be discounted but I doubt oxidation is the sole cause of your problem. Is the beer brown and clear or brown and murky/cloudy? If it is cloudy I would suspect there is some bacteria or yeast getting busy in your beer and the color change is really a change in the absorption of light rather than a chemical change in the beer. Oxidation and age definitely do not change beer color that quickly unless maybe you have the worst transfer process and you're oxidizing the hell out of your beer. I'm guessing that is not the case.

Regardless of the appearance my first suspicion is that the small amount of inevitable oxygen exposure during the transfer created an opportunity for an oxidative yeast to get fueled up and start doing bad stuff to your beer. It could be brett or any other oxidative yeast. They do not always create enjoyable flavors. I have a saison I sour mashed and then fermented with a wild culture. When I last tasted it about a year ago it tasted vile, like hot trash. I left it all bottled in hope the flavor will continue to evolve. I've had some commercial and homebrewed sours that have some metallic and fecal aromas and flavors that are coming out of the fermentation. Sometimes fermentation just doesn't go your way. This could be your time for a bad batch. It's impossible to say what is the culprit or whether it will get better.

Any oxiclean residue (or chlorinated tap water used in cleaning that didn't completely dry out) could be the factor in combination with some biological cause but it seems to me if just the oxiclean and/or star-san were alone causes of the change then the same effect should appear in the fruited portion unless it was cleaned differently. It's equally as probable that the availability of new sugars in the fruit allowed some more favorable lifeform in the beer to eat up the sugars and oxygen and prevent whatever is ruining the rest of your beer from gaining a foothold.

Just an alternative hypothesis to throw out there...

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