July 29, 2010

Send it back

I had a bottle of really bad beer last night.

On the surface, this one appeared to be a potential winner. A high gravity anniversary beer from well-respected Unibroue, brewed just over 5 years ago. After a hard time removing the Belgian-style cork, I poured into three glasses to share with some friends. The carbonation was surprisingly low.

The aroma and flavor was pretty much terrible. I don't think any of us finished our glasses. To call it "sherry-like" would have been generous, it was really just terribly oxidized and tasted like cardboard (oh, and cherries too). I picked this bottle up at a beer store earlier this year, so I have no idea about its handling and storage up to that point. Everything I can see points to a failed cork, which is a common wine lover's lament.

On the complete opposite end of the bad beer spectrum, I recently had an extremely young example of a Minnesota classic lager called Grain Belt Premium. The glass fairly reeked of sulfur and butterscotch. It didn't surprise me much when I read this article from the mnbeer.com site shortly afterwards, explaining that the brewery was having trouble keeping up with demand. Another blog post I read recently notes a series of product recalls from big players on the craft brew scene, including Bell's and Goose Island.

Not to be a hater; I've definitely made some foul beer before. Perhaps the wost offender was a unintentionally sour porter. It was the dead heat of August in my basement, I was dry hopping with some unusual ingredients, and the surrounding brewing area was none too clean. When I went to bottle it I found that it had likely been infected with acetobacteria and had an unpleasant enteric taste. I tried everything to use that beer, mixing it with regular porter, replacing cooking vinegar with it, using it as a brine. The only thing that worked was giving it away to a friend of mine with very undiscriminating tastes (always good to have one of these as a homebrewer).

How about you, ever had to send one back or dump a batch?


  1. I made a sour. And then the next four batches I used that bucket with evidently not cleaning it out all the way. Had four batches of sugar-sweet cardboard. Professional brewer buddy of mine told me that since I didn't need the bottles just hang on to it and try it every week or so and see if turns good. It hasn't. Did this about 12 months ago, and still have about 2 cases of that beer.

  2. Just poured out 10 gallons a week ago of a mild that somehow got infected in the fermenter. I can only figure I didn't clean all the bits out before transferring in the wort.
    This happens when you drink a lot of homebrew and it's very late in the brewday. :)