St Peters Honey Porter - brew failure

JimmythefishJimmythefish Member Posts: 2
Hi Guys, on my third brew and have a feeling a third fail. My Honey Porter brew went through 1st fermentation fine, as far as I could tell bubbling away nicely for 4 days. I kegged it after a week and added the sugar for 2ndary fermentation. I gave it a month then tried it and the taste was horrible - really chemically and yeasty. At that point I gave the barrel a shake and left it a further month. I've just retried and although the brew looks perfect it's still undrinkable. Her indoors thinks the taste is of yeast - I can barely let it reach my mouth it's so grim. Should I take the lid off and apply some sugar to attempt a further fermentation or give this one up? Any ideas what could have gone wrong?


  • HBO_StaffHBO_Staff Administrator Posts: 2,115
    Hi Jimmythefish, sorry to hear this is not going well, something does sound as it may be going wrong, there are couple of things you might consider to see if it offers a reason. If it fermented for a week this is usually about right, ideally try to keep the temperature fairly constant and within the range the manufacturers say, this is often around 20 degrees C as a general guide. If the temperature has fluctuated a lot during fermentation this can give off unpleasant flavours. It is always advisable to take a hydrometer reading just to be sure it has finished fermenting.

    Once the fermentation is complete it is best to then transfer over into bottles or a barrel fairly soon, if you leave the brew on the dead yeast for a while this can cause off flavours, but it sounds as though this is not the case here as you barrelled promptly.

    After a month in the barrel it would usually be about ready, although would probably improve with age, was the beer clear and carbonated at this stage? If a brew is still cloudy this can be a sign it needs longer to settle and clear. Try to keep the barrel away from UV light too, cover it over if needed to keep strong light off it as this can cause off flavours.

    A strong off taste or flavour can be due to a number of things, it can be that a brew can be quite bad tasting in the early stages and takes time to condition, a really bad flavour or often vinegary can be a sign of contamination and this often means the brew is no good, it can be due to contamination or may be just bad luck from bacteria getting into the brew. Using a strong cleaner such as VWP on anything that will touch the brew or vessel can really help, and keeping the lid on the vessel as much as possible to keep airborne contaminates out.

    Some people report a chemically taste from the water, generally most tap waters are fine and most people don't taste anything wrong from it, occasionally people report that they get a strong chemical flavour and it may help to either use filtered water or to test the water and balance it before using it.

    The other thing is to ensure that any vessels used are not imparting any kind of flavour into the brew, as long as you use a food grade brewing vessel this will be fine, but just check any containers are not giving off a flavour if they are not intended for brewing. Any badly scratched containers may need replacing to ensure they are not affecting the flavour.

    It night just be worth confirming as much of this info as you can if possible:

    The temperature brewed at
    The final gravity reading before barrelling (if taken)
    Has the brew carbonated in the barrel
    Has the beer cleared fully
    Do you know if there is much yeast settled in the bottom of the barrel - ie much sediment
    Is there a strong smell/taste of vinegar

    Just let us know,
  • JimmythefishJimmythefish Member Posts: 2
    Many thanks for getting back to me.
    wrt your queries:

    I brewed the beer in my almost new fermenting bucket at between 22 and 24C. I have an "under bucket" heater placed under the brew and switched it on overnight. The barrel lived by the hot water tank for the duration of the first fermentation.

    Sadly I didn't take a gravity reading before barrelling. Lesson learned here.

    The beer has carbonated in the barrel. I can pour beer without the necessity of CO2 so far.

    The beer is almost black so it's difficult to tell whether it's cleared and it's not possible for me to verify what's at the bottom of the barrel. There's no obvious sediment in the bottom of the glass when poured.

    The taste isn't of vinegar. It doesn't taste like it's "gone over" or like beer that's sat around too long - I'm an old hand at drinking beer in pubs and know what that tastes like. I struggle to describe the taste other than very chemically and not something I want to swallow. I don't think the flavour is going to improve so it's going to become fertilizer but I would like to have some idea of where I managed to blow the process :(

    Big thanks for any advice
  • HBO_StaffHBO_Staff Administrator Posts: 2,115
    Thanks for the extra info, this is a frustrating one, there is probably not too much that can be done to change the flavour, try leaving it away from UV light ) ideally in the dark) at around maybe 10 or 12 degrees for a month and see how it tastes then, if still no good sadly this one is probably not going to improve after that. Everything you describe sounds OK, keeping the temperature a bit lower might just help, but the fact it fermented in good time, is carbonated and reasonably clear, and the poured beer is not full of sediment or cloudy in the glass, are all good signs. You seem to just have this chemically taste in an otherwise well brewed beer.

    The things we would suggest to try are:

    Depending on the cleaner you use perhaps change it for an alternative, and ensure all the equipment is really well rinsed, this will help to rule that out and any chance of a lingering flavour from the cleaner. Assuming everything is well cleaned then for several brews to be contaminated is unlikely - it can happen occasionally when brewing from bad luck but not really repeatedly.

    Because this sounds like a recurring issue it is something that is common to all your brews, one main factor in all your brews will be the water, and this is the largest ingredient so can have quite an effect. Perhaps try either filtering the water if this is possible, or if not then use a campden tablet and leave the water you will use to brew for 24 hours in a vessel before use, you may be getting a flavour from the water - it is not a really common issue but some brewers have major issues with water and report off flavours. Leaving it to stand for 24 hours before using in a brew allows chemicals in the water to evaporate out. In some extreme cases brewers have said they have resorted to buying bottled spring water to ensure it is not the water, but this adds to the cost and you have to make sure the bottled water is spring water and not just tap water supplied in bottles.

    The other thing is temperature, try brewing on the cooler side, if possible around 18 to 20 degrees C, and try to keep it constant around this, this will help to rule that out too. Just bear in mind that the fermentation may be slower and take a bit longer, but if you have a hydrometer take a reading before barrelling just to be sure the fermentation is complete.

    Once the fermentation is complete it can be transferred over into the barrel so it is not sat on the dead yeast that has settled, you barrelled the last batch after a week so that wont have been an issue.

    A combination of these things should help to stop this flavour you are getting, we are really sorry this is happening as it is quite unusual
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