OK, let’s be honest. Not every batch you brew will be the best beer ever. (I’ve certainly made my share of sub par homebrews!) So let’s say a batch doesn’t turn out quite the way you want it to. You may even suspect infection. What do you do? Dump it right away and try again? Try to blend it with another batch? Pass it off on your friends? How do you go about handling beer brewing problems.
Here are my suggestions:
1. Wait – As homebrewers, one of the hardest things to do is wait for beer to be ready. More often than not, what we suspect as a fault may just need some time to mellow out. That off-flavor may just be a symptom of green beer. Did you add too much chipotle to your chipotle porter? Just give it some more time to see how it develops. Some beers take many weeks – if not months – before they’re ready to drink.
2. Take notes – Regardless of whether this batch is salvageable or not, it’s a valuable learning experience for the future. Be sure to write down not just the recipe and what you did on brew day, but also flavor characteristics and how they change over time. The more information you can glean from handling a homebrewing problem, the sooner you will become a better brewer. Two or three years from now when you want to brew another chipotle porter, these notes will be invaluable for creating a well-balanced recipe.
3. Consider blending – I’m a big advocate of blending homebrew. Commercial breweries blend beers all the time. Chances are, your favorite pale ale is actually a blend of several batches of the same beer. This helps the brewery ensure that they deliver a consistent product within a small range of specifications. But while commercial brewers have enormous tanks for blending, it’s a little trickier for the typical homebrewer.
What I suggest is brewing a batch to blend with the original beer, but instead of blending them in the fermenter, blend the two beers in the glass. This way, you can play around with the blending ratio, and if you ultimately decide the problem batch isn’t worth saving, you’ll only lose one batch instead of two. From there, you might be able to infer how you would adjust the recipe in the future.
4. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again – Although a botched batch of homebrew can be discouraging, don’t give up! You’ve undoubtedly learned quite a bit from your mistakes. Apply this experience to your future batches and they are bound to turn out that much better!
What other advice do you have for handling beer brewing problems?
David Ackley is a writer, brewer, and craft beer marketing consultant. He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder of the Local Beer Blog.