Thursday, February 21, 2008

Have you had an unintentionally "infected" beer?

Yes, and have never brewed an intentionally sour beer
16 (21%)
Yes, and have brewed an intentionally sour beer
20 (27%)
No, and have never brewed an intentionally sour beer
28 (37%)
No, and have brewed an intentionally sour beer
9 (12%)
Never brewed beer
1 (1%)

I haven't done studied statistics in a couple years, but that looks like a no questions asked positive correlation to me. Out of the people who have brewed a sour beer 69% have had an infection, while it has only happened to 36% of people who have not brewed a sour beer.

Granted this is probably a correlation that is partly based on the fact that people who have brewed sour beers probably have been brewing longer and thus have had more chances for infections... but I doubt that is enough to explain nearly twice the percentage of people reporting an infection.

Just let this being a warning that you do have to take some extra precautions if you want to bring, Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, or Pediococcus into contact with your equipment. It also shows why so many pro-brewers don't brew sour beers, even if they (secretly) want to.

I have had one unintentional funky beer, but since then I have tightened up my process and have been running a clean ship. The only item I have segregated is my post-boil tubing, everything else gets used for both funky and clean beers (I just don't have the room to do otherwise in a small apartment). In my general cleaning/sanitation routine I use an extended generic OxiClean and hot water soak to get the "gunk" off a used piece of equipment, then I soak it in Star San before storing it. I then re-sanitize before the next use, this way everything gets sanitized twice in between every use, even if the previous beer was clean. If you keep two sets of all your post-boil equipment you might not need to be this diligent, but it wouldn't hurt as even a significant number of "clean" brewers have had unwelcome guests in their beer.

If anyone wants to add a comment with their preferred cleaning routine feel free, and make sure to include how effective it has been.


Anonymous said...

When I was judging in Italy a couple of month ago, I had two beers that had a distinct brett caharacter. The first (weakest) was a wee bit unbalanced, the second was an almost perfect clone of Orval. I'm still unsure if the brett was there intentionally, or if it was there just by accident.
Even if it was there unintentionally, I thought the second beer was actually very good. But of course that is a subjective opinion.

slim chillingsworth said...

I'm wondering about separation during fermentation. In order to keep a controlled temperature, I would need to keep infected beers in the same fermentation fridge as other beers. Any worries about this?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

As long as you have airlocks on the fermenters I wouldn’t worry about it. If you want to make yourself feel better you can put some sanitizer in the airlock instead of water. Just remember that there is wild yeast and bacteria in the air anyway, if it doesn’t give you a problem a fermenter with domesticated wild yeast won’t either.