So here I am with a head cold, and a sore back that even has my chiropractor dismayed, yet I’m determined to bottle a batch of blonde ale as well as make a batch of American IPA. Well, the universe (and my health) had other plans for me! How I usually go about this is 1) I’ll prep the equipment and crush the grains, 2) start heating up my 8.5 gallons of water, and 3) start washing and sanitizing bottles. 4) Once my strike water is up to temperature, I add the grains, wrap the kettle with a comforter, and I now have 90 minutes to bottle. Not today…
I lifted up the lid on the fermenter, and was met with this:
Not exactly what beer is supposed to look like! Knowing that there is a wealth of wisdom and experience in the beer club I belong to, I posted this pic on-line for all to see. Within minutes there was a few responses, some saying it was salvageable, others advising I ditch it. The main piece of advice most gave was that something was missed in my sanitation procedures. Turns out this is a bacterial infection that was likely introduced by a fruit fly (according to Wikipedia), and yes – we’ve had a TON of fruit flies this year for whatever reason. Little buggers!
I then had to deal with regulating the temp of my mash, which was a little high for my liking… first thing you know, my 90 minutes is almost up so I left dealing with this infection till later. I ended up draining the contents to another bucket, leaving behind this crud floating on the top. When I lifted the lid on it the next day, voila – more of these floaties were starting to develop on the surface again! That told me the infection was throughout the beer, not just on the top.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that the bucket and lid I used for this batch has never formed a completely perfect seal… the air lock never bubbles. So, infection may have made its way in via a small leak. I always justified using this compromised setup by reminding myself that there are people who brew beer in open containers, with only a layer or two of cheese cloth over the top. Well, haven’t I been told!
So, down the drain it went… *Sniff*… Feeling like a child flushing their first gold fish down the toilet, I held my first beer funeral. Goodbye blonde ale… we never got to enjoy each other’s company…
What you see in the pic is an infection that forms a thin membrane called a “pellicle”. Now I have to deal with sanitizing – no – sterilizing the fermentation bucket and drain tap if I’m ever going to use it again for fermenting. I have my doubts. Can’t have this happen again! It’s a good thing I’ve been brewing like a mad man all summer, otherwise I’d have to go to the beer store. Heaven forbid. Oh – and the American IPA is happily fermenting away, with the air lock bubbling like crazy. We know this one has a good seal!
Cheers for beers!