I hate doing write-ups like this. Really I do…
This beer has been sat in a corny keg for most of February and a good deal of March and it still ain’t right (even with a test sample every week). It’s as clear as a bell, beautifully carbonated, has a great head and really looks the part. But it still ain’t right.
In the aroma there’s that “homebrew” smell, and in the taste there’s a faintly cardboardy…well…”homebrew” taste about it. Lord knows I’ve given it to enough people to try and asked for their honest feedback (not telling them that this was a kit, just one of my regular beers that I brew) and comments were all along similar lines:
“I don’t like it as much as the other beers you’ve made” – when pushed for brutal honesty they said it tasted like homebrew that they’d had in the late 80’s and early 90’s
I for one, can’t believe that this is down to quality of the Woodfordes kit. There’s no way on earth it would sell as well as it does if it regularly turned out like this. So let’s try and get to the bottom of it – addressing the usual potential homebrewing cock-ups:
1) Scrupulous attention to cleanliness? Yes, everything was star-san’ed to within an inch of it’s life
2) Skunked through light exposure? Nope, the kit was made up in about 40 minutes and went into a glass carboy and into a cupboard that was pretty much light-tight
3) Wild fluctuation in fermentation temperatures? Nope. It sat a steady 18-20c for the whole two weeks
4) Fluctuation in conditioning temperatures? Nope conditioned in keg at 12-15c for a week or so and then stored at a steady 17c since
5) Too long on the lees (yeast)? Nope, two weeks in the fermenter and then into the keg with all the yeast left behind.
6) Manky, out-of-date yeast? Nope, fresh pack of S-04
7) Chlorine in the brewing water? Nope. 1/4 of a Campden table saw off the Chlorine or any Chloramine in the tap water – and besides, I’d expect Chlor(ine/amine) to react with the hops to give a horrible medicinal or phenolic note.
According to the BJCP tasting/off-flavour guidelines (http://www.bjcp.org/docs/OffFlavorFlash.pdf) cardboard can be attributed to oxidation due to excessive aeration of either hot wort (i.e. hot-side aeration, but I poured the warmed wort carefully into the rest of the water volume), aeration during bottling (I transferred to kegs with my auto-syphon exactly the same as I do every other beer) or it’s due to oxygen in the head-space (which it can’t be, as I purged the corny keg with CO2 before force-carbonating)
So that’s it, I’m at a loss and fresh out of ideas. The only thing I can think of is that the kit was a bit long in the tooth and the malt extract had gone too far and somehow oxidised. But that seems unlikely. I’d love to re-run this experiment and see if it happens again – but I’m loathe to fork out twenty or so quid for another bash at it… Twenty quid buys quite a lot of malt and hops…
Have you brewed the Wherry kit? How did it turn out for you? Did you get off-flavours? Maybe you can see a really obvious step that I missed or didn’t do correctly? I’d be interested in your thoughts…
UPDATE: On the 24th March (literally an hour after I published the above) The good folks at Woodfordes picked up on it and were dismayed, so have very nicely sent me a replacement Wherry kit… I just need to find an hour or so to actually get it made up and into a fermenter – oh, that and a working Kitchen. That’s still not finished…no, I’ve no idea where the time goes, either.
As soon as it’s done I’ll report back on my findings…