Learn From My Mistakes Vol 1

Learn From My Mistakes Vol 1

Even veteran brewers mess up sometimes.

Don’t rush


Brewing is a hobby requiring patience and lots of practice.  Just because the task ahead may be relatively small, don’t assume you can knock it out just before running out the door.


Recently I had a 6-gallon glass carboy full of wine that was ready to degas, stabilize and clarify.  Thinking it would only take a few minutes, I decided I’d get it done before getting ready for work.


After degassing, adding sulfite, potassium sorbate, and chitosan, I went to remove my stainless mix-stir from my drill and CLINK! The mix-stir dropped into the carboy and struck a stress point near the edge, punching a tiny hole through the bottom.

 broken Carboy


Close-Up Broken Carboy

I froze watching wine pour out over the basement floor, a dim understanding of how much a mess I was making slowly coming over me.  To salvage the wine, I grabbed a clean bucket, rinsed it with some pre-mixed sulfite I (thankfully) had on hand, grabbed the carboy by the neck, and heaved it inside the bucket to drain.


I then had to clean and sanitize a new glass carboy, drain the last of the wine out of the broken carboy without injuring myself, and rack the wine one more time.


Luckily, I salvaged 5 gallons of (slightly oxidized) wine.  I added some extra sulfite and will give it a week or two extra bulk aging time before bottling.  Cleaning up the mess took an hour and nearly made me late for opening the shop, so I’ll not be trying to complete simple tasks before work going forward.


Allow time for Quality Control


I recently submitted four beers to a local homebrewing competition and received bad feedback.  All the scoresheets indicated my beers had some major flaws.  Here's an example:


 Major Flaws


These comments were surprising because I’d made the beers before without issues.  I had force carbonated the beer in kegs and was drinking it, and I had not observed the same problems the judges listed.  I’m usually pretty good at picking up major flaws like acetaldehyde or oxidation, so I immediately thought something had gone horribly wrong.


I had a few extra bottles sitting at room temp that, like all my competition entries, I packaged with my counter pressure bottling gun, so I popped them in the fridge.


A few hours later, I popped both bottles and found both beers had been infected.  I checked the bottling gun liquid line and sure enough, there were some stained sections that looked gnarly.  Clearly, something from the kegs or bottling gun had infected the beers.


Had I bottled some beers a few weeks before drop offs were due, allowed them to sit at room temp then chilled and tasted them, I would have identified the issue far sooner than when I received the judges’ feedback.


As a result of this feedback, I'll be replacing the o-rings on my kegs along with the liquid line on the beer gun.  I'll also deep clean the ball lock keg connectors and anything else that might be the culprit in the kegging system.  Hopefully that solves the infection issue!