The saga of the “Oh Well, What the Hell” Pale Ale. Off Flavors.

If  you have ever watched an episode of Brew Masters  on the Discovery Channel,  you will have seen Sam Calagione  wrestle with whether they should dump a batch of beer that didn’t quite meet their standards. Unlike me, the folks at Dogfish Head Brewing have standards. They have flavor profiles. They have degrees of Plato (a system of specific gravity). They have all the benchmarks of their beers charted. They have to be consistent.

I, on the other hand, am just trying to make something that tastes pretty good. On December 28 I brewed a beer that was supposed to be a Laurel India Pale Ale. Since the specific gravity came in too low for an India Pale Ale, I decided to try to make simply a Pale Ale. Simple Pale Ales are not simple to make. There is no place to hide any imperfections.

Though it is only been 10 days, which shouldn’t be too long, I can detect slight soapy and buttery tastes. According to John Palmer’s “How to Brew” website, a soapy flavor can result from the breakdown of the fatty acids that are in the trub at the bottom of your fermenter. Butter flavors can result from diacetyl. To some extent a buttery flavor might not be bad. But it can also indicate that your yeast did not start on time.

So, to bottle or not to bottle or not to bottle. That is the question.

English: PACIFIC OCEAN (Oct. 5, 2011) Aviation...

To bottle or not to bottle or not to bottle. That is the question.(Image via Wikipedia)


6 thoughts on “The saga of the “Oh Well, What the Hell” Pale Ale. Off Flavors.

  1. Norm, was reading and was wondering what happened to this batch? Did the off-flavors age out? Oh and you were right the first time,sort of…luck has VERY LITTLE to do with it! What you were describing should age out with a little time. I am always surprised at how fast homebrewers want to move the beer out of primary. I am of the mind that leaving it in primary is not only fine but beneficial to the final flavor of the beer. It gives the beer time to clean up , but of course that is just my experience. Cheers!

    • Hey Matt,

      Your thoughts help a lot. Everything I have read have cautioned homebrewers against moving from the primary to a secondary because of the fact that oxygen is not the beer’s friend then. So, I was surprised that I detected a taste that John Palmer’s site indicated might be from break down of the trub.

      It has been just a few days short of two months since I bottled Oh Well, What the Hell pale ale. I used honey for the bottle conditioning. The honey comes across in the middle of the taste. The soapy off-taste has pretty much gone away (sort of like an echo, you’re not sure if you detect it or just think you do).

      I’m going to enter it in a local competition to get feedback on what a BJCP judge thinks of it.

      I suspect that in another month it should be quite drinkable.


    • I opened a bottle last night and this batch keeps getting better. There’s a hint of fruitiness in the nose. The taste of the honey used in the conditioning is diminishing and this is on its way to being a decent session beer.

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