Off-Flavor Tasting

On Monday, Cyrena Nouzille offered up an off-flavor tasting at Ladyface Alehouse to those who were serious about learning. Needless to say, I was in attendance in preparation for my Cicerone test and just because I love learning everything beer.
I came geekily-prepared.
Unfortunately, my notes were not enough to prepare me for the horror that was ahead. We began with oxidation in Ladyface’s La Blonde. Have you ever chewed on an old tube of lipstick? Well, why haven’t you? Do that and you’ll know exactly how this beer smelled and tasted. Horrifying.
DMS – This one was tough for me. I couldn’t really smell or taste the cooked-corn/canned vegetable when the beer was cold. After about ten minutes, the beer started to warm up and I got a disgusting facepunch of DMS.
Diacetyl was another one I had trouble with when it was cold. The only thing I could notice was a slickness on the tongue. Once it warmed up, the aroma of butter and buttery popcorn flavor was impossible not to notice!
The Siebel kit comes with 24 different off-flavor vials. We went through eight of the most common.
Acetaldehyde – an apple aroma/flavor: sign of a young or “green” beer. Mercaptan – sewage aroma/flavor: sign of autolysis (death of yeast). Metallic – metallic (durr) flavor: sign of minerals in the brew water/old brewery equipment. Isovaleric – sweaty socks aroma/flavor: sign of stale and oxidized hops. Microbial infection – slightly sweet/sour funk (actually similar to some saisons I’ve had): sign of nasty bacteria . Papery – stale lipstick aroma/flavor: sign of oxidization. DMS – cooked corn/vegetal aroma/flavor: sign of wort that’s been cooled too slowly/closed kettle during the boil. Diacetyl – buttery/butterscotch aroma/flavor: sign of weak or stressed yeast.
We had a group of about eight people for the tasting, plus another three who came in later to partake.
For some reason, the pitchers didn’t get finished. No idea why that was.

After the trauma had worn off a few days later, I worked an event with Enegren Brewing out in downtown LA.
Just for kicks, here’s a picture of me carrying a 50lb keg on my (now bruised) shoulder whilst wearing heels and a skirt. I’m bomb like that.
Happy Saturday! I’m off to a client’s house for gourmet food and red wine!

6 Comments

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6 Responses to Off-Flavor Tasting

  1. I’d love to go to one of these kinds of tastings. When I brew my own it would be awesome to have some frame of reference so I can taste my brew and have a better understanding of what the problem may be.
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  2. Richard

    Oh, in my days as a publican…
    I know the horrors of those tastes. Especially first thing in the morning when you are not expecting it…

  3. thanks for this post. i have recently been researching cleaning up the off flavors in my beer. the main one i’ve run into is the Diacetyl woes. i did a German Ale in October that was so overrun with this flavor i almost renamed it the Stinky German Ale. what i’ve learned is that if a starter is not used to grow the yeast then you’ll get that flavor everytime due to under pitching the yeast! i never did starter in my entire year of brewing. my last brew i did was a pumkin ale and i used a starter for the first time. it has little to no Diacetyl flavor. i’m a starter man from this day forth.

    • I’ve never made a starter before, but haven’t had any issues with off-flavor in my beer yet. I’m sure the day that happens, I’ll transition as well.

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