I'm almost always surprised by my beers. (In a good way.) Given that I'm still in the beginning stages of wrapping my head around this bizarre intersection of art and science*, maybe it ought not to be unexpected. There are still a great many things that I am at a loss to understand. Some of my methods are less than optimal. I.e, I sometimes stress my yeast thermally (okay, pretty frequently considering the time of year here in Philly) and I am still impressed at how unpalatable compounds reform during bottle conditioning. I know very little (read: almost nothing) about esterification of higher alcohols and other processes that take place during conditioning. I do, however, know that I've been pretty hard pressed to make something that was just wrong.
Earlier this week I thought I had wrought something wicked upon the earth. Sulfur production was readily noticeable in primary fermentation. Not so hot as far as non-lager ferments are concerned. Some funky aromas (earthy?) were hanging out at bottling time as well though sulfur was no longer an issue. Basically, I was ready to wait a week or so just to toss this.
The first bottle smelled and tasted cidery. Malt flavors were dull. The prognosis wasn't good.
The following bottles on the other hand were a bit fruity, malt shone through, hop character noticeable and pretty tasty. I had succeeded in making a low OG thing that didn't go bad and tasted pretty beery. Huzzah! Just goes to show that it truly is difficult to really get it wrong. If only more things in life were so self-correcting.
Recipe (for ~4 gallons):
5 lbs. Maris Otter
1 lb. 120L Crystal
1.5 lbs. Brown Sugar
East Kent Goldings @ 60, 20, 5 min.
Apparent Attenuation: ~79%
*This also used to be the way that I would refer to Philosophy internally. Except, for some reason, it would always be in the German: Zwischen Kunst und Wissenschaft, or, "Between art and science." Perhaps a nice tagline for a brewpub that does some traditional German styles?