Saturday, January 17, 2009

Tasting: Hair of the Dog Fred

I can't do a proper tasting of this beer because it is flat.

As in, no head, no carbonation, none.

The beer is bottle conditioned, and this is something I have experience with so I will go over it for those of you that have never studied brewing or home brewing.

During the fermentation process, the beer yeast converts the sugars to alcohol and create CO2 as a byproduct. In nature, wild yeast that finds it's way onto fruit and other sugar sources would use oxygen to consume the alcohol they create, but brewers (and winemakers) are careful to keep oxygen away from the beer and eventually either the alcohol kills most of the yeast, or the sugar is depleted and any yeast remaining rest in suspension or fall to the bottom of the fermentor.

Most beer is sent to a brite tank, or a conditioning tank after fermentation is complete, and CO2 is forced into the beer at a high pressure. Home brewers that don't have the equipment to force carbonate though, or those who prefer the flavor, bottle condition their beer.

Beer that is bottle conditioned requires 2 things: Yeast surviving in suspension, or added during bottling, and sugar to consume so that CO2 can be produced, creating carbonation.

The sugar can be added, or theoretically it could be remaining in the beer if fermentation is stopped early.

Since this beer is flat, it means that either:
  1. There was not enough sugar for the yeast to eat
  2. There was not enough yeast in suspension to eat the sugar
  3. The bottles were not handled properly and the yeast was destroyed by temperatures they couldn't handle before they could ferment the additional sugars
  4. The brewer did not wait long enough for the yeast to do their thing and I opened the bottle before it could start fermentation.

Since the beer is quite sweet, and there was a bit of yeast on the bottom of the bottle, I suspect problem number 3, combined with 4 as the source of the problem. This beer is 10% abv, so the yeast would take much longer to consume the sugars in the toxic (to them) beer than in a lower alcohol beer.

I purchased the beer at the end of 2 weeks of very cold (for Oregon) weather so perhaps the the warehouse was too cold and the yeast were killed before they could finish their work.

In any case, it was a big disappointment. I won't be able to purchase any more of this beer to see what the beer tasted like when properly handled since it is not distributed in my area, and I paid $5.oo for 12 ounces of sugary flat beer.

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