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Infected Beer

Oktoberfest Disaster Continued!

UPDATE 10/20/09

Well after tasting the beer it is definitely infected.  The flavor was somewhat clove phenol like, it wasn’t strong but it wasn’t pleasant either. There was decidedly something musty in the background as well.
I am not a big believer in letting something like this go, and “pretend” its Belgian-like in quality.  The beer has taken a turn towards what I didn’t intend so I dumped it out.  There are always new brew days to come.  Perhaps this was a lesson learned from the poor yeast start as well.  Anyhow, I will work on another lager soon.
In the meantime, I also transferred and sampled my Brown Porter and Cider.  Both of these were excellent and are now in kegs.  I am still reeling from the loss of the Oktoberfest, but at least I have some fresh brews to drink to drown the sorrows.

Here are a few photos of the transfer night and the infected brew.

Some keg tags prepared with wishful thinking.

keg tags

The three carboys are in position to get transferred to kegs:
O’fest, Cider, Brown Porter (L-R)

three brews

The scaley infection in the O’fest.

infected ofest

Close up of the infection.

infection closeup

Drowing my sorrows with a Troegs DreamWeaver Wheat.

Troegs dreamweaver wheat

Original Post 10/15/09

Unless someone can tell me other-wise, I suspect my Ofest is infected.

There are white scale-like patches completely covering the surface of the beer.  I had the beer at 68F for the last several days, hoping to dry it out some before committing it to the lager process.  I took a sniff of it, but it didn’t smell funky.

I didn’t get a chance to taste it, because I didn’t have the time to clean and sanitize some tubing to pull a sample.  I have never brewed with Wyeast 2308 (Munich Lager) before, so maybe this is just a late stage effect from the yeast.  My next guess is that it may actually be some lipids from autolyze yeast cells…. but that’s just a guess from my lab experience with seeing lipids in weakly organic solutions at work.  Of course, that wouldn’t be any better due to the nasty flavors you get from autolysis.

Well, I am going to give it a taste tonight and see whats going on… but I don’t have high hopes.

In my eleven years of brewing, I have only had 2-3 contaminations happen.  I can only imagine where the contamination came from here.

I’ll try and get a picture tonight to add to this post later as a follow up.



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  1. Sounds like a Lactobacillus infection, or possibly brettanomyces. It might not end up ruining the beer if you drink it fast. It probably wont taste sour or funky yet, but give it time, and it will follow with a mellow sourness. You could turn it into a sour beer, but it would lake any real depth, most likely. Good luck, and thanks for the great website. =)

  2. Aw man, that is a bummer.

    We are keeping our fingers crossed.

  3. If it is what I think it is, I had this happen to a porter about a year ago. The beer was NOT compromised. I kegged it and drank it with no ill effects. The beer did not have any serious off flavors. It would not have won any kind of award, but it was totally drinkable.

    I hope for the best.

  4. I’ve had this happen to me before from bacteria on my home grown hops that I used to dry hop with. it’s most likely bacteria. Alls not lost though, let it get really funky and maybe it will be a nice belgian type of octoberfest!! Why not finish it out and see where it is!

  5. yikes, that didn’t look like what I saw on my beer. It looks a lot more scary than you described.

    What a shame, but we’ve all been there. I’m about to do a very big beer and this was a reminder for me to be very careful about sanitation.

    Good luck on the lager

  6. skookum

    First question i would raise:
    did you make a good yeast starter, or just dump the yeast in?
    I always make a healthy starter beforehand, cause this way you can smell a batch of bad yeast before pitching it.
    Saves a lot of money and work, cause to dump a bad starter is way cheaper than having to dump all of your beer.
    Secondly, you may want to take a close look on your sanitation practices.
    After the boil everything, and I do mean everything, has to be as steril as you can possibly get it.
    This even includes the airlock.
    C YA

  7. t-nug

    I think the problem may be that you had too much head-space in the keg. With that much air, it’s hard not to get some bacteria flying around in there. Good luck next time, clean and sanitize the crap out of everything that beer touched and try to ferment in a more appropriate sized container.

  8. larry

    its defiantly from too much headspace, ive had that same thing happen twice when i had a fermenter 60 percent filled.ive never understood why you never hear beer sites stressing eliminating airspace in carboys (especially for beers sitting longger periods)while wine making sites will tell you the importance of keeping things topped up.

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