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I'm new to the world of homebrewing, having completed 2 batches. Both batches have been 'recipe in a box' kind of beers from Brewer's Best. The first was an Imperial Nut Brown Ale, and the second was an Irish Stout. In both cases, the beer was bottled for the carbonation process.

The first beer was still flat after 3 weeks, and after agitating them and waiting an additional 2 weeks the carbonation was fine. The second was great (carbonation-wise) after 3 weeks.

The first beer came out to about 1.5% below the expected ABV (came out to ~5%, when expecting a ~6.5% ABV), and the second one came to a disappointing 3%, when it was supposed to be 4.5 - 5%.

The first one tasted pretty good, but still had a small water aftertaste almost separate if that makes any sense (consumed anywhere from 5 weeks to 4 months after bottling). The second beer was horrible. By the time the beers were consumed (~5 weeks after bottling), they were over-carbonated and it felt like half your drink was an Irish Stout and the other half was tonic (a friend involved in the brewing process swears that he tastes the StarSan, but I didn't).

So the question is, why does my beer have a separate water aftertaste?

If you need additional information, please comment.

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How do you know that your ABV was off? Did you use a hydrometer? As for water aftertaste, I don't know what that means. Water has no taste as I can classify. But the chlorine or salts in water can change the taste. Where did you get the water for brewing from? When I started I always used the 2.5 gallon plastic spring water jugs from the grocery store. That way I wouldn't have to deal with the chlorine in the local water supply. –  Chris Plaisier Jun 15 '13 at 15:41
    
@ChrisPlaisier I got my ABV from using a hydrometer and the (Init. Grav - Final Grav.) * 131.25 = XX% formula. As far as "aftertaste", that is exactly what I'm talking about, its like the 2nd half of the beer you're swallowing has no taste, and has the feeling of water. I'm getting the water from my local water supply (local brew shop said it was fine due to boiling off anything), sounds like you would suggest using spring water jugs instead, correct? –  tarheel Jun 15 '13 at 16:27
    
I'm guessing the "watery" taste is actually a "watery" mouthfeel (two different things). Not all that hard to grasp that low ABV + carbonation can give you a weak mouthfeel, especially when you expect a stout or imperial anything to pack a wallop, and then doesn't. –  Scott Jun 15 '13 at 16:33
    
Did you do a partial boil and top off? If so, you likely got an inaccurate OG due to incomplete mixing of top off water and wort. When you make an extract kit and get the proper volumes, you pretty much HAVE to get to correct OG, no matter what you measure. It happened to me dozens of times when I started brewing. I think the "water" taste me be in your head since you think the beer is too low in alcohol. –  Denny Conn Jun 15 '13 at 16:49
    
BTW, if the beer got more carbonated over time, likely it wasn't done fermenting when you bottled or you had an infection. –  Denny Conn Jun 15 '13 at 16:51
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1 Answer 1

up vote 3 down vote accepted

A watery aftertaste can come from several sources:

  • Simply too little malt or bittering hops in the beer, for example, you used kit that contains a lot of sugar rather than malt, the back end of the beer can taste watery, simply because there is nothing to provide any aftertaste.
  • Insufficient salts - water salts affect the taste of the beer including the aftertaste. Water salts are to the beer like seasoning is to food and are needed for some styles to taste right. (E.g. Burton water for English Milds.) John Palmer gives an in-depth discussion of brewing Water and salts here.
  • A high pH - beer should be around 3.8-4.5 pH, depending upon style. The lower pH makes the beer feel bright and vibrant - a higher pH will make the beer taste dull.
  • low hop bitterness - as well as reducing the pH (see above), hop bittering acids linger well into the aftertaste. With low-hopped beers the aftertaste comes from the malt, but if that's also missing then the aftertaste will just be watery.

For stouts, using some roasted barley or Carafa will help add some dryness to the aftertaste.

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I'm not sure about lack of water salts contributing to a watery flavor. There are plenty of beers traditionally brewed with very soft water. My water is very soft and I add nothing but calcium chloride to lower the mash pH. No ones ever complained that my beers lack flavor or mouthfeel. –  Tobias Patton Jun 16 '13 at 15:09
    
You're misunderstanding me or taking it too literally. It's about the balance, and depends upon the style and the other ingredients present. An Irish Red brewed with soft water will taste blander than when brewed with water containing more minerals, particularly sulphates, while a 100% malt pils tastes great with soft water. –  mdma Jun 16 '13 at 18:01
    
@mdma Would you sugest also reading "Yeast: The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation" and "For the Love of Hops: The Practical Guide to Aroma, Bitterness and the Culture of Hops"? –  tarheel Jun 17 '13 at 3:27
    
@mdma One last question, is there somewhere where I can get my hands on the John Palmer: Water book before October? –  tarheel Jun 17 '13 at 16:28
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