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This is a story of two very different pours from the same batch. TL;DR: the first bottle was foamy and very carbonated, the second was normal, but the first bottle went flat and was cloudy, while the second bottle was within normal range for head, carbonation, and clarity.

The Story: I poured a bottle for a friend into a hand-rinsed, standard pint glass, pouring the first half down the side and the second half down the middle, being careful not to disturb or pour the lees. When I opened it, I noticed some bubbling in the neck, but no gusher. The beer was fairly foamy, very bubbly, with a head that dissipated very quickly.

I immediately opened a second bottle for myself, noticed the same bubbling, but got sidetracked and did not pour for about 10 minutes. Same type of glass and pouring technique. However, my beer had a nice head, that lasted a little while, and carbonation was normal.

When were about halfway through both beers at the same time, and noticed that my friend's beer had gone sort of flat with no lacing and was a little cloudy, while mine was still carbonated, and was pretty clear (you could see through it when held up to light). (By the way, the beer was somewhat green, and hopefully will benefit from more time in the bottle.)

My Question: Is this a sign of improper carbonation, or could it be due to inadequate mixing in the fermenter before I bottled? I.e., maybe I racked too much beer into bottles and should have left more in the fermenter. Or maybe something different? I have never had bottles that varied from bottle to bottle before.

Recipe ingredients and process:

  • Belgian pale ale - all-grain: 95% Belgian pale malt, and 5% Belgian biscuit;
  • Safbrew T-58 yeast, properly rehydrated, with est. cell counts per Mr Malty's calculator.
  • OG: 1.050 --> FG: 1.010;
  • fermented in primary 15 days at 67°F; no secondary;
  • I did not cold crash or use any finings, but I gingerly moved the fermenter to the counter where I was bottling about two hours before bottling;
  • bottled straight from fermenter, and primed with exactly one Cooper's carbonation drop per bottle;
  • I did not feel like I was greedy about bottling too much beer, and I recall leaving quite a bit in the fermenter to avoid sediment, even pouring out the last bottle instead of capping;
  • bottle conditioned for 14 days at 70-72°F and another six days at 67°F, both in the same sealed case box.
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Did you sample both to see if the carbonation varied between either bottle? Did you friend tell you his tasted flat? Things like lacing can happen with any beer, so long as the glass is cleaned. Head retention is easily killed in a dirty glass as well, although a clean glass doesn't alone mean it will have good head retention. –  Scott Dec 27 '13 at 17:05
    
Yes, we sampled each other's glasses, and agreed that mine was much better than his. These were second beers, so I had just hand-washed and -rinsed both pint glasses. –  Chino Brews Dec 27 '13 at 21:28
    
The question is partially about head retention, but also about the weird carbonation profile of the first bottle compared to the second one - especially given that the priming sugar was calibrated to be equal due to using priming drops. –  Chino Brews Dec 27 '13 at 21:31
    
Just to be 100% certain, you placed the drops in the individual bottles themselves, and didn't drop them all into the bucket and stir before pouring off into bottles, right? –  Scott Dec 27 '13 at 21:35
    
Yes, I put them in the bottles.:) I could have sanitized a bottling bucket, and used dextrose and a priming calculator. But it was late, I was getting lazy, and had a bunch of leftover priming drops from a recipe kit. –  Chino Brews Dec 27 '13 at 22:06

3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

My first thought is that the beer was not very uniform when bottled. Some brewers I know try to get scientific about mixing without introducing oxygen at bottle time; me I just mark the first few and last few from the batch and worry less!

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Marking the first and last few bottles is a great idea that didn't occur to me. Thanks! –  Chino Brews Dec 27 '13 at 21:32

It could very well be due to fermentation problems. Read this...it has tests that can help you diagnose the problem.

http://byo.com/stories/article/indices/35-head-retention/697-getting-good-beer-foam-techniques

Also, if it's an extract batch, keep in mind that extract beers generally have less foam. Foam is produced by protein and a lot of protein gets removed when extract is made.

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Thank you for the reference, Denny. This was an all-grain beer - malt bill is above. –  Chino Brews Dec 27 '13 at 21:32

You were methodical about the important aspects in your write-up, and nothing looks suspect there. And since you primed with carbonation drops, that would rule-out non-uniform distribution of bottling sugar. And you later said:

we sampled each other's glasses, and agreed that mine was much better than his

So it goes beyond carbonation. Yes, less carbonation can have a bit less 'bite', but based on what I've seen here, I'd guess it was a non-sanitized bottle, and you had some bacteria in there.

It might turn out to be an "interesting" batch, since your bottling wand could have scraped a little bacteria-laced goo off of the bottom of the 30th bottle, so bottles 30 through 48 might be bad, whereas bottles 1 through 29 are good.

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Interesting. That never occurred to me. I was letting the rest of the batch condition in the cellar for 2-3 more weeks, and I am now motivated to move that box back to the spare shower in case of bottle bombs. –  Chino Brews Dec 29 '13 at 21:04
    
Let us know how it goes. I could be wildly off track! –  Dale Dec 30 '13 at 0:25

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