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I brewed a 100% wheat beer, left it on primary for 15 days then secondary for 10 days more, all at room temperature (around 22 C here).

When sampling it during the process it had a very strong sulfuric smell and sour taste, which led me to believe the beer was contaminated. I pushed forward nevertheless.

Bottled it, waited 2 weeks and tried one, it was still sour but the smell had diminished a bit.

Waited 1,5 month more and the sourness almost disappeared, together with the smell. It still doesn't taste like commercial wheat beers but those usually max at 70% wheat.

So the question is, is this normal on full wheat beers or is the sulfur and sourness being caused by something in my process?

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1 Answer 1

up vote 4 down vote accepted

What yeast did you use? Most Hefeweizen yeasts are known for strong sulfur production, and as you noticed, it usually drops out. My rule of thumb is to wait for the sulfur to completely dissipate before I bottle or keg the beer.

I get sulfur from WLP 300 & 380, but I had a sulfur BOMB on a batch with 351, I even posted a question here about it: Strong Sulfur from WLP 351 - how to clear it up quickly?. Fortunately, it cleared up with time.

Regarding the "sour" flavor, that can be yeast-specific too. That batch with 351 was fairly "sharp" tasting, and I guess one could have called it "sour". I get that flavor from wheat beers sometimes, not 100% sure why. In your case, a 100% wheat malt beer would probably have a bit of a lactic character.

In summary, I don't think you had an infection, especially if the sourness developed fairly quickly, like with your first samples. I suspect it was due to Hefe-style yeast and your 100% wheat grain bill. I am unaware of what process to use to reduce the sulfur to begin with, but it always seems to age out for me, so its not an issue (I get a lot of sulfur from lager yeasts too, and its NEVER in the finished beer).

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Fermentis' Safbrew WB-06 dry yeast, how do you ferment your batches? I was wondering if those came due to fermenting on the higher end of the yeast temperature range –  Cleber Goncalves Jan 30 '13 at 7:52
    
@Cleber, I'd suspect there's not a strong association with temp and sulfur production, because I get it with lager yeasts at 50F, and with hefe yeasts at 65F. I never cared for the flavors produced by WB-06 when I used it, but I don't recall sulfur being a problem either. Googling around some more, seems like everyone just says "let it age out", although White Labs claims that their Servomyces yeast nutrient helps reduce sulfur. –  Graham Jan 30 '13 at 13:05
    
I'm reading White and Zainasheff's Yeast book; they make a connection between ferm temp and retained sulfur. In short, lower ferm temps are more likely to leave sulfur in suspension. Sulfur compounds are "volatile enough that strong fermentation activity drives them from solution along with the CO2", and that "the lower temperatures of lager fermentation generally result in a less vigorous fermentation (less physical movement of the wort) and less evolution of gases due to higher gas solubility at those temperatures." (p.38) (cont'd next comment...) –  Galapagos Jim Feb 11 '13 at 21:31
    
(cont'd from previous comment) They also call out the practice by some weizen brewers of capping the fermenter before completion so as to trap the CO2 for packaging, which will also trap the sulfur. (p.48) Summarized, vigorous fermentation and higher temps will help drive off sulfur, also give the beer sufficient time to drive off gases before pressurizing/packaging. –  Galapagos Jim Feb 11 '13 at 21:33

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