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Last week, I decided to make a simple pale ale. I wanted something fairly light, not too bitter, and with a hint of caramel. I had some CTZ and Simcoe hops in the freezer so I wanted to use those in this brew. I am not an expert by any means, but below is what I came up with. Notice that all the hops were added with 20 minutes or less. The aroma addition was at flameout with a 15-minute hop stand before chilling. I intended to use pale malt but at the last moment decided to use pale ale malt instead, which I've never used before.

Fermentables

Name    Type    Amount  Mashed  Late    Yield   Color
Weyermann - Pale Ale Malt   Grain   11.000 lb   Yes No  85% 3.4 srm
Caramel/Crystal Malt - 40L  Grain   1.000 lb    Yes No  74% 40.0 srm
Caramel/Crystal Malt - 80L  Grain   6.000 oz    Yes No  74% 80.0 srm
Total grain: 12.375 lb

Hops

Name    Alpha   Amount  Use Time    Form    IBU
CTZ     15.5%   1.000 oz    Boil    20.000 min  Pellet  26.8
Simcoe  13.0%   1.000 oz    Boil    10.000 min  Pellet  13.5
Simcoe  13.0%   1.000 oz    Aroma   15.000 min  Pellet  0.0
CTZ     15.5%   1.000 oz    Dry Hop 7.000 day   Pellet  0.0
Simcoe  13.0%   1.000 oz    Dry Hop 7.000 day   Pellet  0.0

After the boil, while racking from the kettle to the fermenter, I noticed an aroma of Southern sweet tea. I had hoped that would go away, but when I took a hydrometer sample last night it was still there in a big way. I also get very little of what one would expect from the Simcoe hops. There is also not enough bitterness, likely owing to the fact that the CTZ I used were only 12.9% AA instead of the 15.5% value Brewtarget uses by default.

So my questions are these:

  1. What could have caused this tea aroma? Is more likely the hops or the pale ale malt?
  2. Is this something that is likely to fade over time?

UPDATE

I kegged and served this beer last night, and it turned out pretty good. More caramel flavor than I expected but not over the top. I definitely get an earthy flavor from the late CTZ hops. But the more relevant point is that the tea aroma has gone away.

I brewed a porter this past weekend that had neither Simcoe nor CTZ in it, and I caught a faint whiff of that aroma again as I moved it to the fermenter. It dawned on me then that I started smelling this when I switched from Irish moss to Whirlfloc (5 minutes). Every batch in which I've used Whirlfloc has had that aroma when it went into the fermenter. Thankfully, it does go away after a couple of weeks in the fermenter and does not affect the beer.

So I suspect it's the Whirlfloc. I've read complaints of a "fishy" or "oceany" smell when people overuse the stuff, but never "tea" like I experience. I guess that could come down to my sniffer just being a little different. This will not deter me from using Whirlfloc, though. That stuff is way better than the Irish moss I was using.

  • It could be hops related. Can you give a bit more detail about the tea smell. Is it black tea, or flavoured tea? I am not sure if astringency can lead to aromas. How long did you mash? – Atron Seige Oct 7 '14 at 7:47
  • Mashed at 153F for 1:35, dropped to 147F by the end. This was very much like black tea to me with some earth as well. It's dry hopping now. I smelled it again, and it seemed a bit less potent than before. I also have another beer dry hopping with CTZ right now, and I detected some of the same character in that one, which I hadn't noticed before. CTZ is described sometimes as "herbal" and "earthy," although descriptions seem to be all over the board (herbal, earthy, dank, pungent). Perhaps I overdid it with the late addition and will have to wait for it to fade some. – bughunter Oct 7 '14 at 11:53
  • Did you sparge or is it BIAB? It may be from the long mash or possibly from an oversparge. – Atron Seige Oct 7 '14 at 12:09
  • I batch sparge. It seemed to go fine, except my efficiency was a bit low. – bughunter Oct 7 '14 at 12:30
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If you in future experience these tea flavours or aromas, when not using Whirlfloc, then they may be due to tannins. If it is a bitter stewed tea flavour, that could have been tannins extracted from the mash. If the pH raised too far or the temperature of the sparge water was too high >77C then there is a chance these tea like flavours came from the mash not your hop additions.

There is also a chance they are from from the hops, or potentially part from mash and part from the boil.

See these for further reading on the subject: http://beerandwinejournal.com/tannins-mash/ http://beerandwinejournal.com/tannins-in-the-boil/

If it is a green/grassy/herbal tea flavour then these will likely mellow and change over time. Leave it about a month in bottles and these flavours will often mellow and balance themselves out into a well rounded mature beer.

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Its hard to say with out tasting it personally. One man's tea may be another mans herbal/spice.

Homebrewers don't always get the best Simcoe hops available. It might be a green bell pepper to garlic like aroma (that seems tea-ish to me mixed with wort, at least in my mind). Those flavors can be common in Simcoe as well as the dreaded cat pee aroma/taste.

It might fade with time, again it sort of depends on the quality of those Simcoes. So I guess I am blaming the Simcoe.

  • I was unaware of those problems with Simcoe. That other beer I mentioned above also has Simcoe in it so it'd be hard to peg it on Simcoe or CTZ based on those two beers. I recently brewed my first batch using Simcoe hops. I subbed them for Citra, which were unavailable at the time, and it turned out so well that I decided to use Simcoe in this batch. But I think the ones that went into this batch were bought separately from the ones that went into the one I liked so much. – bughunter Oct 7 '14 at 12:40
  • The "cat pee" thing is dependent on when the hops were harvested. I can't recall ever getting that from Simcoe personally. As to homebrewers not getting the best hops, that isn't necessarily true. The wholesalers who sell to homebrew retailers have the same chance at the same hops as anyone else who buys them. – Denny Conn Oct 20 '14 at 15:48
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I've used Whirlfloc on hundreds of batches and never gotten either fishy or tea like notes. I really don't think that's your problem.

  • At what point in the boil do you add it and how much do you use? My Brewcraft-branded package of 2.5g tablets says to use one tablet per 5 gallons, but I read yesterday that 2.5g is actually good for 10 gallons. I've been adding 1 tablet at 5 minutes. – bughunter Oct 17 '14 at 15:13
  • Technically one tab is good for 12 gal. I use half of one for 5.5 gal. batches. But I've used a whole tab in 5.5 gal. and not gotten any off flavors from it. With all the processing that's gone into it, it's hard to inagine that it would have any flavor. – Denny Conn Oct 17 '14 at 15:32
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    @DennyConn I've tasted a Whirlfloc tablet before. (In the name of science, you understand.) Its taste is nearly undetectable... maybe a bit of iodine. And that's before it's diluted 8000:1. – Sneftel Oct 19 '14 at 21:04

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