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I recently took up home brewing as a hobby and brewed my first (small) batch of ale. It was a simple recipe-

  • boil a litre of water with a LOT of sugar and some lemon juice
  • let it cool
  • pitch in the yeast
  • wait for a couple weeks
  • bottle and wait a couple of days.

The resulting brew was strong- it literally knocked me out but boy was it foul tasting. I've read about a 'cardboard like taste' being imparted in ales due to oxygenation. Could that be the reason behind the terrible taste of my ale? I'm pretty sure the brew got oxygenated while bottling.

Could someone please tell me how I could improve the taste of subsequent batches?

P.S.: I'm an amateur so I don't have a brewing kit or even a hydrometer for that matter. And I live in India so my ale was 'hopless' (we don't have hops here)

  • What type of yeast are you using? Since you're using sugar and lemon, it might not be unreasonable to think you are using bakers' yeast, which can give you some nasty flavors. Also, any yeast will struggle fermenting just sugar, as it lacks the most essential nutrients for yeast growth (assimilable nitrogen, lipids, vitamins etc). – Franklin P Combs Mar 30 '15 at 11:23
  • Yes I use bakers' yeast. An ingredient I forgot to mention was raisins. It took care of the yeast's nutritional needs (I think... The brew bubbled like crazy) – Amber Mar 31 '15 at 5:29
  • Interesting, but I'm not sure raisins would provide sufficient nutrition. Grape wines are famously lacking in nitrogen and I don't see how dried grapes could supply that. Also (and this could be good or bad) grapes/raisins are typically coated in a white film of wild yeast/bacteria. – Franklin P Combs Mar 31 '15 at 12:05
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I brew in China, so I kinda know what you're dealing with. But we have Taobao so nearly everything can be obtained online. A quick look at Alibaba would suggest that at least hops and malt extract exist somewhere in India. If you're in an area that has beer, you could also try befriending someone at a brewery.

In the absence of that, you should consider using whatever you can get:

Bad flavors come from the fermentations stage: wild yeast, bacteria or being too warm will make good thing taste bad.

  • Make sure everything is sanitized.
  • Dried brewer's yeast is way better than bread yeast.
  • If you can't get that, try to get an unfiltered beer as a yeast source.
  • If you want to really experiment, try dipping (untouched) fruit into the wort to start things (this will be mostly wild yeast, but this method has been rumored to turn out great sometimes; aging might be needed).

To add some good flavors you'll want to to use something other than sugar:

  • Many grains & grasses will make something that resembles beer, although you might need to malt them yourself.
  • Fruit juice tends to be around 10% sugar, and can be fermented, apples are especially popular. Some Brits I know like to get various fruit concentrates from the market and make 'turbo cider'.
  • Mead is made from honey, but you'll want wine yeast to make good
    mead. Brewer's would make a drinkable beverage if you don't age it too long.

Lastly, you don't really need hops, according to this guy.

Good luck!

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Quite simply - that's isn't a beer nor ale, it would just be the creation of alcohol from the yeast and the sugar. There would be no specific flavours to impart or develop from the yeast and I'm not surprised it tastes foul.

Your approach is not dissimilar from the process of wine making (that said most brewing involves pretty much the same steps) - although you tend to add some kind of flavour into that using an appropriate wine yeast.

I would recommend looking towards a simple beer kit to start you on your way or look towards Turbo Cider or a fruit wine if you have the time to dedicate.

  • "There would be no specific flavours to impart or develop from the yeast". That's not true at all, yeast will provide a whole slew of their own metabolic byproducts, many of which can taste quite nasty, especially in a nutrient-deficient fermentation like this. – Franklin P Combs Mar 30 '15 at 12:09
  • Agreed, what you made was not beer. You would at least need to add some malt extract, which would come in a simple beer kit. – Ben Strombeck Mar 30 '15 at 12:56

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