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In August I brewed my very first batch ever, an Amber Ale from Brewer's Best (kit). Six weeks later, I opened up the first bottle and was astonished - it tasted pretty darned good!

Over the course of September and October I drank almost all the bottles, and had about 6 left coming into November.

This past weekend, I hadn't drank one in about 2 or 3 weeks, and so I cracked one open. I poured it into a glass, and it looked totally normal. Good head on it, no visible particles/"floaters", etc. But when I went to taste it, it was super strong (alcohol), and after a few sips I tossed it.

I opened a second one - same thing. A third one, same thing.

My theory is that the yeast have been fermenting inside my bottles this entire time, and that the brew's "sweet spot" (that is, where taste and alcohol content were perfectly balanced) or Golden Age was back in September and October. And that now we've past that Golden Age and there is simply too much alcohol in the bottles now to be enjoyable.

So I ask: Is my theory correct? If not, what the heck is going on? And if so, is there anything a homebrewer can do to correct it or prolong a bottled beer's "Golden Age"?

  • How are you storing your beer? If you keep them in a case next to the furnace in the basement, or in a hot closet, then they'll develop off flavors and the hop flavors will fade. – TMN Nov 23 '16 at 19:03
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Beers do tend to age and have a sweet spot, per se, of when their flavor peaks. Every beer and beer style is different without a doubt.

But what you are describing is more related to your experience level. When beers starts to "decline" they don't normally start to pick up strength. In fact, when the beer went into the bottle it should have been done fermenting altogether and aside from your priming sugar addition there really isn't much more activity from your primary yeast strain.

Seeing how you identified this as your first brew, I suspect you were experiencing some form of mild contamination by a non intended microbe that continued to work on what little fermentables were left including some of the non-fermentables in the beer that gave it its great flavor and body to begin with. A beer doesn't have to present as a gusher or sour or strange flavored to be contaminated.

This is something many new brewers go through, just stay vigilant about sanitation and be wary of the conditions around you when your beer is exposed during transfers (i.e. breezes and or excessively dusty/moldy environments).

So yes, many beers age, get better, then decline and change. Your "Golden Age" was just good beer going bad before you could finish drinking it.

(Not meant to be harsh, just honest.)

  • Nope, not harsh at all @brewchez, very good advice! Looking back I made a lot of mistakes (exposing the wort to contamination) with that first batch, and its even a miracle that it turned into good-tasting beer at all! I just bottled my second batch, an oatmeal stout, yesterday morning, and paid attention not to repeat those same mistakes. Onwards and upwards! Thanks again for the explanation. – smeeb Nov 23 '16 at 11:32
  • Great then. Cheers! – brewchez Nov 23 '16 at 13:38

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