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Recently I brewed two batches of a copycat Christmas Ale. You can ignore the recipe's water adjustments, since I didn't do them.

Before fermenting, the wort smelled and tasted perfect - just the right amount of sugar and spice. I figured that it would turn out fantastic (both batches).

The first batch sat in the bottle for 2 weeks, and when I tasted I was quite disappointed. It had essentially no spice characteristic in smell or taste, and it had a slight band-aid smell, but much more noticeable in the taste. Still drinkable, but not as pleasant as one would hope. The second batch just finished primary fermentation and has a similar taste, but much less of the smell. Slightly band-aid-y flavor in the aftertaste.

Here are my ideas for what went wrong:

Batch 1:

  • completely forgot to sanitize the carboy (even though I did sanitize everything else) - I was drinking, and cooking for 8 people while I was making this beer. Not my best idea, so I'm guessing bacterial infection
  • pitched too much yeast; used about 5.5g for a 4L batch; the recommendation for Safale S-04 is 11.5g for 20-30L (so I may have overpitched by about 2-3x
  • fermented at too high of a temperature (my apartment was roughly 22C/72F, but with the fermentation heat it probably was right at the 25C/77F yeast threshold)
  • chlorine in the water did not have time to dissipate (I did not adjust water chemistry, and did not leave the water overnight to let the chlorine evaporate)

Overall, batch 1 was a complete disaster on all fronts, so I'm not surprised it turned out the way it did. However, I tried to improve things for batch 2.

Batch 2:

  • fermented for about 12 hours at 22C/72F before I read up on too high of temperature potentially producing phenol alcohol; I immediately chilled my apartment down to a safer 18C/65F, right in the middle of the yeast's temperature range factoring in heat from fermentation
  • pitched approximately 5.5g for an 8L batch (so a little closer to the guideline of 11.5g per 20L-30L), but still may have overpitched

I sanitized everything properly in batch 2, so I don't think it was bacterial infection.


For both batches, it could have been chlorine in the water, the fermentation temperature being too high (in batch 2 for 12 hours), that I overpitched the yeast, or that maybe even the spices didn't ferment well or that they were boiled at inappropriate times. I just can't be sure. Last summer I made a beer with cinnamon and ginger with no issues, but I've added clove and nutmeg to this one - so maybe it could be that they give off some nasty compounds when boiled or fermented? Maybe it's just Safale S-04 that gives off this medicinal characteristic (as is desirable in some English ales, apparently), and over-pitching led to it being much more noticeable.

Do you guys have any ideas as to what went wrong? I am tempted to rule out bacteria simply because I made sure to properly sanitize everything in batch 2.

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Band aid flavours are related to phenols, which can only have a few possible causes.

  1. Chlorine compounds in the wort (either residue from cleaning or as a result of using chlorinated tap water) may produce TCP (tri-chlorophenol) during fermentation.

  2. Excessive levels of tanning may have been extracted from the grain husks (tannin is a phenol) due to oversteeping, oversparging, too high a steeping or mashing temperature or too high a pH level in the mash/steep.

  3. You either have used a POV-positive yeast that produces spicy phenols as part of its normal flavour profile (which, in excess, lead to band aid flavours) and for some reason it has produced too much of this, or you have an infection with a wild yeast strain. Wild yeasts often produce phenols.

Unfortunately there is no way to remove excessive phenol levels from the beer once formed.

  • Given that I didn’t sparge the first batch, but did the second, the only common factors that remain are chlorine and yeast. At this point I’m certain it was the chlorine since I just used unfiltered tap water. I’ll try my next batch with the same recipe with filtered water and see if that makes a difference. If it doesn’t it has to be the yeast, right? – Chris Cirefice Dec 24 '18 at 9:57
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    Changing one variable at at time is indeed the way to go about trouble shooting issues like this. As farmersteve already pointed out, Campden tablets can be used to remove chlorine. Boiling the water and cooling overnight will also work, as will active carbon filtration. – Frank van Wensveen Dec 24 '18 at 19:52
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See the question I just answered 2 days ago about a similar issue. In your case I would say it's your water. Use Campden tablets, get a good filter or buy reverse osmosis water at your local grocery store at one of those filling stations.

  • So you don't think that high temperature during fermentation or the amount of yeast pitched is the problem? I don't know the water chemistry here in France... I'll ask the microbrewery down the street what they do just in case. If it is indeed the water, would letting the water sit overnight allow enough chlorine to evaporate? This article suggests so. I just don't want to waste money on bottled water if I don't have to, and I don't know about the availability of Campden tablets here in France. – Chris Cirefice Dec 23 '18 at 14:02
  • @ChrisCirefice: Campden tablets are something of the UK & the US, just a fancy name and branding of disulfites. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disulfite#Examples_of_disulfites. – chthon Dec 23 '18 at 16:43
  • Campden tablets are nothing more than potassium metabisulfite which is used around the world in wine. They make wine in France, right ;-) Each tablet contains .44 grams of sulfite, enough to neutralize chlorine problems in your water en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Campden_tablet – farmersteve Dec 24 '18 at 15:58
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After having made one last batch of the ale, this time without clove or nutmeg, I can confirm 100% that an excessive amount of clove was the culprit. I used about 10g of the stuff, and after having discussed with some guys at the microbrewery down the street, they agreed that I should have used maybe 1g (a single clove, perhaps 2). I think my batch had about 15-20 for 2.5 gallons.

At this point it is fairly obvious that clove more or less ruined the beer, and for future batches I will start with a much smaller amount and scale up to taste.

When you've never used an ingredient before, it's best to ask people who have to get their recommendations on quantity!

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