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:
- 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.
- 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.