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Update on Mowing Mt. Ranier Cherry Citra Ale: Infection!

This is what infection looks like...damn it.

This is what infection looks like…damn it.

Well, I have my first confirmed infected beer. After racking the Mowing Mt. Ranier Cherry-Citra Ale, I noticed some patches on the surface the next day. Then, the following day, there was a complete film (a.k.a. “Pellicle”) covering the surface. I confirmed that it was on the small blackberry batch, as well.

What caused the infection? I don’t know. A fruit fly touching the beer during racking? A microscopic particle drifting in? Cherries weren’t properly sanitized? Sloppiness when transferring wort from kettle to fermenter? No way to know really. From what I understand, there are a few possible outcomes. I could put it in an out of the way place and let it go for a couple of years and hope that the infection is Brettanomyces strain and would slowly transform my beer into a mindblowing sour beer. It could be an acetobacter (commonly from fruit flies) that would basically turn the beer into vinegar. It could be something yucky than would just turn the beer into something disgusting. Finally, I could go ahead and try to siphon from under the pellicle and bottle the beer ASAP and cross my fingers. The eventual outcome could still be nasty, or it could be good initially and go downhill. Or it could get better with age. Again…no way to tell in advance. So, I’m going to bottle it. The next step, after that, will be replacing my siphon and tubing and bleaching the Hell out of my carboy and bottling bucket, and hoping to salvage them. Some say it should all be thrown away or only be used for sour beers. Others say bleaching works.

I was almost out of 12 oz bottles, but I have some 22 oz “bombers”, so I went ahead and bottled the little blackberry batch into 2 of those and one 12 oz. The beer seemed to taste okay still. Luckily, a brewer friend had a couple of cases of bottles that she gave to me…saving me a trip to the supply store and about $35 for 2 cases of bottles! So, bottling will be my project tonight. I’ll update later….

***Okay…it’s later. I bleached all my utensils and the bottling bucket, rinsed well and then sanitized again with Starsan. The bottles, I soaked in Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda solution, rinsed well, and then sanitized with Starsan.I went transferred the beer to the bottling bucket with 3oz sugar dissolved in hot Culligan water. I collected 4 gallons to bottle. I tried to stop well before any of the stuff from the pellicle got too low. As the volume in the carboy dropped, the pellicle coated the sides.

The clarity and color were nice though...dang it!

The clarity and color were nice though…dang it!

Volume drops, pellicle coats sides.

Volume drops, pellicle coats sides.

I went through the bottling process and got 42 bottles (12oz). The beer is clear, the color is nice, the flavor is good. If it weren’t for the infection, I would have been really happy at this point! It is depressing though that the few bottles I did yesterday from the little blackberry variant were cloudy at the bottom and may have had some stuff floating at the top. It could be that it just had more crap in the smaller bucket and I wasn’t as careful getting it into the bottles. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the main batch. I had intended to go light on the priming sugar, but I overestimated how much beer I would collect; so it turns out that I added the amount of sugar that would have been recommended anyway…though I was shooting for 2.2 atmospheres, which is a little under. I will have to watch for overcarbing.

Update 9/10/15: Refrigerated a bottle all day and opened it last night. Not carbed enough. I’m not sure it’s good enough to save, but I’ll give it a couple more weeks.

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Racking to Secondary: Mowing Mt. Ranier

 

Ready to rack to secondary

Ready to rack to secondary

A few days ago, I did a specific gravity test on the Mowing Mt. Ranier Ale with Cherries. It was down to 1.009 (the anticipated was 1.008) and hadn’t shown signs of activity in several days. To be safe, I waited a few more days before racking. I had some time this morning, so I went ahead and got it done. I removed the stems and pits from some regular red cherries and weighed out a pound.

One pound of pitted cherries, stems removed.

One pound of pitted cherries, stems removed.

I was not able to find Ranier cherries locally anymore and my brother in-law canceled an order for dried ones when I warned him not to get ones processed with sunflower oil. Unfortunately, that’s what he had ordered. So, I have decided to finish the beer with the regular, fresh, red cherries. I sanitized them in StarSan, since I didn’t have time to soak them in vodka and freeze them. I also have a small experimental batch that is just about a 1/2 gallon after racking. I have sanitized a pint of frozen blackberries and added them to that little batch.

Frozen blackberries for the little experimental batch.

Frozen blackberries for the little experimental batch.

After racking the main batch, I cleaned the carboy, sanitized it, and transferred the beer back into it, onto the cherries.

Racking

Racking

Sanitizing the carboy.

Sanitizing the carboy.

Cherries in secondary.

Cherries in secondary.

1/2 oz Citra hops pellets for dry hop addition.

1/2 oz Citra hops pellets for dry hop addition.

I have what appears to be right at 5 gallons. To this, I added a dry hop addition of 1/2 oz Citra hops pellets that I contained in a little sanitized fine mesh bag. Dropped that in and put the airlock back in place. There is a possibility that the yeast, suspended in the beer, could start fermentation back up with the sugar in the cherries. Ideally, the batch will be done in five days. If it takes longer, that’s okay. I’ll let it be ready when it’s ready. So far, everything looks and smells good. There isn’t a lot of cherry flavor, but I’m not looking for cherry soda. The cherries added to secondary should give me what I’m going for.

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