I recently tried a highly experimental home brew project. As I explained before, the idea came from South Africa and a traditional Zulu beer that is made for celebrations. Because of our work with the Zulu Orphan Alliance in South Africa, I wanted to do something creative and different to raise money for the organization to build a shelter and feed the kids. I thought to myself that I should make a beer based on the traditional ingredients of Zulu beer – sorghum, pineapple, white bread and oats. At the same time, I wanted to make something that was part of the American Craft Beer culture and I thought the flavors would work well.
As you can see from my last post, I figured I might as well go big or go home. That was 3 quarts each of sorghum and pineapple along with 7 pounds of honey wheat malt extract and a mini mash that included oats. The mini mash and malt extract were the only thing the beer actually needed for the recipe. It was all my fault that I added so much more stuff.
The wort was sweet and fruity. It fermented wildly for several days indicating that whatever the outcome, the beer would be very strong. We waited patiently for the time when we could bottle. Once it was bottled, we waited patiently again for it to condition enough to drink.
The day before it was ready, we put a couple of bottles in the refrigerator and gave it a night to chill. The next evening the anticipation was overwhelming as we opened those two bottles.
There was not the exciting “Fffsssipt” noise when I opened the bottle. Uh oh, it didn’t carbonate. I had added the priming sugar, but perhaps the concentration of sugar from the juice and syrup caused a very different chemical reaction. Maybe there was no yeast left in the beer when we bottled it because off all the juice and syrup. In any case, neither bottle Fffsssipted. But boldly, I poured them in to tall Molson Canadian glasses to see what happened. Matt and I toasted to experimental beers and each too a sip.
It was that bad. I took another tentative sip to make sure I fully understood just how horrid it was. It tasted like a juice box that had been left in a car for 7 years then put back in the refrigerator. A fermented pineapple juice box. Or a mix of pineapple juice and rubbing alcohol. There are many ways I can describe the badness that was this beer. We stepped back, the abject horror visible on both of our faces. This was not just the worst beer we had ever tasted – it was the single most disgusting thing we had ever put in our mouths. I quickly poured out the contents of the glasses and set the sullied bar ware to the side. I got out two fresh glasses and poured us two different, commercially available, and taste tested beers.
When I was a kid learning to ride a bike, I was told that when I fell I just had to get up, brush myself off and get back on that bike. I think every kid was told this. I don’t feel discouraged at all by the failed beer experiment. Though the task of opening and dumping 5 gallons worth of beer from the bottles will be a little tedious. I think I understand what I did wrong and can try again. Next time, I won’t be quite as aggressive. I think I need to start with a solid wheat beer base that probably includes oats. Then I just add somejuice and some sorghum for flavoring. Just like my Pomegranate wheat, I didn’t add 5 gallons of pomegranate. Mostly because Pomegranate juice is expensive and I didn’t want to buy that much. But when the beer was done, I could taste a bit of the fruit and it added to the beer, it didn’t ruin it. I just need to take my ow advice.
So, I’ll be trying again one day.