Starter Bites the Dust. Brewer Panics.

I'm having really bad luck with Fermentis products.

Saturday I went down to Steinbart to pick up ingredients for an American IPA. Since I had resolved to use S-05 (what happened to S-56?), I figured this batch was as good a trial as any. I got home, started boiling water to chill, and put together my usual pint starter. Airlock on, I pushed it in a corner until Sunday.

Brewday rolls around and I opt to go at it during the day, rather than my usual nighttime (thank goodness, too). Nearly everything about the process was unremarkable. I even managed to bake a pie crust in the middle of the boil. Yet disaster struck when it came time to inoculate. At 4:30 PM, the wort was happy in a carboy when I pulled the airlock off the starter bottle.

Brief segue: I'd always been told to check the starter before pitching it, just to make sure nothing untoward happened. Even though I've never had a problem with a starter, I always check it. After reading this, YOU should always check the starter. Sunday evening, I brought the bottle to my nose and took a big sniff.

I knew immediately something wasn't right. In ten batches, I'd never had a fermentation smell like green olives. Not a little, either. This was a very strong smell of olives. The optimist in me was hoping it was just an unusual characteristic of this yeast. The pessimist made me pour a little into a glass to taste it. I'm sure you can imagine the badness. Soured. Like a glass of red wine.

So there I was with five gallons of cooled wort and nothing but a mystery packet of Coopers Ale dried yeast. I really didn't want to pitch that packet, so I made a frantic call to the local brew shop. Being as it was almost 5 on a Sunday, I didn't have much hope, but they pulled through and saved my beer. Within 20 minutes I was pitching a vial of WLP-060.

Obviously, pitching a cold vial of yeast directly into wort isn't exactly ideal. But I'd rather risk a slow start than pitch a mystery yeast with who knows what flavor characteristics. There's no way I'd even consider letting the wort sit around for a day so I could pick up another packet of S-05. As of right now, 20 hours later, it's finally starting to pick up some steam and put out some bubbles.

I'm hoping the packet was just bad, but I have a sneaking suspicion some gunk on my O2 diffusion stone was responsible for the trouble. Hopefully a long hot water rinse, some scrubbing with a toothbrush, and a long Star-San soak took care of it. If not, I'm going to figure out how to disassemble the thing and give it the bleach treatment.

Beau Burke
September 17, 2007, 9:13 pm
By: beau
Man, this yeast is stinky. I've never used a sulfur producing yeast before, but this is definitely one.
September 30, 2007, 8:35 pm
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