From the HBD Archive
From: Dances with Workstations <buchman@marva1.ENET.DEC.COM>
Subject: Long time in the primary
Date: 1992-06-30 23:00:13 GMT

Greetings, fellow HBD'ers,

A friend of mine, who is a former brewer, has an interesting
question which he asked me to pass on to someone who knows about
home brewing:

>From: "L. Park" 30-JUN-1992 14:37:28.07
> Hi Jim -

> I have been inspired to resume the fine art of brewing.
>I have a quick question. I have a batch of beer which is
>about 5 years old and still in a sealed primary fermentor.
>I recently bottled a small sample of this brew with little
>expectation of any live yeast. To my surprize, the stuff
>is well carbonated. The flavor is about what I expected,
>except that there is a bit of an edge of a funny flavor
>present. My concern is that it is some alcohol congener,
>perhaps propanol, or worse, methanol. Have you ever heard
>of beer being kept so long? Or are you aware of the ability
>of yeast to produce alcohols besides the friendly ethanol?
> I have considered trying to get some of this information,
>but I am not sure where to try. Is there a beer brewing
>group out on the net? If so, have you ever consulted any
>of the information out there? I look forward to hearing
>from you. Thanks.
> Larry

I'm giving him information on joining the digest, so expect a new
Baltimore area subscriber soon.

As to his problem, my feeling is that he is probably okay. I'm not sure,
but I think the beer he is talking about is a porter. It would be
intriguing to see what this brew tasted like after a five year primary,
if it were safe.

On the one hand,
- alcohol acts as a preservative;
- wines are commonly aged for years or decades;
- Thomas Hardy ale is often aged for years, in the bottle; and
- I've talked with other subscribers who regularly age their stouts
for 18 months or more.

On the other hand,
- this is in the carboy, not the bottle, and
- it has been sitting in Larry's basement, but almost certainly has
been subjected to fluctuating temperatures during that period.
- it has had lots of opportunity to get infected.
- my father's golden rule of spoiled seafood survival is "When in doubt,
throw it out".

So what would you recommend? Is it possible that other, nastier alcohols
have been produced during this time? Or should he bottle and drink it
with careless abandon if it shows no obvious signs of infection?
Jim Buchman

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