Oddly enough, right after I last posted on here, I decided to take a gravity reading of beer 6. The good news is that it successfully fermented all the way it was supposed to, giving me an alcohol level of 5.75%. The bad news was that I almost threw up when I drank it. It was terrible. Very sour and acidic, like vinegar. I then took samples of the brown ale and the porter. Same. Thing.
What happened? I got an infection, somehow, that spread to all 3 of the beers I had fermenting. Whatever infection occurs, happens while the beer is fermenting. If any of the equipment I use before I boil the wort had bacteria in it, boiling it for an hour would kill it. The only thing it could be is anything that touches the beer on it’s way to the fermenter or while it is in there. I use a metal cane and soft plastic tubing to siphon beer into the fermenter. I then use the same thing to siphon beer out to take gravity measurements. The likely culprit is the tubing I use for siphoning. Everything I use is either glass, stainless steel, or hard plastic, EXCEPT for the siphon tube which is a soft plastic. Softer materials are more likely to get small scratches that will hold in bacteria. Any sort of tubing is also likely to trap particles from the beer as well. Despite my best efforts to sanitize the tube before and after each use, it is the most likely candidate. I sampled the brown ale and the porter last week and it tasted fine. Well, a strong alcohol taste but fine nonetheless. I brewed beer 6 last friday and today it tastes like vinegar, and the brown ale and porter are a bit sour as well. What probably happened was when I took gravity samples last week, the siphon contaminated the brown ale and the porter. When I used the siphon to transfer beer 6 into the fermenter, it contaminated every drop.
Oddly enough, I was reading through some forums a few days ago and there was some talk about contamination. I read that it is highly unlikely that anyone would get an infection on their first beer since all of their equipment is new. It is more likely to happen around their 6th beer after the materials have had a chance to start wearing out and getting bacteria trapped in them. At the time I thought how lucky I was to have brewed so many beers and not had this issue. Oddly enough, the fact that I brew so often made the infection spread to all 3 fermenting beers rather than just one.
I had to dump all the beer. It’s ruined and there is no recovering it. Altogether I lost 9 gallons. To look at it another way, about 96 bottles of beer down the drain.
I threw the tubing away. As I mentioned before, nothing else could have caused the infection to spread to all 3 beers since it was the only thing that touched all three beers during fermentation.