Contaminated homebrew – it had to happen some time

Home brewing paraphernalia (or is it a space station?)
Home brewing paraphernalia (or is it a space station?)

We’ve often wondered with some of our less-than-perfect brews whether the off-flavours are due to contamination.

Now we know for sure that there can be no doubt when your beer is contaminated — it smells like sh*t and tastes… well, you need to spit it out pretty quickly or you’ll be sick.

In a couple of years of brewing, this is the first time we’ve had contamination.

In this case we think the probable cause was clumsiness while adding some pre-harvested stuff from a previous batch. The yeast itself smelled fine, but during the pitching, the outside of the jar came into contact with the beer. And we hadn’t sterilised that, and it had been sitting next to all sorts of interesting raw stuff in the fridge.


If nothing else, it serves as a useful reminder not to get complacent, especially when messing around with liquid yeast.

Apologies for all the talk of faeces and vomit. We’ll get back to more savoury topics from tomorrow.

5 replies on “Contaminated homebrew – it had to happen some time”

My condolancies! I did a brew on Saturday and one of the lads who came along to help asked if I had ever had a bad batch, as I was going on so much about cleaning and sanitising. Luckily I’ve never had a whole batch go bad, but did have a bottle go south. Unfortunately that bottle was given to TheBeerNut! When he said the beer we sent him smelled like vomit (but tasted ok!), this didn’t weigh up against the beer I had been drinking. He’s now known in ICB circles as the Dud Magnet, as he attracts the bad bottles 😛

Contamination can create a whole range of flavours, some subtle some intense. I have had some trouble with aceta bacta recently , on the odd occasion one fermentor will be fine while the other from the same brew will be better on your chips.

Sorry for your loss. I’ve had a few contaminated batches, all of them wild yeast contamination as evidenced by the TCP smell that emanated from the beer.

A fellow brewer managed to brew a beer that smelled exactly like vomit. Being the scientific type, and confident in the notion that no pathogenic bacteria can survive in beer, I gave it a taste. It didn’t taste nearly as bad as it smelled.

We had another batch that stank, but actually tasted OK (and stopped stinking, once we’d taken it off the yeast)

It’s real ups and downs with the homebrewing at the moment. Some real successes and some spectacular failures.

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