Correcting Imbalances In Home Brewed Beer

by Brad Smith on February 9, 2019 · 0 comments

This week I take a look at various types of imbalances in beer as well as how to correct them. Imbalances are flavor, appearance and carbonation flaws in your beer not explicitly defined as an off-flavor.

A few weeks ago I covered the 17 major off-flavors in beer as well as their main causes. These are the identifiable off flavors defined on the BJCP score sheet, used for rating beers in competition. However there is another category of flaws in your beer that do not have defined off-flavor labels, and this is what I’ll cover this week.

What are Imbalances?

Imbalances are flaws in your beer that are not tied to a specific defined off-flavor. Examples include problems with color, appearance, clarity, malt-hop balance, or even just the incorrect flavor balance in the finished beer. If you submit a beer to a competition for judging, these flaws will often appear in the overall impression, appearance or notes section on the score sheet rather than checking a specific off-flavor box on the score sheet.

Imbalances include:

  • Wrong Hop-Malt Balance – While recent trends have been towards ever-hoppy beers, for most beer styles the hop and malt flavor balance is critical. If you have issues with hop-malt balance you may want to consider learning more about the bitterness ratio as well as review your hop and malt selections to make sure they are appropriate to the style.
  • Improper Carbonation Level – Carbonation actually plays a key role in the flavor perception of the beer. A flat beer will appear lackluster and dull in flavor while an over-carbonated beer can be sharp or difficult to enjoy. Fortunately this is one area that is easy to correct in subsequent batches by adjusting your carbonation sugar or keg pressure levels.
  • Poor Clarity – Clarity is a significant factor in the appearance of lighter color beers. While haze does not generally impact the flavor of the beer, it can ruin an otherwise perfect beer. If you have problems with clarity you might want to take a look at my in depth series on how to improve clarity in beer.
  • The Wrong Color – The color of the beer should be appropriate for the style. A pale ale should not be opaque, stouts should not be light brown, etc… Fortunately this is an area that is relatively easy to correct by adjusting the malt bill slightly. Software can also help you in estimating the color of the beer in advance.
  • Flavor Imbalances – You can get the color, clarity, carbonation and hop balance right and still have a beer that does not taste right. Usually this comes down to your selection of ingredients. Either you picked some ingredients that are not appropriate for the style or used them in the wrong proportions. Some examples might be using an English ale yeast to make a light continental ale, or using an excess of malts near the harsh zone, or using the wrong hop variety for the style. If you run into this type of issue, go back and take a close look at your recipe and how it compares with recipes from the same or similar style of beer.
  • Improper Technique – Brewing techniques have an impact as well. Using the wrong mash schedule, hop techniques, fermentation temperatures or other process issues can have a significant impact on your beer. For example you probably should not be dry hopping your Bavarian Weiss beer, or fermenting your lager at room temperature, or rushing to bottle your barley wine after just a few weeks of aging.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it may give you a good starting point to correct flaws not specifically identified as a named “off flavor” in your beer. Thanks for joining me on the BeerSmith Home Brewing Blog. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter or my podcast (also on itunes…and youtube…and streaming radio station) for more great tips on homebrewing.

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