Weird Yeast Behavior

I don’t know if this actually is weird, but, for the ESB I am attempting to brew, and which has sat in primary for a week or so now, the yeast behavior in the carboy looks weird. I saw this fully acknowledging that I don’t use the carboys for primary fermentation anywhere near often enough to know whether this is weird or not… but I’ve never seen anything like it.

On top of the wort/beer is this thick, almost oily-looking layer of yeast and bubbles:


The bubbles are, well, they are bursting only slowly. The airlock, at this point, is bubbling about once every 10 seconds or so, so the primary stage of fermentation is still going on, if a bit slowly. Still, I’m used to something that looks a lot lighter and airier in terms of yeast growth, or something that looks darker and heavier as another possibility. I’ve never seen anything that looks this… well, this “greasy” or “oily” is the word that comes to mind, though having not sampled it, I don’t know whether that look is deceptive.

The other weird thing, though, is what I’m seeing on the sides of the carboy. There are microscopic colonies of stuff all over the inside, especially clustered near the “lines” that ring the carboy’s body. The colors in the photo below are all wrong, thanks to the flash, but it’s the flash that makes the colonies visible:


I don’t feel worried at this point about an infection, because after all filled up the carboy with a ridiculously strong bleach solution, which I rinsed out completely after a few hours and followed up with an iodine solution. The other batch I made on the same day seems to be trucking along fine. So I really am at a loss for this, beyond it simply being a behavior for this kind of yeast. (For the record, it’s the Cry Havoc yeast available from Wyeast.)

Still, it might be an infection after all. Certainly, as it fermented it gave off a hell of a sulfuric scent… but then, I’d seen mention of that on a board and it seemed normal.

The weird thing is that I’m not sure there’s anything actually wrong. The yeast could ferment through and drop out in a few days. On  the other hand, other, stranger things could happen to. It’s a waiting game. That’s what you learn brewing: how to wait, and how to be patient.

And, hey, this is reassuring. Like with homebrewing… maybe I should RDWHAHB. (Relax, Don’t Worry, Have A Homebrew.) I imagine learning to brew was tougher, slower, and took more patience back before there was an internet to learn from others’ panics on…

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