I’ve been asked this question many times, but I’ve never really known how to answer. I haven’t made too many bad batches, just a few questionable ones. With the questionable ones, you can claim it’s “funky” or it “has character”. Bad beers are beers which rarely can make it past your lips.
I asked what you do with bad beer to several brewers on the AHA TechTalk Homebrewer’s Forum. The answers were varied and very interesting. Here is what other brewers do.
Cooking with beer
The most common answer I got was to use the beer for cooking. If the beer has a strong malt flavor it would go well with chili. Many suggested using bad beer in sauces or marinades.
“When I have a beer that’s not quite up to par, but still has a nice malt backbone, I like to cook with it. Try a dark to amber ale for beef, pork, or lamb roasts or ribs. I usually do something like pork ribs immersed half way in a roasting pan in the beer. Season the ribs to your liking, and cook the ribs slowly all day so they are almost falling off the bone. Then get creative with some of the beer in addition to garlic, onions, ketchup, mustard, Worcestershire, white or malt vinegar, etc. for the BBQ sauce. Finish them on the grill, slather with BBQ sauce and enjoy with a good beer! Yum!” – Andy G.
When I cook sausages I usually place the sausage in a baking pan, pour about an inch of beer around the sausages, cover the baking pan with foil, and cook for about a half hour. It gives the sausage a good flavor. You can also use the beer for boiling brats.
Several brewers suggested bad beer could be used as lawn fertilizer. This gives a new spin on “lawnmower beer”. While live yeast will not help your lawn, dead yeast or other nutrients in the beer might help. The alcohol probably won’t hurt your lawn unless it is a very high alcohol brew. You will want to take care and possibly try a test spot before dumping the swill on your grass.
Making Malt Vinegar
Many brewer responses say they make malt vinegar with their bad beer. In many ways vinegar is beer or wine which has gone bad. Control how it goes bad, and you have vinegar.
Once you have vinegar, there are many options for food. Greg G. suggested turning the beer into malt vinegar “then use the vinegar to make mustard, relish, chutney and marinade.”
While this option might not be the most “legal” choice, one suggestion was to distill the beer into whiskey. You could always claim you are producing ethanol to combat the fuel crisis. The distilled beer might make a good whiskey, but I know nothing about how well this will turn out. You will want to be very careful, or give it to someone who knows what they are doing. Bad beers often contain fusel alcohols, and distilling a bad beer will give you concentrated fusel alcohols. This is the moonshine which makes you blind.
Add more hops
I’ve had a few IPAs which tasted like liquid hops. In fact I didn’t taste anything but hops. For some, these hop-bombs are the new trend. This could be your way out of bad beer.
As Larry S. says, “Just hop the heck out of it and call it Imperial whatever”. Adding lots of late hop additions could cover up the bad flavors.
I’ve never heard of this use for bad beer, but apparently I am the exception. We don’t get too many snails in Colorado because they like moisture and well, it never rains here really, but several brewers suggested use the beer as “bug bait”. Snails will drown in the beer. A dish beer left out over night will attract many bugs to their death. I have a serious wasp problem; I’ll have to see if this works with them.
This was a weird suggestion until I figured out what The Earl (Steve S.) meant by “beer possum”. A “beer possum” is someone who really appreciates beer, especially free beer. Everyone knows at least one “beer possum”. You might even get favors back for the off beer. Now this is a great use for bad beer.
This one could be tricky. Serving the bad beer to others may reduce your reputation as a great brewer.
Just drink the beer
In most cases, your beer will be “off” but not bad”. Relax and have a homebrew as they say.
“If they are moderately drinkable, I keep drinking them as incentive to be more careful next time – and to do so soon.” – Bob K.
Thanks to everyone on the AHA TechTalk Homebrewer’s Forum for their answers!
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