What the hell went wrong?
Let's start with what I have right now and then we will get back to the central question. The story so far can be found here and here. I'm finishing off a beer while trying to post this so that I can see the difference between beer and whatever I have left in these glass containers.
I started all three containers with about 150ml to 200ml of liquid and all that is left is a few tablespoons of liquid. So, I guess one error is starting with too little of liquid. The mead based liquid tastes strongly of honey with only a slight tanginess. There is a deep hint of moreness. It is rich and more complex than the original liquid but I wouldn't call it vinegar.
The more malty beer liquid is thick and viscous with an earthiness and spiciness. There is almost a mushroom umami flavour at the end that could be barley notes. There is more of an acrid flavour than a sourness and sharpness of vinegar but it has nothing in common with the dunkel weizen that I am drinking for comparison. Given more time, I can see this turning into malt vinegar. The beginnings are there but there is not enough left in the glass.
We are left with the hoppy one which smells like old bread because I guess that is what it is. The smell reminds me of hot hamburger made with Franco-American Gravy now Campbell's and served with French fries with vinegar and ketchup. Highly specific. I know! No hops at all. A little thin in flavour with a real start of sourness. This sample is the one that most thinks me this thing could work. With the weird smell, I could see using this on fries. Even at this stuttering beginning, this is enticing.
So, what the hell went wrong? Well, a twitterer,
what factor weather and temperature would have on the microbes and growth of the
vinegar. Of course, not in so many words given the 140 character limit but that
is where they were going. The dry air in my house probably did not make for an
inviting atmosphere for the critters. Next time, I will keep them a little
warmer with more liquid.
The other factor was that I was trying to do the fermenting totally wild without using a mother or starter. I think next time I will use a mother.
I do have some of each of the liquids in reserve and will hook myself up with a mother and start this process again. I am really excited about the hoppy one. I know hops are a preservative and I guess I should have expected that it would be a little harder than just 'forgetting' some beer for a while. The mead was headed in a direction for I don't know where. Of the three, it had the most complex and interesting of the flavours. Hope you'll stay tuned for round two.