Should My Homemade Beer Taste Like Vinegar?

bad beer

Making homemade beer is a skill that is easy to pick up but extremely tricky to master. After making a few batches, you will notice that some turn out great while others not so much, and even though the process should be fun, it can be a bit disheartening. That said, should your homemade beer taste anything like vinegar?

Homemade beer should not taste like vinegar. A distinction needs to be drawn between a beer that just tastes sour or a beer that tastes like vinegar. A vinegar-like beer is off due to contamination or incorrect fermentation methods. Therefore, drinking beer that tastes like vinegar is not very safe.

When making homemade beer, there is a lot more that we need to think about. However, I understand that finding information online about homemade beer and what happens if the batch is bad and how to prevent it, so to ensure that your next batch comes out perfect, I recommend you keep reading this article.

What Causes My Homebrew To Taste Like Vinegar?

Beer that tastes like vinegar can be unpleasant. One of the biggest reasons beer, especially homemade beer, can taste like vinegar is due to the beer being off. That said, let’s take a look at three of the main reasons why your beer tastes like vinegar:

  • Flawed fermentation process: This can include not using the right tools or not fermenting the beer in a good environment.
  • Bad ingredients: If the yeast is infected before using it to brew beer, there is a high chance the beer batch will turn out bad.
  • Too much oxygen: It is somewhat technical, but a bacteria called acetobacter can make your beer turn bad. While it mainly affects white wine, it can infect beer with too much oxygen during fermentation. It does not live in beer, as bacteria cannot survive in alcohol. However, it can contaminate the beer.

There are so many ways to make homebrew, so much so that making a bad batch is not as straightforward or easy as some might think.

How Do I Prevent My Beer From Tasting Like Vinegar In The Next Batch

Now that we have a much more sufficient understanding of what causes homebrew beer to taste like vinegar, I think discussing ways to prevent it is essential. This is the meat of the article, and I highly recommend bookmarking this page so that you have it on hand when making beer or if you are unsure when brewing a new batch.

That said, here are my six easy tips to prevent beer from tasting like vinegar:

  1. Ensure that the ingredients are not bad, especially wild yeast. The same applies if you make your beer with fruit—for example, pineapple.
  2. Always use clean equipment: While bacteria cannot survive if it penetrates the alcohol, you always want to use sterile equipment so that you don’t contaminate any of the ingredients.
  3. Once you bottle or can the beer, you want to ensure that the bottles do not go straight to the fridge. It needs to stand in a warm area, say room temperature.
  4. Only refrigerate the beer once it has stood out for approximately five days after being bottled.
  5. Ensure that your bottles or your cans are adequately sealed.
  6. When brewing your own beer, make sure you use the right equipment and brew in a good environment.

The truth is the longer you brew beer, the more bad batches you will have. Unfortunately, it happens to almost everyone; however, by sticking with the steps listed above, you can minimize how often it happens to you.

Is Beer Safe to Drink if there is a Vinegar Smell?

This question is a very tough one, and multiple answers are all correct. In most cases, you can drink a beer even if it tastes like vinegar. However, it is essential to remember that bacteria cannot survive alcohol.

That said, there are a few cases where you can get sick from drinking beer that is off, and more often than not, if the beer smells like vinegar, it was made using contaminated ingredients.

Unless the beer is severely contaminated, which you will be able to spot, the worst you can expect to happen is a little bit of stomachache, if you even get it. Most alcohol lasts long after its expiration date, and some craft beers don’t even have an expiration date.

How To Tell If Your Homebrew Is Bad Or Off

The best way to prevent getting a bit of stomachache from drinking bad beer is to be able to tell whether it is bad or off before you drink one or two bottles. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always smell like vinegar when it is off. So, using other methods is extremely useful. That said, here’s how to tell if your homebrew is bad:

  • Excessive foam on the top
  • Discolored foam
  • Unpleasant smell during fermentation
  • Hazey color
  • Unpleasant vinegar-like taste
  • If the beer is flat (uncarbonated)

A bad beer might exhibit some or all of those qualities.

Does fermentation smell like vinegar?

Regardless of what you use to ferment the beer, it should not smell like vinegar during its fermentation. Instead, the yeast should have somewhat of a pleasant smell. For me, it smells like spice with a hint of sweetness.

While fermenting fruit, it should smell like the fruit, except the smell gets a bit stronger over time. So, when fermenting beer, it should smell sweet, spicy, and with a hint of fruit.

What Does Infected Homebrew Taste Like?

This article’s main topic is whether homebrew beer should taste like vinegar. Well, one of the flavors you will get almost immediately from infected homebrew is vinegar. That said, it is not always the case; there are a couple of things to look out for:

  • Creamy flavors like sour milk or butter
  • Vinegar
  • Sourdough

The texture of the brew will also change along with its flavor. For example, an off-beer can feel slightly creamier than usual, and t can have a musty grey-like appearance.


Hopefully, during your next homebrew batch, you will know what to look out for, and if you get hints of vinegar from the small or the taste of the beer, you know that it’s not what it should taste like. However, brewing your own beer is a fun way of experimenting with new flavors, and who knows, maybe you will find your next favorite drink, so if you have one or two bad batches, don’t worry and keep trying.



Dan Specht

Dan has been homebrewing beer for 8 years and holds a level 2 certifiication as a Cicerone.

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