So as I said here’s some news.
I managed to keg and operate my first batch with success. The beer was the Honey Brown Ale kit, which can be found at northern brewer. The beer was tasty indeed, but with a noticeable tartness. I now chock this up to an infection of some sort. According to various sources, it is indeed due to a bacterial infection. The bacteria consume the sugar meant for the yeast, creating acetaldehyde or ethanal. This compound has a sour character, often compared to granny smith apples. Supposedly it is toxic and a carcinogen, but your liver also produces it as an intermediate step in the dehydrogenation of ethanol (alcohol).
Some styles of beer are known for this character. Some drinkers find them appealing. I however do not, at least not in a brown ale. Check out the mad fermentationist’s blog for
much more indepth study on (intentionally and untentionally) infected beers.
A few weeks after the beer had been placed in the secondary, one or two small white floaters appeared. These were apparently thriving bacteria. The most likely cause of the infection is improper sanitation. I definitely sanitized all my equipment before moving the beer from primary to secondary. The infection could have also been caused by an inadequate yeast supply. This could have resulted from not using a yeast starter, or removing too much yeast from the beer when racking from primary to secondary fermentors.
I currently have an Old Speckled Hen batch in primary, and it seems to be doing just fine. It has been in the primary for probably three weeks now. I may skip the secondary fermentation step and rack the beer directly to the keg. I may rack the beer to a secondary as an intermediate step to remove some more trub. For future batches, I plan on making a yeast starter and double sanitizing all my equipment.
Speaking of future batches…