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Fermenting out big beers

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Cloud Surfer

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I’m curious how this works. I’ve got some big commercial beers, like a 16.8% RIS. How do you ferment out a beer that big with ale yeast. Do you let fermentation run it’s course, and then throw in something like champagne yeast to finish it off? I’m thinking much over 12% ABV requires special handling.
 

shacked

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I've done a couple of huge beers and I'd suggest that the approach to big beers is pretty similar to 'regular' beers:
  1. Sanitation.
  2. Select the right strain of yeast for the job (WLP099 claims a max ABV of 25%)
  3. Pitch enough yeast (if you think you have enough for the job... get more)
  4. Good yeast handling - temp, oxygen, nutrition (ramp temp towards the end of the ferment; some folks will hit their beer with additional oxygen at 24 hours; add yeast nutrient and consider adding simple sugar later in the ferment rather than the boil)
  5. Monitor fermentation and conisder a forced ferment test if your beer has an unexpectedly high FG
  6. If bottle conditioning, consider reseeding with fresh yeast
Champagne yeast will only ferment simple sugar so it's a good choice for a bottling strain but it's not much chop in the primary ferment as the simple sugar typically gets consumed at the start.
 

MHB

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I wouldn't recommend adding more O2 once the yeast has gone in, can screw around with the yeast metabolism, making it switch back and forward between reproduction and respiration can deplete its reserves - in big beer it will need them later.
Good Oxygenation at the start is very important, aeration in big beers is vital, you wont get enough with air, shaking… you really do need Oxygen.

Adding the bulk of your simple sugars late is a big help, good rule of thumb is to add it when the gravity has gone down by a bit more than what you are adding, so the gravity never exceeds the OG when the yeast was pitched, sugars don't all need to go in in one addition, you could make more smaller additions.

Point 3 from shacked is the big one, lots of the right yeast is the best answer.
I find Champaign yeast tends to strip out a lot of flavours, it can get you there but there are better options.
Mark

PS
If you are making this one AG, I would make the wort as fermentable as I could, there will be plenty of stuff left to give the beer the body and mouth feel you want.
M
 

kadmium

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I think they would treat it like making mead. I regularly have my mead around the 14% mark which is right where I like it.

Agree with both the above that champagne yeast will leave it dry and with little character.

I second WLP099 Super High Gravity Ale Yeast (25% ABV)

If going that big, and like a mead I would consider a modified TOSNA nutrient schedule (staggered nutrients) and not loading it with Diammonium Phosphate (DAP) as the Yeast Assimilable Nitrogen (YAN) from DAP can't be taken up by the yeast above 9% ABV. As such, an organic or (Tailored Organic Staggered Nutrient Addition) schedule works best. You essentially add 1/4 at the 24hr post pitch mark, 48hr and 76hr and then the last 1/4 at the 1/3 sugar break (when you hit 66% attenuation)

Organic nutrients also don't send the yeast into a frenzy like DAP as they aren't as easily assimilated but are healthier for the yeast. Think of it like feeding your yeast broccoli rather than chocolate brownies.

So essentially, use Fermaid-O (organic) using a TOSNA which means work out how much nutrient you need and stagger the loadings, pitch plenty of yeast.

Another method would be to preload the nutrients and then step feed the sugar. Also bear in mind wort has far more nutrients already when compared to mead (honey is nutrient barren) so perhaps MHB can chime in on how much YAN is in a standard wort.
 

MHB

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I think most of the available Nitrogen is tied up in soluble amides, the yeast is pretty good at pulling peptides apart and rearranging them into what ever it needs, there are only something like 24 (common) amino acids that make up the millions of proteins in malt and yeast.
Never seen figures for really big beers but Germans call 1.048 (12oP) "standard" wort, typical composition isn't something I keep in the front of my memory, around 200-250mg/L of FAN (free amino nitrogen) comes to mind. Higher for Ales than Lagers but in that sort of range
Remember that the mass of proteins is 6.25 time the mass of Nitrogen.
Mark

Just remembered I had a copy of this search found it.
M
Typical wort.jpg
 

Cloud Surfer

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WLP099 sounds like a good choice. I have the pack of HA18 Mark gave me to use, which will be good for a big beer, maybe a Barley Wine. But it doesn’t come in small packs unfortunately.

My thinking was if you could get something to 12% ABV with standard ale yeast, then using a late sugar addition, add champagne yeast that will just chew through the simple sugar to finish at a higher ABV. That process isn’t going to thin and dry out the beer.

Anyway not something I’m planning to do for now, but will probably give a huge RIS a try one day for a bit of fun. Certainly the 16.8% commercial RIS is pretty entertaining.
 

MHB

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Actually I have found Champaign yeast guts the beer, used just as you describe, I would avoid it.

Been thinking about the available nitrogen, there should be enough available in a wort (not in a mead or cider/perry - for sure)
I doubt it would be necessary to go to the trouble of incremental nutrient additions, a good dose at the start wouldn't hurt. As much for all the trace elements (especially Zinc) that a good nutrient contains. The yeast should be able to assimilate what it need from the dissolved protein.
Don't know for sure, would have to do some experiments, never taken a beer over ~17%, it was a bit fusely and took a couple of years to develop reasonably, its hard country to brew well in, high ABV beers are a challenge.

We knocked out a 12% barley wine with the HA18, surprisingly quick (90 points in 8 days), likes to run warm, and finished much lower than I expected, it's just gone into keg and off to the cool-room for a long slow secondary and maturation.
Tasted very good out of the fermenter, still plenty of body despite the low FG. I suspect it will get a bit of Oak at some point.
Mark
 

kadmium

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I think most of the available Nitrogen is tied up in soluble amides, the yeast is pretty good at pulling peptides apart and rearranging them into what ever it needs, there are only something like 24 (common) amino acids that make up the millions of proteins in malt and yeast.
Never seen figures for really big beers but Germans call 1.048 (12oP) "standard" wort, typical composition isn't something I keep in the front of my memory, around 200-250mg/L of FAN (free amino nitrogen) comes to mind. Higher for Ales than Lagers but in that sort of range
Remember that the mass of proteins is 6.25 time the mass of Nitrogen.
Mark

Just remembered I had a copy of this search found it.
M
View attachment 119761
Yeah I was just kind of reeling off my head and typing as I went. Probably how I end up with my foot in my mouth so often.

I think Mead only aims for around 200ppm of Nitrogen so the TOSNA is way overkill.

A front loading of a little bit of Fermaid-O and you should be fine.

I stopped using champagne yeast for even cider and mead, as I found it stripped the character and you end up with a product that resembles champagne (especially cause it's not made in France lol)

I would go with WLP099. Also, I had the FA-18% and it was OK but I prefer something around the 11%
 

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