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MikeM
11/19/06 09:36 PM  
Newbie seeks feedback
Hello Everyone,

I'm a potter living in Japan, and I discovered this board a few months back. I've enjoyed lurking on occasion, and have been waiting for a good reason to post. I'm a newbie at homebrew, I have done a couple 19liter batches, from extract, which turned out ok (for me at least, my Japanese friends don't care for heavy darker beers), but I recently bought Mosher's Radical Brewing and was inspired to try something a little different. I am a longtime fan of the Chimay Blue that I can occasionally get my hands on (I live in very rural Japan). Got hold of some Wyeast Trappist Ale yeast, and this morning woke up early to try a high gravity ale.

Though I was inspired by a Tripel recipe for this, I have a hard time finding the right ingredients (nor am I set up yet for mashing), so I did a lot of substitution. I ended up with:

6 lb Amber liquid ext.

4 lb Pale dry ext.

3 lb Wheat malt (steeped warm before adding extract and boiling)

2 lb Kurozato (a strong flavored black sugar)

Yeast Nutrient

60g Kent Golding for 60 minutes

43g Saaz for 5 minutes

20g each of coriander and star anise, and zest of one lime (last 15 minutes of boil) (if anyone is cringing at this, forgive me, it was my first attempt at adding spices and I don't have a clue. Just figured 'How bad could it be?")

3 liters of yeast starter, from Wyeast Trappist Ale smackpack.

I think I miscalculated how much the steeped grain would add to the mix because after everything was in the carboy, I took a sample for gravity and was surprised to see it at 1.120. I am worried about the yeast being able to chew through all of that, and am wondering if I should add some other sort of alc tolerant yeast to the secondary. I'm also wondering how long something like this should ferment in the secondary? For anyone out there who may have brewed something similar to this, and/or with this strain of yeast, is there any advice you can give me so I can avoid some of the potholes in the road coming up that I know must be there, but that I can't see yet?

It's only been a few hours since pitching, and the yeast is going gangbusters.... Seeing that just gives me warm happy feelings : )

Sincerely,

MikeM

SteveG
11/20/06 09:24 AM  
Re: Newbie seeks feedback
Man, that sounds like an aweful lot of gravity for that recipe. Sounds like you were shy of 5 gallons? On the other hand, how did you add the sugar? Is it possible you got a sample for your reading that was misproportionatly heavy in sugar?
ErikH
11/20/06 01:39 PM  
Re: Newbie seeks feedback
Hi Mike -

Yes, you are way out of whack on the original gravity vs. your Chimay target. Even if Steve is right and you have misread, OG for a Chimay Blue should be about 1.081, I think, and I would think your recipe should land you easily over 1.100 (Beer Recipator from hbd.org gives me a quick and dirty 1.108).

So, I think that willy-nilly you are making a different animal here - but a verrrry intriguing one. Looks like your bitterness would be about 25 IBU, so what the heck! Spicing also does not appear overwhelming. Especially if you have made such a substantial starter and are experiencing a vigorous fermentation. Are you using the Wyeast 3787? High alcohol should not be a problem, then - I would just keep it nice and warm (not under 70F) and see what happens.

I'm curious also - where in Japan are you located? I traveled there for the first time 2 years back and was surprised by some of the interesting beer offerings - Hida Takayama from Gifu in particular and of course Kiuchi / Hitachino Nest, which I had a very pleasant visit to in Ibaraki.

The kurozato sugar sure sounds interesting too - I wonder if I can get it in the US? Here's a link with some info:

forums.egullet.org/index.php?s=b32b2f56788a923f466b2d361552f410&showtopic=53115

Anyhow, welcome and good luck with your efforts!

Baums
11/20/06 02:53 PM  
Re: Newbie seeks feedback
We'll see if people disagree with me, but here's my 2 cents.

I think a 3L starter of 3787, if it was made just by pitching the smackpack into 3L of well-aerated (shaken) wort and fermenting under an airlock, is about right for 5 G of normal gravity (~1.050) beer. (And maybe even more would be better.) Given enough time, that much yeast may ferment your much stronger beer, and it may end up being delicious.

I think the chances of it being delicious are improved, however, if you pitch more yeast as soon as possible. Unless you have another 3L starter of 3787 laying around, the way I would do it would be to pitch 20 grams or so of a neutral dry yeast like Nottingham or US-56. (And I would rehydrate it in water first, since rehydrating in your partially fermented beer might harm the yeast.) Barring that, I would pitch any neutral or belgian-style ale yeast I could find--now rather than later.

The reason I would pitch this additional yeast as soon as possible, instead of waiting for the secondary, is that the odds of your first yeast producing non-delicious flavors go up if you actually let them run out of steam on their own. By sending in reinforcements now, you will reduce the chances that your first yeast will get weak enough to start harming the taste of your beer.

So, that's what I'd do, just based on the fact that I am not sure whether your initial pitch is enough to get the job done as well as it can be.

Baums

Baums
11/20/06 02:57 PM  
Re: Newbie seeks feedback
Also--if you have any, you may want to add a small amount (1/4 to 1/2 tsp) of yeast nutrient, just once, as soon as the fermentation first starts to slow down.
MikeM
11/20/06 06:52 PM  
Re: Newbie seeks feedback
First of all thank you for all of your feedback, it is much appreciated!

I'm not sure about the gravity reading, but not because of the way the ingredients were mixed. After the boil and cool, I added 3 liters of water to the carboy, and poured the 13 liters of wort over that, then oxygenated with an airstone (sanitized stone and hose, pump sucking air through a vodka soaked sponge) for about 30 minutes. Then I pitched the 3 liters of starter and shook everything around real macho-like.

So, I think from that angle, the reading should have been accurate. What I was thinking after I posted though was, what about that malted wheat? How much unconverted starch is in the wheat that I steeped? I looked more carefully at the recipes in Mosher's book and the steeped grain recipes all use crystal malts. Recipes with other malts call for a mini mash. Could it be that all the cloudiness in the water before the boil was a lot of unconverted starch that won't be contributing to alcohol production? So its giving me this high gravity reading, but the alc potential is much lower?

About adding more yeast, I've heard of adding it to the secondary, is this something to be avoided or is it just more effective to add more in the primary? I have some other yeasts, but nothing neutral. I'd been planning to add the Wyeast Eau de Vie yeast to the secondary if it still looked like there was too much sugar present, then age it for a long time and treat it like a barley wine. I'd heard that adding yeast in the secondary will finish off the remaining sugars, but will not usually intrude too much on the flavors contributed by the first yeast.

The reason I'm asking is that it is quite difficult to find yeasts here in Japan, the one place I found orders from Wyeast 4 times a year. So, my latest group of yeasts are sort of like little golden eggs I'm trying to conserve. On the other hand, I'd hate to lose this batch after all the work I put into it, so my other packet of 3787 may be well spent on this one.

BTW, I live in Taku, which is in Saga Pref. on the southern island of Kyushu. There are several 'microbreweries' in nearby prefectures, but none near me so far as I can tell. No one around here seems to homebrew beer, but a lot of my relatives (wife's Japanese) homebrew sake, using rice, koji, and bread yeast. It tastes sweet and rather acid, I think because the bread yeast gives it that flavor and dies off before it can convert most of the sugars. I ordered some sake yeast with my last Wyeast order, so I'm going to give it a shot with the proper yeast, and see what happens.

Kurozato is pretty tasty stuff, real 'gamey' like molasses. I would imagine you could get it at larger oriental markets, but I really couldn't say.

Oh, in the first post I forgot to mention that I did add yeast nutrient to the mix.

Thanks

Mike

Baums
11/21/06 11:09 AM  
Re: Newbie seeks feedback
Sounds like a challenging (but cool) place to brew Mike.

I wouldn't worry too much about the cloudiness. If your steep was very cold or very hot then maybe you got a little starch, but more likely the haze is just protien from the wheat, as found in many wheat beers.

As for the yeast question: if the first yeast "stalls" when there is still sugar left, then it may start pumping out harsh, solventy esters. These might age out with time, but obviously it's better to avoid them if you can.

The main reason the yeast might stall is that yeast cells can only divide so much before they get so depleted of "material" that they can't do their job well anymore. To avoid this, you just need to pitch enough yeast so that each cell doesn't have to divide too much, before the job is done. (And you need to aerate at the start like you did, since the yeast need oxygen to build a store of "material.")

How much yeast is enough? One rule of thumb says your starter should have at least 1/10 the sugar that your batch has. For your batch there's the right amount of sugar i a 2L starter at 1.120--but since starter gravities should be lower a better combination is 6 L at 1.040. It sounds like you pitched about half that. (The other common rule of thumb, 1 million cells/ml/P, gives a similar result.)

Many great beers have been made with half the "recommended rate." But there are challenges with ultra high gravity beers (harsher enviroment, etc) that make even higher pitching rates preferable. This is why I suggest adding more yeast, because I think there's a fair chance the first yeast will stall.

If you wait until the first yeast stalls before you add more, the risk is that the first yeast spits out some negative flavors before the second yeast can get in and save the day. Also, it will be hard for your second yeast to acclimate to the very high alcohol levels already in the beer.

But if you add the supplementary yeast now, then it will reduce severity and duration of any stall by the initial yeast--and thus the potential for some negative flavors. The only risk is that it will change the flavor profile of the beer. To me this is a lesser risk, especially since 3787 is very flavorful. So I would take a smackpack, make a very well aerated and very small (1 pint) starter just to get it going for a couple hours, and pitch it asap.

But it's your beer, and what sounds like a very precious stock of yeast, so you'll have to decide what to do. Keep us posted... I'd like to hear how it turns out.

Baums

MikeM
11/21/06 03:56 PM  
Re: Newbie seeks feedback
Baums,

Thank you for that excellent bunch of information. One thing beer books seem to always say is what yeast will do, but not why. Your post filled a lot of blank spots for me.

I'm thinking I'll go ahead and pitch the second smackpack of 3787, I can always collect slurry from both and use it again in my next batch after I rack to the secondary, is this correct? I was reading in the other thread that if done properly the brewer can feed large pigs to the slurry without any stalls? ;)

Can this slurry from the primary be re-pitched indefinitely, or does it eventually 'wear out' due to the depletion of their 'material' as you stated in your previous post?

MikeM

MikeM
11/21/06 11:09 PM  
Re: Newbie seeks feedback
Well, that extra yeast really seems to be making a difference.

I made up a small starter very early this morning, gave it a good shakeup, and in about 4 hours it was going strong. I pitched it into the carboy and gave that a good shakeup. That was about 2 hours ago.

Before the second pitching, the foam had begun receding from its max level of about 3 inches, now it's at about 6 inches and climbing, and burping to beat the band (almost twice a second)! You have to excuse my enthusiasm, being new to this, I'm easily excited!

MikeM

Baums
11/27/06 03:53 PM  
Re: Newbie seeks feedback
Glad to hear that the ferment is going strong. If the additional yeast made a noticable difference, then it seems likely to me that the first pitch of yeast was indeed starting to wear out a bit, with plenty of sugar left. So probably the use of that second precious pack was not wasteful.

You ask whether slurry can be repitched indefinitely. After any fermentation, especially a tough high gravity one, the yeast will be depleted of "material" (i.e. fatty acids and sterols that make up the cell membrane). Under normal (lower gravity) circumstances you just need to recharge it by supplying the yeast with lots of oxygen (either in a starter or when repitched into the next beer). If you just pitch it right into a beer without lots of aeration, it will probably not do as well as you'd like.

Some breweries have repitched certain yeast strains for hundreds of generations. More often though, the limit observed is more like 5-10 because of concerns about contamination, yeast mutation, etc. And from a very high gravity ferment like yours, it may be a better idea to build up a starter from a small amount of slurry than to repitch a large amount of the yeast that was sitting in 10+ percent alcohol.

Another note--you should avoid aerating your beer once it starts fermenting strongly. Not sure from what you wrote whether that's what you doing when you shook the carboy after pitching the second yeast. You are probably fine in this case--but a strong aeration can be risky once there's a significant portion of "beer" (as opposed to "wort") in the fermenter.

Hope all goes well. I bet it will be good.

Baums

MikeM
11/28/06 06:50 PM  
Re: Newbie seeks feedback
Baums wrote:

<<Another note--you should avoid aerating your beer once it starts fermenting strongly. Not sure from what you wrote whether that's what you doing when you shook the carboy after pitching the second yeast. You are probably fine in this case--but a strong aeration can be risky once there's a significant portion of "beer" (as opposed to "wort") in the fermenter.>>

I've heard this quite a lot, but I'm not clear on why exactly, is it because of the risk of contamination, or does it effect the beer flavor adversely?

In other news, it's still burping along about once per 9 or 10 seconds after 8 days, which is the longest I've ever had yeast this active. Usually they're pretty much done after 3 days.

I understand the risks with trying to repitch slurry indefinitely, but I was just curious about re-pitching once (maybe twice) after using the yeast in such a high gravity environment. From what you said, it sounds like once should be ok as long as I get a good starter going.

Thanks,

MikeM

TedJ
11/29/06 11:59 AM  
Re: Newbie seeks feedback
There would be a risk of contamination, but it would be small if the beer is well along (lots of active yeast at work to not allow the bugs to get started and alcohol present). The big problem is oxidation. Oxygen in the sweet wort is good because the yeast will use it for yeast growth and it doesn't hurt the sugars. Once fermentation has stated the beer will have alcohol and other compounds that will oxidize and give you the wet cardboard flavors and aromas.

So once the yeasts have stopped growing and using the oxygen, then O2 will hurt the beer and lead to premature staling.

If you added yeast to partially fermented beer in a carboy and shook it to mix the yeast, then there is probably enough CO2 in the beer and carboy that you won't pick up much of O2.

 
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