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Old 08-25-2008, 09:03 PM   #1
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Four days ago I brewed a beer which was both my first "big" beer and my first Belgian; I've been watching it like a hawk to make sure it comes out to my satisfaction. It's an extract Tripel made of a mix of Pilsner and 2-Row extract, plus about 15% candi sugar, to an OG of 1.080; hops are Vanguard and Styrian Goldings, and Sterling at flameout to a total IBU of about 20.

I'm using WLP550 Belgian Ale yeast... I made a 2L starter which was healthy, and pitched an extra vial just in case. Oxygenation was just shaking the carboy for 10 minutes before pitching (at 68 or so). Fermentation took off in 3 hours, and dropped to 1.055 in a day, 1.035 in two days, and two days after that has slowed down -- it's presently at 1.024, and the airlock is still bubbling about once every 2 seconds.

My question is about the yeast: how does it behave? Should I feed it anything to make sure it drops to at least below 1.016 (I've added half a tsp of Fermaid K)? Should I rouse it? Should I put it near a space heater or something (it's been fermenting in the low 70s)? How does this yeast vary at different temps? How long do I need to wait to get it to full attenuation of at least 80% ( => 1.016 FG)?

I solicit all your experiences with WLP550, positive, negative, good beers, bad beers, good recipes for the yeast, etc... If this tripel attenuates all the way down think I will be using this yeast a lot -- my gravity samples taste delicious

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Old 08-25-2008, 09:59 PM   #2
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i use the WLP550 for almost all my belgian beers. i really like it...it's cleaner than some of the other belgian yeasts...doesn't have the crazy phenolics but still gives really nice character.

first of all, quit sampling it. leave it alone. something that big should sit in the primary for at least a month. i know you're curious how it's coming along, but there is no need to take samples like that.

as long as your airlock is still bubbling, you've got a good co2 blanket on there...i would give it a nice swirl over the next few days and keep those yeast working. i've had troubles in the past with it crapping out on me and needing to be roused. another thing i do is add my sugar at a later time. this allows you to "step up" the beer, effectively using it as a giant starter and works well to make sure the yeast is not stressed.

that being said, it looks like you're doing just fine from your grav readings...it's tooting along like it should.

don't rush this one. leave it in primary for at least 3 weeks, let it secondary for a month, let it sit in bottles for 6 months. trust me.

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Old 08-25-2008, 10:25 PM   #3
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All Belgians need at least a three week primary. They seem to ferment like a mofo for the first few days but then have a really long, slow tail where they chew through the last 10 or 15 gravity points.

I'm planning to leave my tripel (OG 1.090) in the primary four weeks, and secondary it long enough to infuse the amount of oak flavor I want from chips.

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Old 08-25-2008, 10:58 PM   #4
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This thread is quite timely for me, as a brewed a blond on saturday with this yeast, also my first belgian, with plans to put a tripel on the cake. This yeast started faster than any liquid I've used. I woke up fourteen hours after pitching to a two-finger krausen. It's two days after pitching almost to the minute and the foam is dropping, but the convection current inside is very vigorous. It stabilized at 68 degrees after putting it in my storage container and water, and I've let it climb to 71 degrees since. It really hasn't been hard to control, but I'm done adding ice to the water because even if it gets to room temp here (74) it'll be OK. The smell from the airlock has been pretty neutral, at least to a guy tore up with allergies. I'm really looking forward to my dip into the pool of belgian beers.

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Old 08-25-2008, 11:02 PM   #5
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To illustrate the point, I racked a Belgian Pale at two weeks, when I thought it was done... Wyeast Ardennes strain on a 1.060 wort. A few weeks later I hooked up the cobra tap to get a sample from the keg, and the tap nearly blew apart from the pressure. The keg must have been over 50psi, because it had actually dropped the gravity even more after racking. If I would have bottled it after two weeks rather than kegging, I would have had bottle bombs.

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Old 08-26-2008, 12:17 AM   #6
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My only experience with this yeast saw my beer go from 15*P to 2.5*P (roughly 1.060 to 1.010) at 65F in 3 weeks. I wouldn't call the results typical though as I have a friend who is a professional microbiologist and he grows up all my starters for me in his lab.

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Old 08-26-2008, 12:59 AM   #7
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i also let my belgians ferment completely out at about 65°F

once it's close to being done, i'll bring it out, rouse and let it rise to warmer temps (room temp ~75°F

this idea that you raise the temp MAY work to give you slightly better attenuation, but i think primary fermntation in the 70s will give you too much fruitiness and hangover, even for a belgian beer.

i couldn't believe how clean my last dark strong ale tasted at secondary. which reminds me...it's about time to bottle that sucker

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Old 08-26-2008, 02:55 AM   #8
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i couldn't believe how clean my last dark strong ale tasted at secondary. which reminds me...it's about time to bottle that sucker
Ooh, cool when will it be ready... I'll plan my next trip out there.
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Old 08-26-2008, 06:40 AM   #9
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i'll probably start opening bottles in about a year

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Old 08-26-2008, 06:33 PM   #10
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All Belgians need at least a three week primary. They seem to ferment like a mofo for the first few days but then have a really long, slow tail where they chew through the last 10 or 15 gravity points.
I've done a lot of Belgians, from wits to tripels, mostly using bottle harvested yeasts from beers I toted back from Belgium, and my brews never take more than 5 or so days to reach FG. That said, I do leave tripels hanging out on the yeast for 2-3 weeks to give them time to clean up their mess a bit.
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