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brewpig 09-02-2008 12:05 AM

Belgian Dark Strong Ale
I am brewing a Belgian Dark Strong Ale according to the following recipe, which I modified from a recipe I found in a book:


Specialty Grains
11 oz of Cara-Munich Malt (Belgium)
8 oz of Munich Malt (Germany)
3.5 oz of Chocolate Malt (UK)
2 oz of Biscuit Malt (Belgium)

Heat 1 gallon of water to 160 and pour over grains. Let sit for 30 minutes to steep. Strain grain water into the brew pot. Add an additional 1 gallon of 150 degree water to the grains and strain again. Bring water to a boil and add:

Boil Ingredients
9 pounds of Munton and Fison Extra Light Dry Malt Extract
1.67 pounds of Belgian Amber Candi Sugar

Hops boiled for 60 minutes
1 oz Styrian Goldings 5%AA
1 oz Hallertau Hersbrocker (German) 3.3% AA

Additional ingredients

1 t Irish moss added at 15 minutes left in boil

Last 10 mintues of boil hops

1/4 ounce Hallertau Hersbrocker (German)


Wyeast 1388 Belgian Strong Ale

The priming for carbonation will be different for this batch. 3 days before it is time to bottle I will add another dose of the yeast. Right before bottling I will add 1 1/4 cups M&F extra light DME which has been boiled for 10 minutes in 2 cups water.
My starting gravity was 1.100. I just racked it to the secondary. I measured the gravity and it was 1.042, corresponding to an ABV of about 7.5%. I was kind of hoping that it would get down to about 1.02 or there abouts to give it an ABV of about 9.5%. It has to spend 6 weeks in the secondary yet.

My question is this: I haven't seen any activity in the airlock in some time. At what point during the 6 week secondary should I pitch another batch of yeast if it looks like the beer is stalled at too high a spec gravity? Would adding yeast energizer and nutrient be OK or is that mainly a trick for wines and meads and such?

ThriceIn5Minutes 09-02-2008 08:45 PM

I had the same experience with my first big beer. I racked it according to plan instead of according to the gravity. Start at 1.091, wait two weeks, rack, and wait again. I should have waited until the gravity stablized. Even if it doesn't show activity, it probably is. Most big beers take time to finish off the last 1/4 - 1/2 of the gravity points.

Now that you're in this situation though, you might try what I did. I pitched a i pint 24 oz starter of champagne yeast (high gravity tolerance and no effect on flavor) with a heavy dose of yeast nutrient and raised the temp of my fermenter a few degrees. I also swirled the carboy once a day to keep the yeasties suspended as best I could.

When I racked to secondary the gravity had gone from 1.091 to 1.038 (I think). The previous procedure achieved a final gravity of 1.018.

brewpig 09-02-2008 10:23 PM

I looked at it this afternoon and it looks like it is started again. I am getting 1 blip every 8 seconds. I think moving it around and stirring it up kicked it up a bit. I think I'll recheck the gravity again in another 2 weeks and then again 2 weeks after that.

I thought about champagne yeast but I hesitate. If I did that, wouldn't it take it out of the running for Belgian Dark Strong Ales? I was thinking another alternative would be to make a nice strong starter of the same yeast variety and repitch. I was planning on doing that during the last week of secondary anyway so that it would bottle carb OK.

DeathBrewer 09-02-2008 10:28 PM

you could add the same yeast again. make a nice big starter that is rolling...step it up a few times. more yeast will help at bottling time, too...

next time leave it in the primary for a month or more and rouse it the first few weeks to keep those yeast busy. you may also wish to step it up with sugar later, rather than adding it to the boil. belgians need a lot of attention.

brewpig 09-03-2008 09:10 AM

Thanks for the advice. Next time I'll leave it on the yeast a month and add the sugar later. I think it will be OK though. There seems to be a good amount of yeast activity this AM. I'll check gravity again in a couple weeks - I bet it will be down in the 1.03 range.

avidhomebrewer 09-06-2008 04:07 AM

I made a barley wine once and added champagne yeast to get it to finish. Looking back, it was a bad mistake-made the beer too dry. If you pitched enough yeast in the beginning (about a 1 gallon starter, just the yeast cake), you should be ok. I've made plenty of big beers over the years and the one thing I've learned about them is that they take a LONG time to finish fermenting. If you think it is done, let it sit about 2 more weeks before checking. Usually, a big beer will take about 2-3 months to completely finish fermenting before you can package. Like DeathBrewer eluded to, you could feed your brew incrementally over a 1-2 month period. I've only done this with brews of 12-18%+ though. For my 10%, I've mashed as normal and fermented the batch with a huge starter.

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