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Old 03-28-2012, 05:42 PM   #1
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Default Bottle conditioning - do I have future bombs on my hands?

I have only been brewing for a few months, and recently decided that I wanted to take a foray into making my own recipe from scratch. I like big beers, so I decided to go-big or go-home. Below is what I came up with:

"Brown Sugar" Porter - 5gal
- 7# Dark DME
- 1# Chocolate Malt
- 1# Special B Malt
- 2# Dark Brown Sugar (added @20 min left in boil so the wort acts as a catalyst to invert it)
- 1oz Brewers Gold (@60 min for bittering)
- 1oz Liberty (@15 min for flavor)

I didnt have a yeast in mind, but planned on asking at my LHBS about an alcohol tolerant strain.

Of course when I go to actually buy all the ingredients, my LHBS was out of chocolate malt and Special B. They did, however, have Belgian Chocolate and Belgian Special B. I stood there scratching my head wondering what made these different than the normal versions other than being more expensive.

Figuring that I was at a decision point of back to the kit or improvise I decided that "go big or go home" was the right strategy and grabbed the Belgian malts. On yeast I got recommended Wyeast 1388 Belgian Strong Ale as a good compliment to the Belgian malts.

Brew day went great. Hit my OG exactly at 1.090. Pitched my yeast and 72 F and let it sit for a week at 66-68 F. Checked my gravity on day 7 of fermentation and was at 1.025 (72% attenuation)! I was shocked since my only other high gravity beer took 3 weeks to ferment, and even then only attenuated 65%. The beer had also cleared significantly and I was at yet another decision point...bottle or let it go another week?

Being the impatient person I am I went ahead and bottled. That was on 3/17. Last night, again being impatient, I cracked one open...fully expecting it to be flat but just wanting to test the flavor.

To my surprise it was fully carbed and tasted much more finished than the barleywine I had been sitting on in bottles for 6 weeks (my other foray into high grav brewing which I had been trying each week and finding it flat). And when I say this thing was fully carbed, it had a nice head that stayed with it through the whole glass (the whole, delicious, chocolaty, glass...).

In fact, for what I expected it seemed over-carbed. I used 4.5 oz of priming sugar, which should have been right for 5 gal. Since this thing has only been in the bottle for 10 days, am I likely to run into trouble as it finishes conditioning? Did I do something wrong since it carbed up so fast? I dont think I have an infection since there are no off flavors at all.

Dont get me wrong...Im super happy with how it tastes. I just never expected it to finish so quickly and am worried that as time goes by the "that taste great honey" I got is going to turn into "you better clean up your damn mess".

Ill post a pic of some tonight...it looks awesome! The beer itself is black as night and the head was a milk-chocolate brown. In fact the only issue I currently have with it is its kinda stiff for a work night!

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Old 03-28-2012, 06:17 PM   #2
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I looked 1388 belgian strong up and the attenuation rating was 73-77%. This is a good sign. I expected you to get maybe a little higher than a 72% because of the high brown sugar content. (I am pretty sure brown sugar is fully fermentable) Anyways, you will probably be alright. The brews will start foaming over when you crack them open before they actually start exploding, so you will see it coming.
The only experience I have had with exploding bottles was when I brewed a root beer and didn't know what the hell I was doing or how to stop them from carbonating further. The other time I bottled using some champagne or lager yeast that probably had a much higher attenuation rating that the ale yeast I used to ferment, and they started exploding in the middle of the night! I thought my house was being broken into! I have also used way more priming sugar than that (like 6 or 7 ounces!) Also if you are worried about them getting too much more carbonated you can put them all in the fridge and this will halt the carbonation process.
And, for future reference: it is always better to take your time when it comes to brewing. Leave it in the fermenter for at least a couple extra days to be sure ferment is complete and any unwanted esters are picked up by the yeast. When you think about it, it really only takes one or two gravity points to fully carbonate a beer (think about what the gravity will look like if you added the 4.5 oz of sugar to the boil? it doesn't do much). I have actually seen some bigger breweries seal off their fermenters two points before their final gravity is reached and carbonation is achieved. Then, they fill their kegs, no co2 or 'priming' sugar involved! Its all done by the yeast! Incredible!
Ok I am done rambling now. I hope this helps you!
P.S. Sounds like a delicious brew!

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Old 03-28-2012, 06:18 PM   #3
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Oh ya I meant to give you this:
http://www.byo.com/resources/carbonation
Pretty handy!

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Old 04-16-2012, 05:13 PM   #4
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Soooooo..... How did it all turn out?

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Old 04-17-2012, 12:45 PM   #5
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Well, I dumped it back in a fermenter two weeks ago and rebottled last week after letting it fully decarb. Hoping it didnt oxidize too badly in the process. From what I have read, heavy beers dont usually get off flavors, they just loose their maltyness and end up 'empty'.

So yeah, Ill know in another 2 to 3 weeks how it fared.

Thanks for all the tips though. I was using a spreadsheet from ******************.com for measuring priming sugar. It was nice because it listed ingredients by their common names (DME, table sugar, honey, etc).

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Old 04-17-2012, 04:28 PM   #6
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For future reference I wouldn't ever pour beer back in after its bottled. Huge risk on oxidation. Hopefully they don't turn into bottles of wet cardboard flavored beer.

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Old 04-17-2012, 08:05 PM   #7
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At that point it was try rebottling or dump it. Every beer I opened gave me a 6-8" fountain. Sure, it taste great, but it was impossible to enjoy because I was getting about 1/2 of the beer when I opened the bottle and making a huge mess in the kitchen that was making my wife angry.

I figured that if I was going to dump it anyway, I wasnt loosing anything by trying to fix it. If it ends up as wet-cardboard, I will dump it and be done with the stuff. I will also have learned the valuable lesson of being patient with my beer (But at what cost! At what cost!!!).

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