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Old 11-20-2009, 04:31 AM   #1
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Default Bottle conditioning high gravity belgians - share your experience

My belgian quad will soon be ready for bottling and I am planning this step carefully since I believe it is the trickiest.. Getting a high level of carbonation on a 11% ABV beer is not easy..

Simply tossing in some dextrose on top of that tired yeast is a hit or miss.. you might be lucky and the yeast will still be viable or you end up with flat bottles, a very common problem for homebrewers..

Please share your experience, good or bad, if you ever attempted to bottle condition beers of 9% or more. Please be as precise as possible..

I can start with my previous Triple, 9.5% ABV. I made a 3 cup starter of the same yeast used for primary fermentation (Wyeast Canadian/Belgian ale, aka Unibroue yeast) that I mixed with the finished beer and 0.5 pound of dextrose for a 5 gallon. I would have expected this amount of dextrose to give me well over 3 volume of carbonation.... But even after 10 weeks of bottle conditioning at 70F, the carbonation was more similar to an English bitter.. not totally flat, but nowhere near as spritzy as I wanted it..

One thing I noticed is the larger bottles have a bit more carbonation.. There is a definitive carbonation difference between a 12 and 22 ounce bottle... Not sure why though. This might explain why Chimay gives different names to their beers depending on the bottle size.. seems to make a lot of sense..

In order to improve quality of my bottle conditioning for the Quad, I am considering:

- Using only larger bottles, since this gave me best results in the past (for unknown reasons)

- Pitching a fresh dose of Safbrew T-58 has it seems to be a popular choice for bottle conditioning of big belgians. Not sure if I should sprinkle the beer, re-hydrate or make a starter with it....

- Add more priming sugar.


Also I am not sure if I should to a long (cold) conditioning of the beer before bottling it, or bottle it faster so the primary yeast is still active and in suspension when I bottle.. The problem is that if I cold condition for 2 months, most of the yeast will have settled and re-fermentation in the bottle might be difficult? Adding fresh yeast could solve this problem, but I am afraid the fresh yeast added to a conditioned 11.5% beer will simply go dormant in the bottle and do nothing..

Sorry for the long post..

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Old 12-12-2009, 03:31 PM   #2
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Default gravity n' pressure

I have had success with my HG Belgians using a splash of WLP099 Super High Gravity Yeast, with 3/4 cup dextrose per 5 Gallons. It takes 1.5-2months for it to carbonate right, but it has been consistently successful.... For me the problem is with my sub 7% beers.
sorry, i know
My problem is the other side of carbonation.. the over carbonation... I make bottle bombs. I mean they are friggin' bottle fountains.. Fizzy Lifting Drinks if you will...
I brewed 5 batches for a competition tonight. which we brought to the local sushi bar last night to decide which to enter.. the waiter popped the lid off our NJ style Fat Tyre Esque 12oz.. it was like an I.E.D. the waiter, my wife... the sushi were all casualties. How can i prevent this, i use the same 3/4 a cup dextrose, but with no extra yeast on these guys.. Its just hard to see my boys go down like this... i try to raise them right.. and still so many end up succumbing.. to the pressure..
Any advice how to handle the lower gravity conditioning?

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Old 12-12-2009, 05:16 PM   #3
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Thanks for the tip on WLP099..

There are many reasons for bottle bombs:

Make sure your beer is fully attenuated before bottling.

Use a priming sugar calculator. Make sure you have all the details right:
- Volume of beer to bottle
- Temperature of the beer (will affect residual co2 content from fermentation)
- Measure your sugar by weight, much more precise

Mix your sugar very well in the bottling bucket. If you just add the dextrose powder, chances are it will not all dissolve and the last bottles will have a huge amount of sugars.. + the dextrose is not sterilized.. What I do is I dissolve the sugar in a cup or two of boiling water to create a syrup. Chill it and then mix. Since the sugar will be dissolved, it will mix much more evenly.

Finally, watch for contamination, which can cause gushers as the beasties continue to work on residual sugars in the bottle..


Don't worry I'm sure you are going to laugh about this story in a little while...

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Old 12-12-2009, 05:25 PM   #4
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I haven't done 11%, but I've done 10% range tripels with no problems carbonating properly. FWIW I made one batch with T-58 and one with WY1214 with similar results.

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Old 12-13-2009, 07:26 PM   #5
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Default T-58's first fun

So I'm trying the T-58 today with a couple big beers.
A Raison D'tre clone with pounds of Currants, and a Date beer. Both are north of 10%.
At Ommegang Brewery this summer, I was given a couple cases of Corked Belgian Beer bottles. I am bottling in there today, going to try to jerry rig a hand corker to leave the gap for the champagne wires on top.
My guy at the LHBS talked me into priming with DME, instead of dextrose.. what is your take on this?

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Old 12-13-2009, 08:11 PM   #6
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Let me know how the T-58 works out.. I've read in a few places it was a good bottling yeast..

DME would be a big no no I would say for bottle conditioning, especially high gravity.. You want to make life as easy as possible for the yeast, so feeding them simple sugars is the way to go.. Even sucrose might give them extra work, so glucose (or dextrose) is usually preferred..

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Old 12-13-2009, 08:18 PM   #7
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I have not done this myself as I keg. But I made a clone of Hennipen from Ommegang, and during the research I found that they filter the finished beer and then add fresh yeast (same as they use for fermentation). Moral of the story is, with a yeast that does tolorate high ABV beers they are able to be added to the finished beer with out a problem.

Another option would be to bottle condition with a wine yeast?

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Old 12-14-2009, 04:44 PM   #8
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Yes, many breweries who are serious about bottle conditioning do filter (or centrifuge) and add a precise amount of fresh yeast and sugar.. That's what sierra nevada does, and many others.

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