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jb444 08-04-2007 02:45 PM

Barley wine not fermenting
Hi all,
Two days ago I had my second go at a grain brew, made 2 gallons of barley wine.
It all seemed to go well, got an OG of 1.080 @ 90F, and then pitched a wine yeast that is definately working because I used the same yeast a week earlier for a blackberry wine I made, as I wasn't sure the beer yeast i had was up to fermenting such high gravities.
(Ambient temp 68-72F)
Last night the yeast still wasnt working at all, so I added some beer yeast simply because I did not want the brew to go bad.
it is now fermenting slowly but much slower than normal after the same amount of time in any of my other brews with this yeast.
I would appreciate suggestiions as to why it wont ferment, please ask for anything that would help diagnose the problem.
Recipe (from memory, cant find it):
3.5lb MO Pale malt
Mashed @ 155F for 90 mins
2.0lb White sugar
2oz Fuggles (1oz @ 40min 1oz @ 10min)
Boiled for 40mins

Evets 08-04-2007 02:58 PM

If you pitched at 90F you may well have killed your yeast. I always cool to at most 75F before pitching. If you didn't make a good sized starter with the beer yeast, It's going to take some time to take off in such a high gravity wort.

jb444 08-04-2007 03:03 PM

I never new 90F could kill yeast?
I really hope thats all I did wrong! I'll see how it's doing in a day or so then.

McKBrew 08-04-2007 03:12 PM

Yeah. You probably killed the initial batch of yeast. I'm guessing that you probably didn't use a starter on the second addition of yeast, which is probably why the fermentation is slow esp with such a high OG brew. The fact that it is fermenting is a good thing, and it might be slow for a while then pick up as the yeast multiply.

I'd like to see if the more senior guys would recommend re-pitching with a good sized starter or just to leave it alone.

Dark_Ale 08-04-2007 03:53 PM

Did you use the yeast cake off of a batch of wine? If so your yeast is probably spent, worn out.
How about aeration did you aerate?
How about nutrient?
If its going I would not add anymore yeast.
Next time I would brew a smaller beer and throw the barley wine on the yeast cake and make sure you have a healthy pitch of yeast. I would pitch colder than 90F mabe more like 60 then warm back up to 68 and hold. With higher gravity beers your gonna generate some heat when fermenting try to keep it cool 68F. Good luck.

jb444 08-04-2007 04:42 PM

yeah I took some yeast from the wine with a small amount of malt extract, some sugar then added 1/2 pint water in a bottle. It seemed to be very active.
I spent about 20 mins agitating the 2 gallons in a sterile bucket to aerate.
Didnt add any nutrient, though.
I was going to make a starter with some fresh wine/champagne yeast to add if the beer yeast can't ferment out all the sugar?
Thanks for all the advice,

Dark_Ale 08-04-2007 05:01 PM

On a 1.080 brew their are allot of beer yeast that will take your gravity down, Its just best if you have a big pitch of yeast or use a yeast cake. My last barley wine was 1.090, I used a 1056 smackpack and the final gravity was 1.025. Thats kind of sweet but I had enough hops to offset the sweetness. Thats the trick, hops will fade, but sweetness will not unless its residual sweetness. Thats why you just have to age your barley wine to know when its at its best. I know mine are best at 6months to 1 year. They will still be good at 2 years but will taste a little sweet because of the hops fading. (The bitterness) but the sweetness will still be there. I secondary in a keg now most of the time, and for a barley wine I leave it for 3 or 4 months. I usually know that its finished by then. Then I force carbonate with co2. But if you bottle to early and you still have residual fermentable sugars you could way overcarbonate or have a bottle bomb, especially if you have a really high gravity beer and you add yeast and priming sugar prior to bottling. I try to shoot for 1.090 on my barley wine with 100~110 IBU's. (American) English is lower like 80 I think. But you could make an English with a 100 IBU just let it age longer. I have never tasted a barley wine fermented with champagne or wine yeast so I dont have any experience in that area. Good luck !

david_42 08-04-2007 11:00 PM

Wine yeasts aren't all that good at fermenting beer and most ale yeasts can handle 1.080 without a problem. High gravity ales will start much slower than lower gravity ales, so you probably didn't really have a problem.

Ó Flannagáin 08-05-2007 12:40 PM

Also, did you aerate? Very important. I've had 72 hours go by before I saw ANY activity in the airlock, sometimes it takes a while to get started, especially without a starter. 90F is a pretty high temp for pitching yeast. Sounds like your beer yeast is just getting started, give another day or 2 and see if it picks up.

jb444 08-06-2007 10:59 AM

Checked it today, It's fermenting madly and gravity is down to 40 already, so it looks like it'll be ok.
Moved it to a cooler cupboard so it stays cool.
Thanks for all your help!

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