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Old 07-10-2014, 04:14 PM   #1
NoelMueller
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Default Aging in plastic - best worst option for aging Belgian Dark Strong Ale

Hey guys,

Total noob here, first post, etc. I'm currently brewing my 8th brew (extract), a Belgian Dark Strong, and trying to plot my next move with it.

I brewed this to try and switch things up and utilize the warmer temperatures in my apartment, after a few harsh IPAs plagued by runaway fermentation temps. Its about 74-78 degrees in my closet right now, with the A/C blasting in my apartment.

Here are the basic specs:

5 Gal batch
-----
6lbs Gold LME
3lbs Pilsen DME
1lb Light Candi Syrup
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1 lb Belgian - Cara 45L (steeping grains)
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1 oz. East Kent Goldings (60 min)
1 oz. Hersbrucker (30 min)
1 oz. Styrian Celeia (15 min)
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1.076 SG
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Yeast: WLP530 (Abbey Ale) w/small 1.040 starter made from 1/2 cup of Pilsen DME.

So, after 16 days in a 6.5 gal bucket, the beer is down to 1.015. The first 4 days were quite entertaining, and I ended up using a foam stopper instead of a blow-off tube due to the RIDICULOUS krausen size. The foam stopper shot out of the bucket like a bullet and startled the bejesus out of my girlfriend (who was in the closet at the time). During the first week, the aromas coming off the bucket were juicy fruit, bubble gum and slight banana. Now, the aromas are more cidery and vinous.

Anyway, I tasted the hydro sample and it was shockingly acidic, vinous and cidery.. somewhat worrisome, since I have no experience with Belgian beers. I then put the hydro sample in the refrigerator and tasted it again the next day. Tastes great! I can taste the pilsen malt, dark heavy notes of plum, cherry and raisins, and even a touch of noble hop flavor. Still somewhat vinous, but in a way that reminds me of a bottle of Westvleteren 12 I had a couple months ago.

The plan was to be able to start cracking open bottles of this in October at the earliest (3 months aging planned). My question is, am I better off aging it by:

- Leaving it on the yeast, in the 6.5 gal bucket and simply not messing with it for another month or two, then bottling.
- Racking it to my 5 gal vintage shop PET carboy for a couple months then bottling.
- Leaving it in the 6.5 gal bucket for 2 more weeks (total of 4) and let it age in bottles for 3 months?

I'm leaning towards the last one, because I don't trust plastic, and also would like to use my buckets and PET carboy to brew other beers in the meantime.

Basically, I want the beer to age until October, but i'm afraid of leaving it in a plastic bucket for that long.

Thanks!
-Noel

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Old 07-10-2014, 04:18 PM   #2
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You can leave it in primary for months with no problem. It is also a perfectly acceptable option to leave it in primary for a few more weeks then age in bottles. You won't have any issue with the plastic.

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Old 07-10-2014, 04:23 PM   #3
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Cool, I was leaning towards not messing with the secondary. So, if you had to characterize or quantify the difference between aging in primary (with an airlock) vs. aging in bottles (sealed) for a few months, for a Belgian beer like this, what would the differences be?

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Old 07-10-2014, 04:27 PM   #4
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Plastic will be fine:



More oxygen will bleed in through the rubber stopper!

'da Kid

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Old 07-10-2014, 04:37 PM   #5
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I would go with option 3. I brewed a big triple and let it finish out its' ferment then bottled with the plan to let it age out while carbonating. One thing you need to consider is that bigger beers like these take longer to bottle condition. You can do this at the same time as it is aging if you bottle it.

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Old 07-10-2014, 04:48 PM   #6
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2-3 months in your primary bucket would be fine, longer than that I would rack it off the yeast to prevent autolysis and funky off-flavors. You may also want to use the yeast for another batch.

The main issue with buckets is that the headspace CO2 flies off as soon as you open the lid, or even press on it, leaving your beer exposed to air and oxidation. Some oxidation makes some beers better, but for most it's an unwanted side effect.

If I want to keep the beer in the primary for extended time, I keep the lid on and don't press on it. I sneak a thin vinyl hose down the airlock grommet and suck some beer out to test gravity and taste, then airlock it again and let it be until ready to keg. I also often blow CO2 inside, from my tank, which I gather you don't have (yet).

Racking to a secondary usually exposes your beer to air and oxidation, as does any large headspace. So if you rack it, do it carefully not to suck air and let it bubble or splash into your destination vessel. The headspace in the secondary should be really small, maybe 2-3 inches down from the the rim of the neck.

So if you really want to age it for 2-3 months, rack it as long as you know it will fill your secondary up pretty much all the way, otherwise there's little point, and you may as well leave it in the bucket.

I've found that pressing the lid is a bad thing (I switched to primary buckets recently) as it pushes out the CO2 and sucks in air along the rim. That air may contain "bugs." I keep that rim area as clean as can be with Starsan-ned cling wrap for that reason.

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Old 07-10-2014, 05:30 PM   #7
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So what differences could one expect between aging before bottling vs. aging in the bottle? (in the case of bigger Belgian beers, to be specific)

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Old 07-10-2014, 05:40 PM   #8
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IMHO I would leave it in primary for 3 to 4 weeks and then bottle it. I moved away from using plastic buckets when I realized that the seals weren't very good and let in oxygen. The 5gal carboy would probably be fine but there isn't really a point in doing that IMHO. Just bottle is and let it age. It'll take a bit of time to carb up in the bottles anyways and probably will be really ready to drink at about 2 to 3 months. You could age it for much longer too.

As far as bulk aging before bottling well you would theoretically have more consistency since the beer is all aging together. You also would have more clarity since the more times you rack something the more sediment drops out. However, transferring increases oxygen exposure and potential for infection which is why most people don't secondary anymore.

As a side note on your fermentation. Your apt temps are still a bit high even for a Belgian strain Usually it's a good idea to start on the lower end of the spectrum and let it ramp up (generally a good rule of thumb for most ale fermentations). I believe that yeast is about 66-72F recommended temps. After a few days it's ok to let it get higher. You might consider investing in a circular tub, therm sticker, and a few ice packs to keep temps down. This would probably only run you about 20 bucks but can greatly increase the quality of your brew.

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Old 07-10-2014, 05:47 PM   #9
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What is gonna make it "dark"???

The cara45 will add a little brown.

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Old 07-10-2014, 05:55 PM   #10
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According to Brew LIke a Monk, all of the Trappist breweries ferment for 4-14 days, cold crash for 3-14 days, and then bottle. That's what I would do...

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