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Old 01-02-2013, 06:29 PM   #1
Dec 2012
Riverside, CA
Posts: 189
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I am trying to get an idea of what the general consensus is on "Big" beers, specifically for beers that deserve more time from kettle to glass.

Working from the general consensus of 3 weeks in primary, 3 weeks in bottle as the baseline norm that most seem to be comfortable recommending(regardless of how soon the active fermentation petered out, and provided SG is stable) what beers deviate from this?

What beers are best (or fine) to go ahead and bottle once FG is reached?

What beers should be left in primary longer than 3 weeks? Is this based on style? ABV?

Without going into dry-hopping, lagers, fruit additions, or wood additions, what beers should be racked to secondary for additional bulk conditioning?

Any difference in Extract vs. Grain in this regard?

Thanks, also some pics of my 1st brew day, an Irish Red extract kit. Everything went fairly smoothly, easy in fact.

Protect the stove

Stainless Rod notched in Gallon increments

Sanitize all the things. Don't fear the foam they tell me.


Boiling, in go hops

Chill out! hose was JUST long enough to make the hose connection outside. Perfect.

Here comes the Krausen. Pitched yeast at 74 (White labs package says 70-75). Temps during fermentation has been steady at 63-67.

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Old 01-02-2013, 06:40 PM   #2
Mar 2011
Merrimack, New Hampshire
Posts: 152
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First brew day? You are kidding me! It took me about twice as long to clean up after my first brew day than it did to actually brew. Looks like you are quite organized.

"Big Beers" mean different things to different people. I generally go with anything over a OG of 1.065 is a big beer and can stand some bulk aging, making exceptions for double IPA's which I'd rather have fresh.

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Old 01-02-2013, 06:43 PM   #3
Dec 2012
San Francisco Bay Area, California
Posts: 272
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Hey Ray, and welcome to the forum.

First, let me state that I have brew kettle envy . . .

As for your questions, I won't claim to be the expert on many items, but I will note this: The 3 week "rule" is more of a generalization. Ultimately, you are OK to bottle most beers once you have a stable gravity reading - meaning 3 readings on separate days the are the same, and in the vicinity of your desired FG. However, it has been suggested that most beers will improve with a little extra conditioning in the primary, and it doesn't hurt to leave the beer on the trub for 3 weeks.

I don't recommend leaving any beer in primary longer than 3 weeks. By this time, you're surely done with primary fermentation, and sitting on the trub longer than 3 weeks MAY affect your beer, as the yeast can go through a process called autolysis, where they die and the cell walls burst, releasing off flavors into the beer. By the time you've hit this point, you should consider racking to a secondary.

Many people on this forum don't recommend using secondary unless you are specifically adding the items you mentioned. However, I know of a number of brewers who use secondary's to clear their beer (they rack as the SG is approaching, but has not quite reached the FG). Others argue that cold crashing just prior to transferring to a bottling bucket will serve the same purpose. And while I'm sure there are beer styles that improve with bulk conditioning, I've not brewed any of them, and can't think of any off the top of my head.

As far as I know, there is no difference in this regard between all grain brewing and extract brewing.

Anyhow, I'm sure others will respond and tell me where I'm wrong Until then, enjoy brewing . . . and visit often to tell us what you're up to!
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Old 01-02-2013, 08:49 PM   #4
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unionrdr's Avatar
Feb 2011
Sheffield, Ohio
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The autolysis boogieman is dead & gone. that was from the days of yeasts that weren't as good as now. Hell,even then the brewer's yeast I used to make sparkling wines were pretty good if treated properly.
Anyway,I've had big beers,like my Burton ale (strong ale category),was in primary 5 weeks with no ill effects. They also needed more time in the bottles to condition,which takes a bit longer than carbonation. Typically a week longer with average gravity ales.
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Old 01-02-2013, 09:03 PM   #5
Dec 2012
San Francisco Bay Area, California
Posts: 272
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Originally Posted by unionrdr View Post
The autolysis boogieman is dead & gone. that was from the days of yeasts that weren't as good as now. Hell,even then the brewer's yeast I used to make sparkling wines were pretty good if treated properly.
Of course, you're correct for the most part. It's HIGHLY UNLIKELY autolysis will occur as early as 3 weeks . . . or even 3 months, for the most part. And yes, as many brewers here have noted, there is more risk of off flavors from infection or oxidation from transferring to secondary than leaving on trub for 4-6 weeks.

This doesn't mean yeast doesn't go through autolysis. Just that it's not likely to occur as soon now as in the past.

It's interesting to note that what we view as bad in beer is viewed as necessary in champagne . . . wines can't be granted the appellation unless they sit on their autolysing lees for a minimum of 15 months (non vintage - vintage champagnes must sit 3 years).
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Old 01-02-2013, 09:14 PM   #6
GaryJohn's Avatar
Apr 2010
Posts: 228
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I consider a "big" beer to be anything that is 7%abv and up.

When I brew these beers I let them sit in the fermentor a couple weeks so the yeast can clean up after a heavier fermentation. I also bottle condition longer than usual, to allow the flavors and alcohol heat to "mellow."

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Old 01-02-2013, 09:52 PM   #7
kblankenship11's Avatar
Jun 2012
Posts: 249
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Anything over 1.060 I generally consider big. Depends on the malt--for some reason English ales taste heavier to me than an American IPA of the same gravity. I dont have any "rule" about how to handle the timeframe for bigger beers. I read the yeast manufacturers recommendations, take gravity readings and bottle/keg when I have time knowing that fermentation is complete.

I find that it's just as important to give it time once it's packaged. When I keg my beer it tastes drastically different at the 2 week mark vs the 6 week mark. Older always tastes better.

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Old 01-03-2013, 12:10 AM   #8
Nov 2012
Posts: 173
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German wheat beers are an exception to the 3/3 rule. I'd go as far as to say you've missed the peak at 6 weeks. Once they hit FG unless there are non-desirable off-flavors there's absolutely no reason not to go straight to bottle, often in 6-10 days. Then 2 weeks in bottles they're ready, or even sooner in kegs.

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Old 01-03-2013, 02:09 AM   #9
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Feb 2011
Astoria, NY
Posts: 244
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Wow, you did some reading before jumping in to that first batch. I'm still not as tidy and efficient! Congrats! Welcome to your new addiction.
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Old 01-03-2013, 02:17 AM   #10
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Dec 2010
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For me, a 'big' beer is anything over about 7% (+/-)... How long I leave it in primary depends on a few factors. If I'm going to age it on something, then I transfer to an aging vessel for X months. Otherwise it goes from primary to serving kegs when it's ready. That can be anywhere from 1-4 months after pitching the yeast slurry (from the starter).

Also, for me a really BIG beer needs to be over 10%. I have one carbonating now (a 12.5% wee heavy) and have another that finished fermenting not that long ago (went about two months actively fermenting). The second one (an English BW) should be in the area of 15.3%. Planning to let that one rest for at least a few more weeks, to better flocculate, before I transfer to aging vessel with some oak (from a MM46 barrel ).
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