Originally Posted by highgravitybacon
At the risk of complicating things, I'm going to suggest a few things to consider with a tripel.
First, I do think a secondary is important with high gravity beer. The alcohol is quite toxic to the yeast and they will start to die. I like to leave the beer in primary about three weeks to a month then transfer to a secondary vessel for lagering and clearing. For most others beers, you can get them out of fermentation in a few weeks without issues -- but not a tripel.
I roll ghetto stylee. So I "lager" by having the carboy sit outside in a carboard box protected from the sun. Right now, it's about 40-50 during the day and 22-28F at night. The beer stays right around 30-34F. It won't freeze until it gets to about 27F in the carboy. This helps get a lot of yeast and protein bits out. I do this for a few weeks. If it gets too cold, I put it in the basement at 50-52F.
I also add fresh yeast at bottling. I think this is important with a big beer. The yeast in suspension is weak and fixing to die as it stews in a toxic blend of alcohols in the fermentation vessel so a little fresh yeast seems to help. You could rehydrate some S-33 yeast which costs about $2 per pack, and throw about a quarter teaspoon of the rehydrated mix into your bottling bucket.
I figure about two months is accurate. 3 weeks primary, 3-5 weeks in a clearing vessel / lagering.
You can read endless pros and cons about using a secondary vessel. For smaller beers, I don't use it. For longer term aging or clearing of big beers I do use it. But I'm just a noob not some pro.
To address this comment, there is nothing wrong with doing that HGBacon says here. It's interesting with the lagering aspect as you normally don't lager with ale's since the esters that the yeasts produce are desirable as well as some other compounds that may diminish with lagering.
However, the whole clearing process can also be done in the bottle if you wait long enough. The difference is that the beer isn't aging all together which may or may not impact the flavor. It is also possible that the beer will be a bit clearer if you do a secondary.
As for the autolysis (yeast stressed out) aspect, with the minimal amount of yeast that makes it into the bottles it's really not much of a concern, from what I understand.
In general if you don't secondary your beer might be a little less clear and have a little more sediment on the bottom of the bottle. Whether it's worth it to wait the extra time (doing a secondary) for the beer to be ready is up to you.
There's also an argument that aging a beer in a bottle with the yeast is better as yeast aids the beer in aging and preventing oxidation.
Again there are many different rationals on this one and it's an ongoing debate.
I generally don't do secondary's but I do sometimes if I want my beer to be clearer. I have also started to cold crash in primary which has greatly helped my beers with their clarity.
Also, when you rehydrate the yeast I would just pitch the whole pack, that's what I usually do...