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Add yeast for priming? (Mostly-fermented high gravity ale)

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dperrigan

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Hi All.

It's amazing how much more I know now than I did three weeks ago when I brewed my first solo batch of beer. Now, after reading Palmer cover to cover (twice) and reading hundreds of posts on this site I can see the many errors I made with this beer. Here's the situation:

First of all it's a Belgian Quad with an OG (estimated) of 1.106. Yes, that's what I chose for my first beer. At the time I had no idea that a high gravity beer was going to be more difficult. Also, I say the OG is estimated because I didn't take a hydrometer reading (2nd mistake). This was an extract beer from a kit. Here are the details: 2.5 gallon batch, using 6 lbs Dry Pilsner Malt Extract, 2 oz Caramunich (steeped), 2 oz Special B (steeped), and 1 lb D-90 Candi Syrup. Steep grains at 155 degrees for 30 minutes (in 2.5 gal distilled water). Bring to boil and add extract. Begin boil timer after hot break --90 minutes. Add D-90 at 90 minutes. Estimated OG for this is 1.106.

That part all went well. Chilled in ice bath to 70 deg. Transfer to fermentor and top with distilled water to 2.5 gallons. Now for the yeast -- and my 3rd mistake. I didn't realize until the day before brew day that I might need a yeast starter. I used White Labs Belgian Abby IV (WLP540). It was a high gravity beer, but also a small size (2.5 gallons). Using calculations from my brand new "How to Brew" book I figured I'd need about 200 billion yeast cells, which meant a 1 L starter. The White Labs website had instructions for making the starter and said that it would be ready to pitch after 18-20 hours. I don't have a stir plate so I just shook my container for oxygenation. The next day there was a good yeast cake on the bottom and lots of activity. I refrigerated it about 2 hours before pitching to get the yeast to drop, then decanted about 70% of the liquid off, swirled the remainder and pitched.

Fermentation began the next day and was strong enough to blow quite a bit of krausen through my blowoff tube. By the 2nd day, though, activity was low. After a few days I stopped seeing any bubbles at all. I did one week at 68 degrees, the 2nd week at 72. Then I measured FG with a nice new FG hydrometer. 1.036 (temp corrected). Based on the kit's estimated ABV of 10.9% I figured that I should have gotten down to 1.023. But my OG is only estimated so I don't know.

I let it go a third week at 75 degrees. I measured today and it's still at exactly 1.036. So no movement. Figuring that the proof is in the beer (literally), I tasted the sample. My friend and I agree that it tastes like a promising young Belgian Quad -- maybe a tad sweet, but that could be based on the fact that it's not carbonated yet. So it MIGHT be done, and it might have stalled.

I would like to call this beer done and bottle it now. But here is the question that prompted me to write this autobiography:

Do I...

1. Bottle as I normally would (2 oz Corn sugar in a cup of water, boil, cool, add to bottling bucket)
2. Assume my yeast died before hitting the expected FG. Add some yeast into the priming sugar solution.
3. Worry that by adding yeast to the priming solution I will kickstart more fermentation of my 1.036 beer and get bottle bombs.

I'm not too worried about this batch. I figure if it comes out less than stellar I can chalk it up to a learning example. But I figured I'd see what suggestions you have.

Thanks -- and sorry for the long post.
 
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dperrigan

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My local brewer's supply store guy recommended that I repitch with US-05, wait a few days, and see if there is any more movement. I would rather not repitch if I don't have to since I'm worried about oxygenation. (It's in a plastic bucket, so I've already had to remove the lid twice to get hydrometer samples).

Anyone think it's a bad idea to bottle at this point?

Thanks again,
Dan
 

jrgtr42

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As long as you're quick and careful, there shouldn't be much worry about oxygenation in repitching.
But that said, if you've been stable for that long, it's most likely done.
That strain can handle the high ABV - so it's most likely not that.
There's a few things with Extract that it sometimes (often?) doesn't make it to expected FG.
You are probably good to bottle, you shouldn't need to add priming yeast - just sugar. The yeast still there will wake up to take care of that and create carbonation.
 
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dperrigan

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Awesome -- thanks! That was pretty much my gut feeling too but I was looking for a sanity check.

If nobody else has a reason why I shouldn't then I'm bottling this tomorrow.

Thanks,
Dan
 

3 Dawg Night

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First of all it's a Belgian Quad with an OG (estimated) of 1.106. Yes, that's what I chose for my first beer.
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Part of me wants to stand up and applaud you for making a quad your first brew. Since you don't *really* know what your OG was, I wouldn't worry about the higher-than-expected FG. I also think that unless there's a hidden Mistake #4 not listed above, it's highly unlikely that your yeast is dead. They consumed the available sugars and went to sleep. I say bottle as normal; there's no need for additional yeast.
 

bu_gee

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Sorry I'm late to the show, and probably too late to offer actionable advice, but when I brewed my tripel about 4 years ago I had a yeast massacre on my hands and I ended up with only partially carbonated beer. I don't know if the yeast died from the alcohol they produced or if the 6 week fermenting period was the culprit.

This was made worse by the fact that I didn't check a single bottle for 4 months because of the aging period. I wouldn't expect a fast carbonation, but probably after a month, it would have been obvious that I wasn't carbing properly.

So, I guess the advice I can offer is to check at the earliest point it makes sense to make sure you are getting the carbonation you're expecting. If not, you can take steps to remedy it. Others probably would be better able to tell you when that would be.
 
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