Belgian Yeast Phenols & Esters: Rack From Promary ASAP to Retain Them?

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Seashore Creature
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Gentlemen, I'm mastering brewing Belgian ales. Recently I was advised to rack Belgian ales from the primary vessel as soon as the FG is reached (i. e. bottling after just 8 or 10 days in primary, not after 4 weeks as I usually do). That's supposed to be a way to retain the most of the unique yeast character. What seems to confirm this idea is a recommendation in Fermentis BE-256 Belgian Dry Yeast leaflet: "To maintain the aromatic profile at the end of the fermentation, we do recommend to crop this yeast as soon as possible after fermentation".

My question is, is that true? All other things equal (yeast strain, fermentation temp etc.), does a standard 4 weeks stay in the primary really cleans out, along with fusel alcohols, those desirable Belgic phenols and esters? Is it really better to bottle them ASAP?
My own attempts to find the answer gave quite inconsistent results and my experience in Belgian brewing is quite limited yet.
 
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Seashore Creature
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That's why I've been confused. i hear the advise to keep bigger beers (which many popular Belgians are) in primary for at least 3 weeks far more often than any other recommendation.
i learned by practice most British ales don't really need a prolonged primary. I just don't know if the same goes for the Belgian.
 

oceanic_brew

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this in an insanely complex subject. I’ve been brewing Belgians for 8 years and I keep going back and forth on what ways I should best implement my fermentation and aging schedules to produce a quality product.

I just tasted a hydrometer jar sample of a week old ferment and thought it was better tasting than things I’ve aged for months.

I’ve made some amazing dark strongs that although tasted great after a month they did not develop that rummy and almost candy aroma that I love in some of the Trappist beers until at least 6-8 months.

From reading “Yeast” I don’t think getting anything off the yeast cake is gonna save it from further “cleaning up” of flavors. There’s plenty of healthy yeast in suspension regardless of transfer. Autolysis seems to be more of an issue with the immense hydrostatic pressure you have in 100BBL tanks and the like and that’s where moving off the yeast cake comes from along with just freeing up vessels for production and harvesting of yeast for successive batches.

I really think there might be something to filtering out the yeast when the beer has conditioned to where you want it but If you haven’t brewed a good beer then some long aging may be in order to bring the beer together.

What we have to remember here is that a great Belgian really brings all of the elements of brewing together, of course the makers of the best NEIPA’s out there might argue the same thing be we all know how every ingredient is on display in full force in a well made Belgian.

If all the other elements are mastered I think you can turn around a beautiful Belgian as quick as any other beer, just don’t expect it to taste like the 5 month old aged triples that have come to you a thousand miles in a shipping container
 

RPh_Guy

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I am not very experienced with Belgians but the yeast character in the tripel I made with WLP500 tastes almost exactly like Chimay White. I bottled it right after fermentation completed.

IMO there's not much point to leaving in the fermenter after fermentation completes unless you have a good reason, like you need a diacetyl rest, you're cold crashing/fining, or you are using Brett.
 

mediant

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Beer ester profile is the result of enzymatic balance of ester synthesis by AATases and breakdown by esterases. When fermentation is over, no new cells are born, so esters are no longer produced, but the remaining yeast population die off, liberating ester hydrolizing esterases (Neven et al. 1997). Suspended yeast may be needed for maturation such as diacetyl reduction, but the yeast in the cake must be discarded ASAP.

In practice, the beer may remain in primary until test for diacetyl and its precursors is negative (couple of days max at ale temperatures), then cleared by cold or filtration and packaged.
 
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Thank you all for the detailed answers. They explain much to me (especially the notion on ester hydrolysis caused by yeast dying off). It seems now, those who advised me not to keep Belgian beers on primary cake for too long might have a point.
I wonder then, where the "common wisdom" of 3-5 weeks in the primary comes from. Definitely, not from industrial brewing.

I think now I need to make an experiment on this, like split batch: one part bottled after a week and another after a month.
 

Jag75

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I always leave my beer in the FV for 3 weeks . I just did a Belgian wit with Amarillo. One of my favorite beers I've brewed so far. Imo it has to sit a lot longer then a few weeks to get nasties from the yeast . I dont cold crash and giving it time allows the beer to condition itself. I hear people talk about a beer being green , so when does it stop being green , once its bottled or kegged ? Once its carbonated? I've never packaged any beer in a week or less from pitching but heck if it taste great that's all that matters.
 

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Unless you filter and/or pasteurize the beer will keep conditioning just as well once bottled/kegged so there's really no point in leaving it in a vessel that, unless you have a unitank, will only expose it to the atmosphere.
 

Kenmoron

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I'm not sure the mechanism... but I've experienced reduced esters over time with Bavarian Hef while the phenols stayed (lots of banana and a good amount of clove at first, and then very little banana with still a good amount of clove after being aged). Based on the esterase enzyme hypothesis above, this would make sense. I guess there is potential for reduced esters the longer you wait, but perhaps no effect to phenols?

If you are looking for a certain profile with your belgians, perhaps you can time this out. For a greater ester to phenol ratio drink your beer earlier, and for a greater phenol to ester ratio let your beer sit a while.
 

Vale71

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I won't work like that. Once enzymes are released in a significant amount they will be forever in the beer. Removing the beer from the dead yeast will neither remove them nor stop them from working, only pasteurization would denature them and make them inactive. One of the reasons why pasteurized beer has a longer shelf life than unpasteurized even if they are both sterile filtered and thus equally dead from a microbiological standpoint.
 

Dog House Brew

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I treat Belgians like everything else. When it is finished, it is finished in my mind. I prime and bottle condition. Usually is about 6-10days for me. Ferment is finished in 4-5 with a little cleanup.
 
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