Big Beer: Add Sugar to Fermenter? Better Yeast Choice?

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Singletrack

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I'm planning a relatively big beer, OG 1.092, and I would like it very dry, say, FG 1.009, so that's about 90% attenuation and 11% ABV. My recipe has 2 lb of sugar, which is about 10% of the fermentable sugars. To keep the yeast unstressed and dry this beer as much as possible, I'm considering omitting the sugar from the BK and then adding it to the fermenter during active fermentation. I would boil the sugar in some water to sanitize, let it cool, and pour the sugar syrup into the fermenter. Will this really help achieve a drier beer? I would rather avoid this step if it won't achieve anything.

Yeast: I want to use a Belgian yeast for this beer, and I had hoped to use The Yeast Bay WLP 4025, which has very high attenuation and alcohol tolerance, but it is unavailable. I am now planning to use WLP 570 Belgian Golden Ale, because I think it has the flavor I'm looking for, but I am open to alternatives. According to White Labs, WLP 570 can attenuate up to 85% and has alcohol tolerance up to 12%. (Some older information gave attenuation only up to 78% for this yeast, so that's worrisome.) I have used WLP 570 in the past, and my beer was good, but remained cloudy. That's a minor annoyance with this yeast. Is there a better yeast choice with similar flavor profile?

Thank you!
 

Kee

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WY3711 will get it down to at least that FG, but may attenuate even more and be drier than you wish. WY3787 will typically stop at 1.012, which is close to your target but not quite there.

FWIW, I brew a lot of Belgian style in that OG range, and always add the sugar slightly before flameout, without any attenuation problems, although I let the fermentation temps rise (especially with WY3787) as high as 80F
 

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My understanding of sugar additions is they will raise alcohol but not reduce final gravity significantly. The extra alcohol does lower gravity a bit but most FG points come from unfermentable sugars. Mashing at lower temperature for a longer time should help drive FG down.
 

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I've had great results with MJ-41 fermenting high ABV Belgians (12%). I always use two packs. I was using a T-58 and an MJ-41 but I didn't notice a difference in flavor or ability to ferment.
Some of the recipes I've read suggest adding sugar in steps during fermentation (I guess to go easy on the yeast) but I always add right to the pot. I was fermenting down to 1.004 from 1.104. I used a lot of sugar.
 
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Singletrack

Singletrack

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WY3711 will get it down to at least that FG, but may attenuate even more and be drier than you wish. WY3787 will typically stop at 1.012, which is close to your target but not quite there.

FWIW, I brew a lot of Belgian style in that OG range, and always add the sugar slightly before flameout, without any attenuation problems, although I let the fermentation temps rise (especially with WY3787) as high as 80F
Thank you Kee. Based on this, I'm thinking I will use WY3787 (or equivalent). FG at 1.012 should be fine. I may still try adding the sugar to the fermenter to see what happens. I've made Candi syrup before, so the only new thing will be pouring it into a raging fermenter. Or maybe I should add it near the end of fermentation?

Have you ever used WLP 530 Abbey Ale (which I believe is equivalent to WY3787)? The mfr claims higher alcohol tolerance for WLP 530. I don't put a lot of faith in such claims, but it makes me wonder if it is a bit different than WY3787 and which might be better for my particular case.

Just checked my records and found that I used WLP 530 eight years ago to make a Dubbel. It finished at 1.012, and I made a note that it was slooooow. I only let the temp get up to 71 F. Maybe I can do better with the benefit of HBT advice.
 

Kee

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Thank you Kee. Based on this, I'm thinking I will use WY3787 (or equivalent). FG at 1.012 should be fine. I may still try adding the sugar to the fermenter to see what happens. I've made Candi syrup before, so the only new thing will be pouring it into a raging fermenter. Or maybe I should add it near the end of fermentation?

Have you ever used WLP 530 Abbey Ale (which I believe is equivalent to WY3787)? The mfr claims higher alcohol tolerance for WLP 530. I don't put a lot of faith in such claims, but it makes me wonder if it is a bit different than WY3787 and which might be better for my particular case.

Just checked my records and found that I used WLP 530 eight years ago to make a Dubbel. It finished at 1.012, and I made a note that it was slooooow. I only let the temp get up to 71 F. Maybe I can do better with the benefit of HBT advice.

WLP 530 is the same yeast, the Westmalle yeast. If you pitch a healthy starter, and let the temperature rise to at least the high 70s, you should be around FG in about a week. There is a lot of info about this yeast in the thread:

 
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Singletrack

Singletrack

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Probably you have been upset for days, wondering, "What happened with Singletrack and the big beer? Did he (she? they?) use the WLP 530? What about adding sugar during fermentation? When will we hear?"

Well, @Kee kindly linked the Westy 12 thread, and I've spent every waking minute since reading all 37 pages, nearly 1,500 posts. I now have a hunched back, need glasses, and know more than 300 different best ways to try to brew a beer that I'm not even sure I would like. The OP of that thread was actually banned from HBT relatively early in the never-ending saga, and many, many people are saying it's because the forum just couldn't take that much unbridled enthusiasm over ONE beer. We all love beer, but at one point the OP scolds, "This is one of the most serious ales in the world and deserves the best that we have to contribute." Yeah, I think Charlie Papazian had that same mantra, followed by the letters RDWHAHB (whatever that means). To be fair, it seems the OP's livelihood was involved, and I, for one, would like to forgive and forget -- except I don't REALLY know what caused him to be banned.

Anyway... from the Westy thread, I learned a lot about WLP 530, and I don't think that's the one to try for my beer. Too many brewers have problems getting down to FG 1.012, and I'm looking to go a bit lower than that. How about WLP 545? From the little I could find about it, it seems more similar to TYB WLP 4025, which what I wanted to use. But I don't have a 1,500 post thread to tell me how to brew with it. Do I ramp the fermentation temp up to the high 70's like other Belgian yeasts? In one experiment that I read about, WLP 540 (a different yeast, but similar?) had very poor attenuation when ramped up this way. This makes me wonder about WLP 545. Also, I found one suggestion that WLP 545 is the same as WY3711. True?

BTW, although the logic for adding sugar to the fermenter instead of the BK seems reasonable, I haven't found much enthusiasm for this technique among experienced brewers. I guess I will just forget about that.

Appreciate any input on WLP 545!
 

Kee

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Appreciate any input on WLP 545!

I've never used WLP-545, but I did think of one other possible option if you are not against using dry yeast. Lallemand's Abbaye Belgian Ale Yeast, in my experience will take a 1.092 OG down to the 1.010 to 1.012 range. It works well with Belgian Dark Strong style, I haven't used it much with blondes. It can be slow taking off though, especially if you don't rehydrate before pitching. Alcohol tolerance is rated at 14%.

As far as WY3787 getting stuck, it can happen, but as you probably remember from the thread, it's pretty rare if you pitch fresh yeast and let the temperature rise. After I had one batch stick at 1.016, I would routinely pitch the whole starter at high krausen and never had a problem. (You obviously have to ramp up the OG of the wort to compensate for the dilution).

 

MicroMickey

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I've never used WLP-545 either.
Have you considered WLP-570?

"White Labs WLP570/ Wyeast 1388 Belgian Golden Ale: this would be my first choice for Golden ales and triples (the yeast originates from Duvel), I often start with a white beer, then do a golden ale (1.065) and then repitch again for a tripel (1.085). This yeast will eat up all the sugar and leave these beers dry and crisp with a citrusy, spicy aroma which is great with a hint of coriander. Ferment at 75-85 F." MK
 
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Singletrack

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I brewed this beer using WLP 545, so I will provide my experience with it -- over time.

I made a starter that would provide 1.0 million yeast per ml per degree P. (My efficiency for the actual beer was higher than expected, coming in at OG 1.097, so I actually achieved 0.90 million yeast per ml per degree P.) I used Wyeast yeast nutrient in the starter. I did not pitch the starter at high krausen, as has been suggested for WLP 530 to get it to low FG in big beers. Instead, I cold crashed the starter, decanted, and pitched the remaining cold sludge into my high gravity wort. Wake up, little buddies!

My brew day was not one of my finest. I cringe when I read brewers saying they hit all their numbers. In 10 years of brewing, I am yet to hit ALL my numbers EXACTLY. This one was no exception. My target mash temp was 149 F, and I got 148.3 F. Worse, immediately after sealing up the mash tun, I realized I had a bust in my pH calc, and I had to reopen the tun to mix in some acid. I didn't have the heart to take the temp again, but obviously I mashed a little low. No worries, I am trying to get FG 1.009, so a lower temp may be good. I mashed for 90 min.

As mentioned above, my efficiency was better than expected, probably due to the extra sparge water for a 90 min boil. I got OG 1.097 instead of the 1.092 target. I'm okay with that.

I added my sugar at the end of the boil. For a proper test of this yeast, I decided not to do anything unusual (for me), like adding sugar to the fermenter or inverting the sugar in the BK.

As usual (for me), I used yeast nutrient and oxygenated the wort. I put about 7 gal into a 10 gal fermenter and set it up for blowoff as a precaution.

It's bubbling (steady stream of gas, actually), so I suppose it will make beer.
 
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Singletrack

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I plan to ferment at 67 F for the first 48 hrs, then ramp up temp 2 F per day for 5 days to 77 F. I will hold at 77 F for 4 days, then decrease 3 F per day for 9 days to 50 F. Hold at 50 F for one day. Then, transfer to a keg for bulk conditioning at warm cellar temps for 4 weeks. Then, I will either bottle condition, or, force carbonate in the keg prior to bottling.

I have a counter pressure bottle filler that I have not used yet. Not sure how well this will work for a beer that I want to carbonate to 3.0 volumes. Probably a bad plan to use it the first time on this beer? If I do, I will at least experiment with it on carbonated water first.
 

Dr_Jeff

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If the beer is at 3+ volumes of CO2 you are most likely going to have trouble with any with any method you choose to bottle it with even a counter pressure filler. It might be best to bottle the beer with the correct amount of priming sugar and go with it, or carbonate it to a lower volume and dose it with a bit more priming sugar with a syringe at bottling, but obviously one will need to be careful and calculate correctly.
 
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I use Wyeast 1388, which is supposed to be WLP570. I use it in all of my Belgian beers. I have always had it finish between 1.007-1.010 even on my BGSA I did last winter. Its a diastaticus strain, so it will ferment lower than most Belgian strains. Some people add the sugar at the end of the boil, others add it a couple days into fermentation. It's a debate. I have always added it at the end of the boil at flame out and the yeast did the rest. The big thing is making sure you aerate the wort really well at pitching. On these bigger beers, I add a dose of nutrient to help the yeast get going even though I have a large starter built for the brew. I for one recommend just bottling it after you bulk condition in the fermenter. 1388 can work slow, so let it work and don't be surprised if it takes three weeks to finish.
 

Northern_Brewer

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The presentation I link in this post is a useful general guide to brewing big beers, from Tyler King of The Bruery :

Drew Beechum's review of saison yeast may be helpful in future, his favourite is a mix of WLP 565 with Wyeast 3724 if you want a fairly classic saison style. He found you could make WLP565 go drier by heating to 85F (29.4C) from the start rather than letting it free rise, but it doesn't taste as good.

Incidentally, MJ41 is probably repacked Fermentis BE-256, MJ29 is repacked Belle Saison.
 
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Singletrack

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Update: Seven days after pitching, and after temperature had ramped up to 77 F, I checked gravity and got 1.008. Success! That's 91% attenuation and 11.8% ABV. I'm assuming it is done.

Since active fermentation seems complete, my revised fermentation schedule for this beer with WLP 545 is: Ferment at 67 F for the first 48 hrs, then ramp up temp 2 F per day for 5 days to 77 F. Hold at 77 F for 1 day, then decrease 6 F per day for 4.5 days to 50 F. Hold at 50 F for one day. Then, transfer to a keg for bulk conditioning at warm cellar temps for 4 weeks. Then, bottle for aging.
 

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Update: Seven days after pitching, and after temperature had ramped up to 77 F, I checked gravity and got 1.008. Success! That's 91% attenuation and 11.8% ABV. I'm assuming it is done.

Since active fermentation seems complete, my revised fermentation schedule for this beer with WLP 545 is: Ferment at 67 F for the first 48 hrs, then ramp up temp 2 F per day for 5 days to 77 F. Hold at 77 F for 1 day, then decrease 6 F per day for 4.5 days to 50 F. Hold at 50 F for one day. Then, transfer to a keg for bulk conditioning at warm cellar temps for 4 weeks. Then, bottle for aging.
Are you planning on pitching fresh yeast when you bottle?
 
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Singletrack

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Are you planning on pitching fresh yeast when you bottle?
Well, I suppose that would be the safe way to go, but I was thinking of pushing my luck. I haven't added yeast before, but I've never bottled a beer this big, nor bottled a beer after bulk conditioning. So, I know there's a risk -- I just don't know how likely I am to have a bunch of flat bottles of beer.

My batch size is a little more than 6 gal, so I had planned to put 5 gal in a keg for bulk conditioning and bottle the remainder directly from the fermenter. The bottled beer would carbonate (or not) while the kegged beer is conditioning, and I would open/taste a bottle before bottling the kegged beer. If the 1 gal of bottles seemed to have trouble carbonating, I would then decide to pitch fresh yeast when bottling the other 5 gal. But what if the 1 gal of bottles carbonates just fine? That doesn't mean the 5 gal will carbonate after conditioning, so again, I could be pushing my luck.

I guess my only reason for avoiding the fresh yeast is that I don't already know how to do it. I don't really want to use a bottling bucket, due to oxidation concerns, so I was going to use carbonation drops. I saw somewhere that "someone" sprinkles a few grains of dry yeast into each bottle as insurance against flat beer. Seems tedious, but I suppose I could do that.

Or, should I skip the bulk conditioning and just bottle all 6 gal from the fermenter? Or, should I just use a bottling bucket and not worry about oxidation?
 

Kee

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Well, I suppose that would be the safe way to go, but I was thinking of pushing my luck. I haven't added yeast before, but I've never bottled a beer this big, nor bottled a beer after bulk conditioning. So, I know there's a risk -- I just don't know how likely I am to have a bunch of flat bottles of beer.

My batch size is a little more than 6 gal, so I had planned to put 5 gal in a keg for bulk conditioning and bottle the remainder directly from the fermenter. The bottled beer would carbonate (or not) while the kegged beer is conditioning, and I would open/taste a bottle before bottling the kegged beer. If the 1 gal of bottles seemed to have trouble carbonating, I would then decide to pitch fresh yeast when bottling the other 5 gal. But what if the 1 gal of bottles carbonates just fine? That doesn't mean the 5 gal will carbonate after conditioning, so again, I could be pushing my luck.

I guess my only reason for avoiding the fresh yeast is that I don't already know how to do it. I don't really want to use a bottling bucket, due to oxidation concerns, so I was going to use carbonation drops. I saw somewhere that "someone" sprinkles a few grains of dry yeast into each bottle as insurance against flat beer. Seems tedious, but I suppose I could do that.

Or, should I skip the bulk conditioning and just bottle all 6 gal from the fermenter? Or, should I just use a bottling bucket and not worry about oxidation?

Opinions will vary. My typical Belgian dark strong is 10.5% ABV and for a while I did just fine without re-pitching, then had a couple of batches that did not have a hint of carbonation after 3 months. So I started sprinkling a little EC-118 into each bottle (I've never used yeast specifically made for bottling, but the dry Champaign yeast works well).

BTW, I've read brewers that I respect suggest that some level of oxidation is required to age a big beer. Which is convenient, since I have no plans to start purging all of my bottles with CO2 before filling. But more than likely, whatever route you choose the beer will turn out just fine.
 

blkmagik98

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I'm planning a relatively big beer, OG 1.092, and I would like it very dry, say, FG 1.009, so that's about 90% attenuation and 11% ABV. My recipe has 2 lb of sugar, which is about 10% of the fermentable sugars. To keep the yeast unstressed and dry this beer as much as possible, I'm considering omitting the sugar from the BK and then adding it to the fermenter during active fermentation. I would boil the sugar in some water to sanitize, let it cool, and pour the sugar syrup into the fermenter. Will this really help achieve a drier beer? I would rather avoid this step if it won't achieve anything.

Yeast: I want to use a Belgian yeast for this beer, and I had hoped to use The Yeast Bay WLP 4025, which has very high attenuation and alcohol tolerance, but it is unavailable. I am now planning to use WLP 570 Belgian Golden Ale, because I think it has the flavor I'm looking for, but I am open to alternatives. According to White Labs, WLP 570 can attenuate up to 85% and has alcohol tolerance up to 12%. (Some older information gave attenuation only up to 78% for this yeast, so that's worrisome.) I have used WLP 570 in the past, and my beer was good, but remained cloudy. That's a minor annoyance with this yeast. Is there a better yeast choice with similar flavor profile?

Thank you!
I recently brewed a Duvel clone but with a higher OG of 1.087, added two pounds of clear candi sugar in near the end of the boil. Using Wyeast 1388 for Belgian Strong Ale, I ended up with a FG of 1.002. Pitched at 62 degrees and using Brewblox, raised the temperature immediately to 65 and then over the next week to 82 degrees.
 
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Singletrack

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I always appreciate when posters close out their "issue," and many don't, so I'm back. I decided to bottle this entire batch, and I did add rehydrated EC-118 yeast to the bottling bucket. Since a Belgian should be CARBONATED, I used enough sugar to carbonate to about 3.0 volumes. Then, due to an incredible amount of trub, my volume was lower than expected, causing actual CARBONATION to hit 4.0 volumes! Most of my bottles were not the type expected to withstand 4 volumes, so I just capped, covered my face, and waited for the explosions.

After a couple weeks, I gingerly chilled and tried a bottle. Carbonation was okay, but could be higher! After a couple more weeks, I rented a robotic debombanator to move another bottle to the fridge. While wrapped like a mummy in protective foam rubber, I opened a bottle. No explosion; no gush. Perfect carbonation. I dunno.

This recipe had lots of wheat, and the beer is unacceptably cloudy. The yeast has a very strong Belgian taste that is not what I wanted. The beer is delicious, but not what I was going for. I see no need to age. I cannot serve to my intended drinkers, so I will just drink them myself. Maybe all in one night.
 
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hotbeer

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So how much total time from Pitch to bottling? You might try leaving beer in the FV until most everything drops out of it. That sometimes is five weeks after fermentation was finished.

Perhaps if you leave the bottles alone for another few weeks everything will drop out of the beer in them, since it sounds like your beer is in it's tertiary ferment.
 
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