High ABV Tips

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Beerd Bro

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Hi all!

I am a partial mash brewer, and I want to brew an imperial stout (11%abv or so), and let it sit until at least fall.

I plan on using my 7.5 gal kettle to mash as much as I can, and top it off with extract (late addition?)

I would like any general tips in regards to making such a big beer as well as answer to some of my concerns:

1. Is a 60 min boil still OK?
2. I normally use 6 gallons of drinking water and a 7th to top off. Do I need to consider a pH strip, RO water, and any additives for this endeavor?
3. Can I get away with double pitching some liquid yeast and a nutrient in the boil, or is a starter mandatory in this case?
4. I made a 8% ABV white stout with 1lbs oats and 1lbs flaked barley, body was a little thin (did use alot of crystal). How much flaked barley should I use and any other tips on how I can make this big guy nice and "chewy"?

Thanks!!
 

VikeMan

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1. Is a 60 min boil still OK?
Sure. Is there some reason you're thinking maybe not?

2. I normally use 6 gallons of drinking water and a 7th to top off.
Well, if you're making your normal batch size, but using more grains than normal, you're going to need more water, because more will be absorbed by the grains. Keep in mind that if you're mashing more grains than you usually do, mash efficiency will be lower.

Do I need to consider a pH strip, RO water, and any additives for this endeavor?
pH strips are IMO borderline useless. If you want to accurately measure mash pH, use a good meter. If you don't know what's in your drinking water, I would recommend building from distilled or RO water. Use a mash/water calculator to figure out what to add. In the case of your stout, that's probably some Calcium Chloride and Calcium Sulfate (for flavor and to provide calcium for the yeast), and some baking soda to raise the mash pH, which would otherwise be too low with a stout grain bill.

3. Can I get away with double pitching some liquid yeast and a nutrient in the boil, or is a starter mandatory in this case?
I would use one of the yeast calculators, but the answer for a beer this big is going to be to make a starter. A fairly big one, and possibly multi-step.

4. I made a 8% ABV white stout with 1lbs oats and 1lbs flaked barley, body was a little thin (did use alot of crystal). How much flaked barley should I use and any other tips on how I can make this big guy nice and "chewy"?
If you want to finish fermentation at a higher gravity, mash at a higher temperature and/or for a shorter time. And/or use a less attenuative yeast strain.
 

RM-MN

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I want to brew an imperial stout (11%abv or so), and let it sit until at least fall.
Of next year. Don't rush an Imperial stout. They like time.

1. Is a 60 min boil still OK?
Depends on what you want the boil to do. If it is to get the bitterness from the hops, yes but...you can get nearly all the bittering in only 30 minutes (about 90%) so you could just add a little more hops to make up the difference. You also might want to boil off some liquid. That could take the 60 minutes or even longer.

I made a 8% ABV white stout with 1lbs oats and 1lbs flaked barley, body was a little thin (did use alot of crystal).
I've found that my stouts start gaining body and improving in flavor in about 6 months in the bottle. The last bottle is usually the best and I have held onto that one bottle for 2 years before it was drunk. YMMV
 

Northern_Brewer

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This has some useful tips for big beers : https://quaff.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/HighGravityFermentation-1.ppt

It's less stressful for the yeast if you add sugars/extract during fermentation.

Zero to 11% is a big step up for a yeast, making a starter in the form of a smaller beer is no bad idea.

And check that your yeast is up to the job. WLP540 is a useful option here.
 

hotbeer

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This is more a question on my part, but as for going with shorter boils than what the recipe called for, wouldn't there be a larger worry about not making the expected OG?

Which being a extract and grain combo, I'd think the amounts of extract might need to be adjusted for anything longer or shorter than the boil time in the recipe.
 

VikeMan

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This is more a question on my part, but as for going with shorter boils than what the recipe called for, wouldn't there be a larger worry about not making the expected OG?
Yes, if a boil of "X" time would have resulted in a particular OG and volume, a shorter boil would result in a lower OG and a larger volume.

Which being a extract and grain combo, I'd think the amounts of extract might need to be adjusted for anything longer or shorter than the boil time in the recipe.
If the recipe happens to reflect the parameters of your brewhouse (mash efficiency, boiloff rate, etc.), anything you do differently from the recipe would give a different result than the recipe intended. So if you boil shorter or longer, you'd get an OG that's lower or higher. In that case, if you want to hit a particular OG, then yes, you'd need to adjust the the amount of extract.

This might be a really good time to start using brewing software.
 

10_degrees_play-doh

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I think Wyeast 1728 Scottish Ale might be a good candidate for you if you're looking for a lot of body in that abv range. There aren't many that handle that much alcohol and are low attenuators. Higher mash temperatures also produce less fermentable worts, though there seems to be some debate whether that difference in gravity specifically from mash temperature actually has as much impact on perceived body as the numbers would suggest. Really though, in any beer that strong, if you're not offsetting with sugars, chances are you'll have plenty of malt "backbone." Make sure in your recipe design you account for the attenuation level of your yeast, which shouldn't be too tough in calculator software.

Yes, best make a big starter. If you have a canning setup, you may want to look into simply mixing a big batch of starter wort and canning that so you don't have to get into the whole process every time you make a starter. Healthy yeast is probably the most important thing for big beers.

You may find a longer than 60 minute boil desirable for an imperial stout, but isn't strictly necessary. Longer boils produce more caramelization, melanoidins, and darkening, especially if you have that extract in the boil the whole time and if you're boiling a concentrated wort and topping off with water after the fact. Though, this is yet another area where the actual impact seems to have come under debate these days...

With regards to water chemistry, if you've been happy with the results of previous beers, there's no reason this particular beer should need anything special compared to them. So long as you've taken care of any chlorine/chloramine (airing overnight, campden, ascorbic acid, etc to name a few methods...), I personally see no need to get into RO or distilled water if you don't want to. If you plan to get into water chemistry, I say start that journey by finding out your own water chemistry and decide from there if starting with some sort of neutral water is right for you.
 

Cloud Surfer

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I actually just won best Imperial Stout of show in my first beer comp today for a Partial Mash/Extract RIS. I have learnt a ton since making that beer and am doing all grain RIS now, so I have a lot more going on these days.

But for the RIS I entered in the comp I didn't muck with water chemistry or boil times at all. No flaked barley or oats in that one. I'm on that journey now. If you are set on trying something, I would go 5% flaked barley.

I tasted all the Imperial Stouts today and mine just seemed more complex than the others. Apart from the 3 different LME cans, I mashed light crystal, dark munich, roasted barley and chocolate. Plus I added a pack of D180 Candi Syrup at the end of the boil. Actually I cold steeped the roasted barley and chocolate in the fridge for 24 hours and added it at the end of the boil.

My RIS yeast is Mangrove Jack M42. I'm a big fan of dry yeast for big beers. I pitched 4 packets into 22 litres at OG 1.121. I don't believe you can pitch too much yeast into a big beer. But lots of people certainly pitch way too little and in my limited experience is probably the number 1 failure when it comes to making big beers.

I kept it at 18C for a week then raised it to 20C to finish and left it in primary for another 2 weeks. Then I did a low oxygen pressure transfer to keg and conditioned it for 3 months at 10C before bottling with a CBC-1 yeast addition at bottling. I think taking my time through that process is another reason this RIS has done well.
 

Dgallo

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I didn’t read through everyone’s responses so sorry if this is repetitive but don’t be afraid to use dme. When grain bills go up and equipment volumes get maxed out, efficiency drops. You can always mash 80-90%of the base malt amount with your specialty grains and make up for the remainder of your base grains with dme to hit your target og. I do this with my imperial stouts over 1.105. I drop to about 62% efficiency and can’t get fit any more in my mash tun by using 10-20% lite dme I can get the og where I need it and keep 70+% efficiency.

Make sure you also pitch enough yeast and aerate enough
 
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CascadesBrewer

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3. Can I get away with double pitching some liquid yeast and a nutrient in the boil, or is a starter mandatory in this case?
My preferred strategy with big beers is either 1) to pitch 2 packs of dry yeast or 2) brew a lower gravity beer and pitch yeast harvested from that batch. Pitching 2 packs of Imperial or 4 packs of Wyeast/White Labs is a bit too $$ for me and I don't have a stir plate to really build up cell counts or the equipment for 4L+ starters.

My last batch of RIS, I did not pitch enough harvested yeast (used some Irish Ale). While it seemed to ferment fine and I got good attenuation, it was very fusel-ly. Now at about 18 months after brew day it is finally settled down and is pretty decent.

Brewing smaller batches is also not a bad path. It can be a lot easier on the yeast side, and also avoids dealing with 20-25 lbs of grain.
 

InspectorJon

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I am surprised nobody has mentioned oxygenating the wort before pitching yeast. Almost everything I have read about brewing high ABV beers stresses the importance of this. A lot of folks recommend a second dose of oxygen at 12 hours.
 

Kharnynb

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If you don't want to make a starter, just grabbing 3-4 bags of good dry yeast is still cheaper than bothering with several liquid yeast packs.
mangrove jack's m31 or m41 I've tried for quads and works well, M15 should be good for heavies too
 

BlueHouseBrewhaus

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A big starter is recommended. You can just pitch multiple yeast packets but the starter gets the yeast active and revved up before pitching into a big beer. Adding sugar in the fermenter after a few days will also amp up the ABV. You can even do small amounts every few days. I also agree with Jon - oxygenate before pitching and then hit it again 12-18 hours after pitching. And you will definitely want extra yeast (CBC-1) for bottling. I've done my 12% BDSA using all these techniques with great success.
 
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deuc224

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4. I made a 8% ABV white stout with 1lbs oats and 1lbs flaked barley, body was a little thin (did use alot of crystal). How much flaked barley should I use and any other tips on how I can make this big guy nice and "chewy"?

Thanks!!
I am not helping you out until i get that white stout recipe!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

all kidding aside, dont be afraid to boil a little longer to get your OG. But i do what that white stout recipe lol.
 
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Beerd Bro

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Here it is, I'm a novice and made it up, maybe make improvements to it! Good but a lil too much sweetness and caramel, however some people loved it:

I used a mini mash

2 lbs 2 row
1 lbs flaked oats
1 lbs flaked barley (not roasted)
.5 lbs crystal 15
.25 CaraHell

I toasted and dry hopped 2 lbs of coconut, after 24 hours the flavor was insane so I pulled it, coconut barely made it, some don't even taste it. I also added 4 Oz brewers best marshmallow and cold brew coffee to taste at bottling.

6 lbs Golden DME

2 Oz Kent goldings 60 min
Safale 05

Cheers!
 

deuc224

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I think i wanna brew this next weekend, really excited , thanks BeerdBro!
 
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Beerd Bro

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Please follow up with me how it turns out! Like I said don't be afraid to make tweaks! Cheers!!
 
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Beerd Bro

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Mash higher temp btw, I think that will help thicken it.
 

CascadesBrewer

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I am surprised nobody has mentioned oxygenating the wort before pitching yeast. Almost everything I have read about brewing high ABV beers stresses the importance of this. A lot of folks recommend a second dose of oxygen at 12 hours.
After watching some really informative videos over on the Escarpment Labs YouTube channel (link below) I am wondering about open fermenting high ABV beers. The general idea that they talked about (that I had not really thought about) was that with open with fermentation the yeast coming to the top is exposed to some oxygen. In a lot of ways this should work similar to giving the yeast some extra oxygen during active fermentation.

I am open fermenting a 1.088 Quad right now to play with this. In my case, "open ferment" is a 7 gallon Fermonster fermenter in a temperature controlled in a chest freezer with a grain bag over the opening in place of the lid. I *think* there would still be plenty of oxygen getting into the fermenter in this setup (especially considering how often I open the lid to peak).

Escarpment Labs YouTube Playlist:
 

odie

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Yeast...I use a single US-05 packet for my RIS and it does the job. I hit 13-14% without issues. Any sugar additions like maple syrup are done after peak krausen.

Boil time...big grain bills need extra sparging and that leaves extra volume to boil off before you "start" your boil timer...
 
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Just another $0.02, but when I make a beer this big, I make a smaller ABV version of it first, or a more neutral beer (like a no-hops-in-the-fermenter Bitter, Red, Brown, or Scotch Ale). Then when I move the smaller ABV beer into the keg or bottle, I put the big beer on the yeast cake. I don't even clean the fermenter, just drop it on in right after the last beer is out. You should see yeast activity in 15 minutes.
 
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