Modifying the Westvleteren 12 Clone Fermentation and Conditioning Schedule?

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luckybeagle

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I'm brewing a Westy 12-inspired Belgian style Quadrupel (BDSA) beer here soon and am facing a slight dilemma: The recipes from CSI's website for Westvleteren 12, St Bernardus 12, etc. call for 6-8+ weeks of conditioning at 45F after two yeast dumps, which is a long time to tie up my fermentation chamber (8-10+ weeks in total).

I don't think the use of gelatin is all that traditional in Trappist-style ales, but to me it seems like the extended time in the fermenter/"secondary" is mostly to get the yeast to flocc out. I understand bulk-aging, but since this beer is going in the bottle for 6-12 months, I'm wondering if I can modify the process a bit:
  • Ferment at 63F with ramp to mid 70s over the course of a week. Hold at 75F-ish until FG is reached
  • Dump yeast (I use a Fermzilla with yeast catch and plan to just keep the valve open until the yeast settles into it, then close the valve and dump the cup)
  • Drop temp to 55-60F and hold for a week, potentially dumping another cup of yeast/sediment
  • Crash to 33F, add gelatin and wait 2-3 days
  • ---At this point I can either transfer to a CO2 purged glass carboy and condition in my garage for an extended period, or go straight to bottling---
  • Rack to bottling bucket with 500ml starter, priming sugar, and bottle it. Bring bottles into the house and let sit for 3-4 weeks
  • Transfer bottles to garage (stable 60F in the winter) and let sit until spring/summer/whenever garage gets above 65F-ish, then refrigerate the lot
This method would tie up my fermentation chamber for about 18-21 days instead of 56-70, and the beer would still age for 6-12 months before I began opening them with any regularity (of course I'll crack one each month or two to see how it's coming along).

Does this sound like an appropriate substitute for hogging 8+ weeks in my fermentation chamber? Or is the use of gelatin and fast-tracking the 45F conditioning period likely to have a profound negative impact on the finished product? The alternative is to not brew this beer for the foreseeable future.

Thoughts?
 

deuc224

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Honestly i cant help you on this one but i tried to "cheat" the system by cutting corners and at the end, it turned out a great beer MONTHS after it should have been done. So now im just gonna do what the instructions say.
 
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luckybeagle

luckybeagle

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Honestly i cant help you on this one but i tried to "cheat" the system by cutting corners and at the end, it turned out a great beer MONTHS after it should have been done. So now im just gonna do what the instructions say.
I hear ya, and I usually don't try to speed up processes, but 8 weeks at cellar temps just seems excessive when it'll be in the fermenter for several weeks, and then in the bottle for 6+ months, then under refrigeration indefinitely. Hmm.
 

hottpeper13

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I like your plan and would do just that if I couldn't put it in a barrel for 3-4 months first. I was able to save and can 2 qts of the 1.095 wort for priming so I'm kinda excited. Just that another 3-4 months in the bottle is a long wait but most likely worth it.
 

CascadesBrewer

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Thoughts?

I am not sure what the book "Brew Like a Monk" says specifically about Westvleteren, but I would not be surprised if their process is to get the beer into a bottle in 2 weeks and then let it condition for a few months, probably more at cellar temps than lager temps.

For the two batches of quad that I have made, I kept them in the primary for 3-4 weeks before bottling. I would focus more on pitching a good amount of healthy yeast and proper fermentation temps (whatever range you target). At least with WLP530, I have had some issues with bottle conditioning so I have been adding some CBC-1 at bottling time.
 

CascadesBrewer

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I am not sure what the book "Brew Like a Monk" says specifically about Westvleteren, but I would not be surprised if their process is to get the beer into a bottle in 2 weeks and then let it condition for a few months, probably more at cellar temps than lager temps.

Looking closer at "Brew Like a Monk"...it seems that Westvleteren and Westmalle both typically have a fast primary fermentation (5 to 6 days) then a 4 to 6 week conditioning phase in the 46F to 50F range (longer for the higher ABV beers). For Rochefort, the book lists a 7 day primary fermentation, a 3 day secondary at 46F, then into the bottle. Chimay is listed as a 4 day primary fermentation, followed by 3 days at 32F then into bottles. Primary fermentation peak temps range from around 68F to 84F.

So I would say you have lots of options for a process that fits your equipment and needs. I suspect most of the breweries want to turn around the beer reasonably fast and don't want to age them for 6 to 12 months in the bottle.
 

Kee

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I'm brewing a Westy 12-inspired Belgian style Quadrupel (BDSA) beer here soon and am facing a slight dilemma: The recipes from CSI's website for Westvleteren 12, St Bernardus 12, etc. call for 6-8+ weeks of conditioning at 45F after two yeast dumps . . .
This method would tie up my fermentation chamber for about 18-21 days instead of 56-70, and the beer would still age for 6-12 months before I began opening them with any regularity (of course I'll crack one each month or two . . .
If you did a spit batch, one half conditioned exactly as the CSI recipe recommends and the other half your method, I'd be surprised if anyone could note a difference in a side by side taste test. Full disclosure, I take bigger short cuts. Maybe following the full schedule would lead to marginally better results, but I'm doubtful the difference would be significant.
 
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