My third batch... a big one

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Well-Known Member
Jan 17, 2008
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Long Island
I just got back from my LHBS, where a very helpful brewshopmaster helped me put together the ingredients for a recipe I found on the web (but with a few replacements for both preference and availability) for a strong, dark belgian. Twice the cost of an ordinary kit! But I'm hoping it'll be worthwhile.

Here's the recipe:

1.5 lbs CaraMunich II
6.6 lbs Briess Pilsen LME
2.0 lbs Plain Light DME
1.0 lbs Belgian Amber Candi Sugar
1.0 lbs Belgian Clear Candi Sugar
15 oz Corn Sugar
2.0 oz Hallertau plugs
-- 1.0 oz @ 60min
-- 0.5 oz @ 30min
-- 0.5 oz @ 5min

Yeast: Safbrew S-33

Anyhow, I've some questions:

1. Whaddaya think?
2. Any tips?

and more involved...

3. Do I need a secondary for a big brew like this? When I asked the brewshopmaster, he hesitated before saying no, so long as I leave it primary for 9 days. His hesitation prompts me to seek more opinions. I don't presently have a carboy, so if I need one I'll either have to go back there or order it online (I don't think the LHBS has better bottles, and I don't quite trust myself with the glass).

4. What should I expect in terms of OG/FG?
I think if you want to make a good Belgian beer you should use authentic Belgian liquid yeast. The yeast is the most important ingredient in this type of beer.
You can skip a secondary if you're in no hurry to brew again. 9 days for a beer that big may be a little soon. I'd think since you're skipping a secondary, the minimum should be adding the 1 & 2 (of the 1, 2, 3 method) together, and allowing at least three weeks in that fermenter.

If it were me, I'd say one month in the fermenter and then rack it.
I wanted (sorta) liquid yeast, but the LHBS didn't have any in stock. The S-33 was recommended to me as a replacement. Since I'm planning on brewing Saturday, I'm not sure I've the time to get anything else. Damn my impatience!
OK, today is my scheduled brew day, but I CAN wait. I spent way too much money on the ingredients to have my beer ruined by poor yeast. Just how much do you think it'll improve with a Wyeast liquid strain? I'm thinking of ordering a better bottle secondary from them anyway... worth the wait for the yeast?

*EDIT* By "them" I mean Williams Brewing.
I think the liquid yeast will improve your brew 100%! I don't think there is any dry yeast strain out, right now, that can make an authentic Belgian beer.
Thanks for the tips! I guess I'll be ordering some Wyeast 1762 (Abbey Ale 11). Is this a good choice? If I'm not mistaken, I can skip the starter with the XL pack I think it has 100 billion cells.

Of course, since I'm placing an order anyway, I may as well buy other stuff. I figure I'll get a better bottle to use as a secondary and the ingredients for a couple more batches -- say, a stout and a pretty big IPA. Despite the hop shortage, Williams seems to have plenty of IPA hop varieties available. But as a n00b, I don't know how to put together the recipe. I'd like it to be more amber than an ordinary IPA, along the lines of Blue Point Hoptical Illusion. Plenty o' hops, but balanced, rather than a wave of bitter (not that I don't enjoy Ruination). Any suggestions?

I really appreciate all the help here.
Clearly, I've been lazy, as I still haven't brewed this. With the smack pack stating it would need 1-3 (and possibly as many as 7) days before pitching, it's required some planning, and I'd hate to wake up at my friends' place in Manhattan feeling awful (for reasons I'm sure you can imagine) on my scheduled brew day.

So I smacked it on Friday, and it's ready now. But based on the wealth of information here, even the 125mL pack ain't quite good enough for this high gravity beer. So as much as I'd like to brew today, I'm willing to do a starter for the sake of better beer. My recipe uses DME, so I can use some for a starter. Thing is, I don't have any real starter equipment. I've got a 2L soda bottle which I guess could handle a 1qt starter (half full, but it's diet soda, so no biggie if I drink it all). I also have a 2 gallon beverage cooler with a small vent at the top which I hope to use for PM batches before long. Would either of these work? If so, which would be better? If neither works, is there something I could find at Wal-Mart, etc., which would fit the bill?

I also don't have any yeast nutrient, but the smack pack had that inside, so I assume the smacked yeast is healthy enough to take on DME alone?

Thanks for all the advice, BTW... without it, I'd have pitched a single pack of dry yeast. Better to learn the hard stuff the easy way!
any container will work as long as you sanitize, leave head space, and put a piece of aluminum foil on the top.

i would start with about 1L of water and 1/2 cup DME for two days (shake it up whenever you walk by it), then step it up to 2L of water and 1 cup of DME for another two days.

No matter what, take Biermuncher's advice and leave this sucker in the primary for at least 3-4 weeks before transferring to secondary. And make sure you've reached your FG before you transfer at all!
When you talk about stepping up, do you mean to add 2L water and a cup of DME for a total of 3L/1.5cups, or to add 1L/.5cup for a total of 2L/1cup? Can I add these things to the same vessel, or is a transfer necessary?

Either way, the soda bottle won't work in the end, leaving either the beverage cooler or some other vessel I've yet to purchase. If I use the cooler, which doesn't have a neck, should I leave the cover off and use foil across the whole thing, or put the cover on, open the vent, and try to put foil over that?

EDIT: Coincidentally, I was given a 5gal glass carboy as a gift on the very day my better bottle arrived! So with two secondaries, I can leave this sucker in there for 1-2months and keep brewing! Sweeeet!
OK, here's my method, i use two flasks, but it would work fine with one vessel...

boil 1/2 cup DME in 2 cups of water for 10 minutes. cool to room temperature and add water in the first container to make 800mL (in my 1L flask)

shake for 2 days

boil 1 cup DME in 3 cups water for 10 minutes. cool to room temperature and dump both that and the old starter into my 2L flask, raise water to 1600mL.

shake for 2 days and it's ready to go. another thing you can do is after it's done, you can put it in the fridge overnight and the yeast will settle, so you can pour off the liquid. not a huge deal, but it may very slightly affect the flavor.

so technically, you could use the same vessel and just drop your second addition in there later, just don't fill it all the way up...i consider a "1 liter starter" to by my 800mL.

i think ideally you want a certain gravity (1.040) for the starter, but this has always worked great for me.

be sure to sanitize anything that comes in contact with the wort.
Sounds great! I just remembered I bought 3 1-gallon plastic jugs of distilled water for mixing star san. Seems perfect for the 2L. I'll use one of those (or two). Thanks!
Well, it's now 8 days into primary fermentation. I did the starter, per Death's instructions (thanks Death). Fermented vigorously for the first few days. Spilled out the airlock a bit, so I used a blowoff tube for a while. Airlock activity stopped around Monday-Tuesday.

OG was 1.082. Just took a reading at 1.032. Can't be done (tastes sweet too). I'll have to take another reading a day or two from now to see whether the yeasties are still working. In the meantime, should I do anything to encourage it? The temp's at 66. Too low?

Not worried yet, but any tips would be much appreciated.
It's not to low, but after 8 days it won't hurt to raise it a bit. With a Belgian you can take it to the mid 70's. You could also gently rock the fermenter to keep the yeast in suspension.
Thanks for the advice. Just checked it again (without having changed anything), it's at 1.030. Not completely stuck, but stuck enough. So I'll rock it a bit and move it to the 70+ boiler room.

*EDIT* Did all that, and it's bubbling again, albeit slowly.
So I just stuck my head into the boiler room, and it's bubbling faster than it has been in the last few days. And while I'm glad the yeasties are having fun, I was hoping to brew again this weekend, and I'm gonna need that bucket!! I wonder if it'll finish in time...