Stuck fermentation for Belgian Strong Ale?

HomeBrewTalk.com - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Community.

Help Support Homebrew Talk:

sorisi

New Member
Joined
Nov 20, 2009
Messages
3
Reaction score
0
Location
Portland
Hello all,

I am trying to find out if the fermentation is stuck (or getting close to being stuck) and, if yes, how I should go about solving the issue.

Here's some info on this beer:

Style: Belgian Strong Ale
Malt: Extract (70%), Specialty Grain (10%), Inverted Sugar (20%)
Yeast: Wyeast 1388 - Belgian Strong Ale (Activator Pack)
OG: 1.072
Fermentation temperature: 66 - 68 deg.

After fermenting for one week the gravity was 1.030. I measured it again on the 12th day and it was down to 1.024.

There still krausen on top of the fermenter, but it is not the usual frothy type I'm used to. This one has larger bubbles and is shinier.

It seems like the fermentation is still going, but at a much slower rate. Should I consider it stuck and do something to it, or will it still ferment down to the expected range (1.005 to 1.016)?

Cheers and thanks in advance.
 

TipsyDragon

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 8, 2009
Messages
2,607
Reaction score
25
Location
California
dont panic till you get at least 3 SG readings each 3 days appart that are essentially the same and above your target FG.
 

EvilGnome6

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 14, 2009
Messages
664
Reaction score
11
Location
Scottsdale, AZ
The two times I added sugar to the boil of a Belgian Strong Ale, the fermentation took forever (one of them actually got stuck at 1.046 and wouldn't move until I repitched). Take gravity readings once a week to make sure it's still going, it sounds like it will eventually get there if you're at 1.024 now and it sounds like you still have activity.

Next time you brew a Belgian, leave the sugar out of the boil and let it ferment for 3-7 days. Then bring the sugar to a boil (2 cups of water per pound is a fine ratio), chill it down to your fermenting temperature and pour it into your fermenter. It's a lot less stressful on the yeast and will probably ferment quicker than having it in the boil.
 

FxdGrMind

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 26, 2008
Messages
562
Reaction score
1
Location
PNW
We are very close in posting the same condition.

See my post.... he he he...

I am starting to believe that the yeast is just a slower yeast type that is still capable of living in a High ABV beer, and due to this it's just taking longer for our beers to ferment fully.

I went from the same/similar OG to 1.035 then today to 1.018.

Mine looks the same on top, 1/2" 3/4" Krausen on top and lots of yeast floculant in the beer. Seems that it's still working.

Mine will be 20 day's or so in Primary by T-day w/e. I'll move to 2ndary then and Dry Hop. hopefully move to keg by mid Dec for New Years First Brew...

Fingers crossed for mine and your Belgian Strong ales.
 
OP
S

sorisi

New Member
Joined
Nov 20, 2009
Messages
3
Reaction score
0
Location
Portland
Thanks for responses. I'll keep an eye on it.

FxdGrMind: Yes, the situation is very similar. Good luck with yours.
 

Scotty_g

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Mar 26, 2007
Messages
357
Reaction score
14
Location
De Pere, WI
I've used 1388 for a number of beers and while tasty, they're all a little under-attenuated even after extended fermentation (4 weeks). I attributed that to doing extract brewing and high OG's (1.080+). Still, the beers we haven't screwed up typically ended between 1.021 and 1.025...no bottle bombs, thankfully.

I have also apparently done an experiment with this yeast that suggests it is slow. On the 11th of November, I made a 3-qt starter at 1.050 OG and pitched one smack pack. On the evening of the 13th (+48 hrs) I threw the starter in the fridge to crash. On brewday I moved 2+ quarts of relatively clear liquid into a gallon jug and let that finish fermenting for 6 days. The last <1 qt had lots of yeast and got that day's beer hammering the airlock in 2 hours (OG 1.090).

I oxygenated the original starter wort and it seemed to take off, and the smack packs supposedly have enough yeast fertilizer for a 5-gal batch. Fermentation temps were about 66 F (my kitchen temp this time of year). That's in the recommended range for that yeast but on the low end. The batches that made it into the low 20's fermented anywhere from 66 to 74, depending on the batch.

I crashed the 2 quarts of non-starter yesterday (the 19th, 9 days in) and repeated the decanting tonight to save ~12 oz of slurry for bottling later on. I checked the gravity for kicks and it was 1.015 (65% apparent attenuation, which is about where yours is at, Sorisi). It's tasty, though, even without hops.

Adding sugars after a couple days is pretty common when people are trying to make really strong belgians, and I know now that I should have done that on the two I got stuck in the 40's.

As an aside, I'd resist the temptation to tap that one too early, Fxdgrmind. Most of the beers I've made with 1388 (all bottled) have been ok at 2 or 3 months but still hot, *much* better at 6 months, and a totally different beer at 1 year. If nothing else, bottle some when you keg it up and try it next summer.
 

EvilGnome6

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 14, 2009
Messages
664
Reaction score
11
Location
Scottsdale, AZ
I've got a batch fermenting with Wyeast 1388 right now.

Grain bill:

12 lbs 8.0 oz Pilsner (2 Row) Bel (2.0 SRM) Grain 83.33 %
4.0 oz Biscuit Malt (23.0 SRM) Grain 1.67 %
4.0 oz Cara-Pils/Dextrine (2.0 SRM) Grain 1.67 %

Mashed at 150F

OG was 1.065
Pitched 1L starter at 59F
Let temperature rise to 78F

The gravity at the end of week 1 was 1.016. I added 2 pounds of cane sugar to fermenter at this time. That made it a cumulative OG of 1.084.

The gravity at the end of week 2 was 1.010.

I'll be measuring again at tomorrow, but so far my attenuation is 88%.
 

Brew-boy

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 31, 2006
Messages
2,271
Reaction score
18
Location
Lapeer, Michigan
I had the same thing happen to me too with a Belgian Golden Strong which called for 3 pounds of sugar. Next time I will use half in the boil and the other half I will feed during fermentation.
 

EvilGnome6

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 14, 2009
Messages
664
Reaction score
11
Location
Scottsdale, AZ
I had the same thing happen to me too with a Belgian Golden Strong which called for 3 pounds of sugar. Next time I will use half in the boil and the other half I will feed during fermentation.
Why add any of it to the boil?
 

Brew-boy

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 31, 2006
Messages
2,271
Reaction score
18
Location
Lapeer, Michigan
Because a pound and a half is not problem for a healthy pitch of yeast to consume. I wanted to try and feed it along the way but not spend lots of time doing it or dumping too much in at one time.
 

FxdGrMind

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 26, 2008
Messages
562
Reaction score
1
Location
PNW
Quote:
It seems like the fermentation is still going, but at a much slower rate. Should I consider it stuck and do something to it, or will it still ferment down to the expected range (1.005 to 1.0016)?


just re-reading your post and got to thinking...

Is your Belgian strong really going to be that Dry?? 1.0016 to 1.005 is very dry for this style according to my style ref guide. According to BJCP Style guidelines it should be in this range: FG:
1.008 – 1.018

Which you aren't too far off at 1.025 and with a little more time should be able to reach as you indicate that you still have Krausen on top all be it slow to ferment.

I'll be curious to hear how low it finally gets for you.

Cheers :mug:
 
OP
S

sorisi

New Member
Joined
Nov 20, 2009
Messages
3
Reaction score
0
Location
Portland
Just took a reading again, and the gravity is at 1.018. That's 6 points from my last reading, two days ago. Yes, the fermentation is still going alright.

Scotty_g: The apparent attenuation is at 75% right now, which is within the range described on the wyeast site for this strain. If it attenuates to the full 78%, the FG will stop at 1.016. Does anybody know if this strain (sometimes) attenuates more than the specified range?

FxdGrMind: I guess I should rename the title of the post. The beer is a Belgian Golden Strong Ale. I got the target FG range from the 2008 BJCP style guide. Technically, the beer should be within the acceptable range when it drops by just another 2 points. Based of the attenuation range for this strain, that should happen in the coming days.

I have to admit that that's probably the tastier beer I have tasted straight out of primary fermentation. It has a nice fruity aroma. Initially, I was going for a drier beer, but I may bottle this one sooner than I expected. The residual sweetness in this beer is very subtle and balances really well with the alcohol and hop flavor.

I suppose that flavor profile won't change much if the FG falls towards the high end of FG for the style.
 

EvilGnome6

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 14, 2009
Messages
664
Reaction score
11
Location
Scottsdale, AZ
Scotty_g: The apparent attenuation is at 75% right now, which is within the range described on the wyeast site for this strain. If it attenuates to the full 78%, the FG will stop at 1.016. Does anybody know if this strain (sometimes) attenuates more than the specified range?
If you look up at one of my earlier posts, you'll see I have one fermenting right now that is at 88% so far.
 
Joined
Apr 25, 2011
Messages
7
Reaction score
0
Location
new york
I am going through this same ordeal right now. I brewed a belgian strong ale on Feb 25 and included 3 lbs of sugar in the boil and ended with a 1.084 gravity. I pitched two 1388 packs and within hours, it was fermenting like crazy.

I used a blowoff hose until last night (almost exactly 48 hours after I pitched the yeast) and it was still fermenting pretty powerfully at that time but wanted to switch to an airlock because the blowoff hose was getting funky.

The moment I did that, fermentation came to a halt. Seriously. One second it was bubbling regularly through the blowoff hose and then seconds later, it stopped after I affixed the airlock.

Very perplexing. The short of it, is that it appears I have a stuck fermentation and from the sounds of it, it's because of all the sugar I added during the boil, instead of waiting a few days. However, what's done is done and I would love any advice on how to get this baby going again.

I'm thinking I need to make a starter and pitch a third batch of yeast. I also think that maybe I should pitch champagne yeast this time instead of 1388 because champagne yeast is pretty much immune to high alcohol. Thoughts?
 

beergolf

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 1, 2011
Messages
6,102
Reaction score
1,281
Location
collingswood
Belgian yeasts can take some time to finish.

Here is a good quote from Brew Like a Monk

"Let the fermentation finish, perhaps at a higher temperature. It can take as long to get the last few points of attenuation as it did for the first 80%"

The only time I came close to having bottle bombs was on a Tripel that I thought was finished so I bottled it. I now routinely leave my Belgian brews in the fermenter for at least six weeks, and for the last few get the temp up to the high end of the recommended range.
 

beergolf

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 1, 2011
Messages
6,102
Reaction score
1,281
Location
collingswood
I am going through this same ordeal right now. I brewed a belgian strong ale on Feb 25 and included 3 lbs of sugar in the boil and ended with a 1.084 gravity. I pitched two 1388 packs and within hours, it was fermenting like crazy.

I used a blowoff hose until last night (almost exactly 48 hours after I pitched the yeast) and it was still fermenting pretty powerfully at that time but wanted to switch to an airlock because the blowoff hose was getting funky.

The moment I did that, fermentation came to a halt. Seriously. One second it was bubbling regularly through the blowoff hose and then seconds later, it stopped after I affixed the airlock.

Very perplexing. The short of it, is that it appears I have a stuck fermentation and from the sounds of it, it's because of all the sugar I added during the boil, instead of waiting a few days. However, what's done is done and I would love any advice on how to get this baby going again.

I'm thinking I need to make a starter and pitch a third batch of yeast. I also think that maybe I should pitch champagne yeast this time instead of 1388 because champagne yeast is pretty much immune to high alcohol. Thoughts?

It is waaaaay to early to even think you have a stuck fermentation. It has only been a couple of days. The yeast is still working. Airlock bubbling is not a sign of fermentation. Control your temps and give it time to ferment out. 3 days is nothing. see my post above for advice on brewing Belgians.
 

Scotty_g

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Mar 26, 2007
Messages
357
Reaction score
14
Location
De Pere, WI
I'd check for a leak if it suddenly went from major off-gassing to nothing. I've had a couple batches of beer never move the airlock once, only to have a nice creamy krauesen under the lid. I got a little plastic shaving stuck on the gasket of the bucket and the CO2 leaked out of that.

Unless you did something crazy like pour in bleach before the airlock was in, there's no way you killed off your yeast. Let them ride it out.

One other possibility is when you bled off the pressure there was nothing to push up the airlock. Did it start bubbling within 10-15 minutes?

The moment I did that (switched to airlock), fermentation came to a halt. Seriously. One second it was bubbling regularly through the blowoff hose and then seconds later, it stopped after I affixed the airlock.
 
Top