Will ale ferment okay if ambient temp is ~60?

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Feb 22, 2012
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Hey guys - this is my third batch overall, but my first 5-gallon batch, trying a Chimay Red clone. I put the fermenter (plastic bucket) in my basement (unfinished), which is always a little cooler than the rest of our house. I didn't think about, but when I was down there last night all of the thermometers said the temp outside the fermenter was between 55-60. The beer was definitely doing it's thing, I could see bubbles steadily coming out of the blowoff hose. None of the thermometers are actually in the fermenter. So, a few questions:

1) I've read here that the temp of the room isn't necessarily the temp of the beer, but I don't want to open it up to take the temp. If I open it, how risky is it that a wild yeast gets in there?

2) What will happen if I leave it down there to continue fermenting? I just put it down there Sunday afternoon, so at this point it's been about 72 hours (Wednesday). My plan was to replace the blowoff hose with an air lock today or tomorrow, then transfer it to a secondary this weekend and ferment for another week or so until the SG is around 1.012-1.013.

3) Should I bring it upstairs into the main house where we always keep the temp around 70?

Thanks for any help! My first two (1-gallon) batches turned out pretty good, I would hate to think I had screwed up my first 5-gallon batch.
Oh, and it is a Wyeast 1214 Belgian Abbey yeast, if I remember correctly. If that makes a difference.
At the most vigorous point in fermentation you were probably fermenting around 62-65f with the ambient temps being what they are at 55-60f. If its been 72 hours you are probably past the most peak of fermentation but you still might want to warm the fermenter up a bit to help it finish off. The temp range for that yeast is 68-78.

With your lower temps you might not get the Belgian esters you were shooting for with the beer but it certainly won't be bad. If I were you I would bring it upstairs where it is warmer and let it finish a bit higher.

For you next batch you might want to get a thermometer sticker forthe outside of your bucket, it will give you an idea of what temp is like in there. It's not exact but it helps.

Also, you don't really need to do a secondary. I would just do a month long primary then bottle/keg.
Thanks. I think I might move it upstairs just to be safe. But the heating pad and/or space heaters are good suggestions.

I've never done a secondary before, but the clone recipe called for it. I'd read in "The Complete Joy of Homebrewing" that leaving it in the primary for so long could lead to some off tastes being imparted from the dead yeast or trub. I've got a spigot on the bucket so I was just going to drain it into another bucket...pretty easy.

Thanks for your help!
Even with Belgian yeasts (and Hefe yeasts at that), lower temperature is a good thing. You'll still get plenty of esters. I ferment most everything around 64 degrees, so if wort temp is 60, you might want to try raising it a little bit, then moving it upstairs after 4-5 days to let it naturally ramp up.

You might get more esters at higher temperatures (at the onset of fermentation), but you also get more off-flavors.
You'll find ALOT of people on HBT not using a secondary unless it's for long term aging, fruiting, etc. I had a beer sit on the yeast cake for 6 weeks and medal in BJCP competitions.

This is a topic that's been talked about a ton of times here, with a little searching you can find some extended threads on te topic.

Now that you've gotten past the fusel/bad phenol/way too much ester stage, I would definitely bring it upstairs. Otherwise, you may not get the yeast flavor development you want.

I usually start my Belgians in the low 60s and then ramp up over the course of 10 days or so. In fact, my last Belgian Golden Strong started at 62* and ended at 80* about a week and a half into the ferment. With that schedule, I eliminate the harsh flavors and push the good ones.