Extreme beer

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Extreme beer

Postby alms66 » Tue Mar 03, 2009 12:42 pm

I talked to Kevin at Marcello's about getting Sam Adam's Utopia's, however he said the distributor doesn't carry it down here. I'm very interested in tasting a beer with 25%+ alcohol levels and this is the highest I've ever seen.

What's the most extreme (alcohol % that is) beer you've ever made? What advice/resources can you give to someone planning to make an extreme (20%+) beer? ...afterall, if I can't get Utopia's, I have to make something like it, of course!

My personal best so far is a measly 11% on a Barley Wine. However, that was with no aeration equipment and fermenting the whole batch in one go using two packs of dry yeast, not in steps as is recommended for achieving 20+%.

From what I've gathered so far:
1. Divide the batch and ferment each seperately, then blend them to bottle
2. Make a HUGE starter for each mini-batch
3. Aerate the hell out of each mini-batch

Anybody else interested in this experiment?
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Postby aleguy » Tue Mar 03, 2009 2:39 pm

You can get to about 21-22%. Getting higher than that requires special yeast strains. Sam Adams has complete control over the only ones I'm aware of that can go that high (and still taste okay.) There is no need to break up the beer into smaller batches, it will ferment the same (at a homebrew scale) in a six-gallon carboy. I would use the olive oil; trick as well as aerating the hell out of the wort. For a beer that strong, you definitely want to go all grain with a mash temperature about 146 degrees for 90+ minutes. You may have to reiterate the mash a couple of times to get your gravity high enough too.
Malt extracts are mashed for beers usually not exceeding 1.070 starting gravity. At 1.2xx, you will have way too many dextrins and it will taste like syrup no matter how good your yeast is. If you brew it dry, it will be better.
So far my highest is 12.5 % and it was a partial mash. Supposed to be an IPA, but was really a Barley Wine. Way too sweet. I try to brew below 9% for drinkability. The higher alcohol beers tend to sneak up on you and you're drunker than you want before you even realize it. What I'm trying to say is, they don't hit you right away and it is easy to drink three or four pints before you really start to feel it. By then it's too late and you end up flat on your face.
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Postby alms66 » Tue Mar 03, 2009 3:16 pm

I've heard people suggest dividing up the batch quite a bit, I'd say it's a common suggestion for brewing an extreme beer. Perhaps it's just their way of making a "larger" starter - by reducing the volume they pitch into rather than increasing the size of their starter...

Another thing I didn't mention before was that some people suggested fermenting with beer yeast, and when that's done, finishing off fermentation with champagne yeast to get higher %'s.

I was hoping to drum up some interest in a few club members for getting together and brewing an extreme beer, trying to get as high as we can. The more people getting in on it, the better, because if I make 5 gallons of this stuff for myself, my great, great grandkids will probably inherit a case of it. ;)
Seriously though, I want to do a batch like this, first though, before deciding on any specifics, we need to see who else is interested.
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Postby aleguy » Wed Mar 04, 2009 10:37 am

I believe you may be right about dividing into smaller batches being a way to get away from making a bigger yeast starter, but honestly, with big beers you're actually better off pitching about half the normal amount of yeast. as far as champagne yeast is concerned, it doesn't actually have any higher alcohol tolerance than beer yeast. I believe that myth probably started with Papa Charlie (Papazian) who was stressing his yeast because he was using lager yeast at ale temperatures. Virtually any good, healthy beer yeast should be able to handle 20%, certainly the Belgian yeasts should.
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Postby alms66 » Wed Mar 04, 2009 12:19 pm

With regards to the champagne yeast, I can't seem to find it now, but there was also a quote from Jim Koch that said they used a proprietary blend of beer yeast and champagne yeast on Utopias. I only found one source for that and wasn't able to verify that it was a real quote. I assumed the reason for it's use though (by the people I've read of trying to duplicate Utopias), was that they were starting out with a beer yeast that had low attenuation then used the champagne yeast to get higher.
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Postby aleguy » Wed Mar 04, 2009 12:28 pm

That's possible, but Utopios is 26%, and I'm sure whatever Koch uses is a house yeast. Keep watching Wyeast's special offerings, they may be able to get ahold of it and offer it to the public like they did with Sierra Nevada, Rogue and Fat Tire yeasts.
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Postby yeastmeister » Wed Mar 04, 2009 4:48 pm

Well, WLP099 claims to be able to ferment up to 25% alcohol...

WLP099 Super High Gravity Ale Yeast
Can ferment up to 25% alcohol. From England. Produces ester character that increases with increasing gravity. Malt character dominates at lower gravities.
Attenuation: >80%
Flocculation: Medium
Optimum Fermentation Temperature: 65-69°F
Alcohol Tolerance: Very High
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Postby alms66 » Wed Mar 04, 2009 9:34 pm

That's the one I was thinking of using... :twisted:
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Postby aleguy » Thu Mar 05, 2009 11:54 am

Unless you want a very estery character (I assume from the description) You might try fermenting with a clean yeast (American Ale/California Ale) and repitching with the high gravity stuff when initial fermentation subsides. Just a thought.
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Postby thebuddrik » Thu Mar 05, 2009 12:17 pm

Can you describe "very estery character"?
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Postby aleguy » Thu Mar 05, 2009 3:11 pm

fruity, spicy, peppery. Think banana, marshmallow and juicyfruit gum, with a hint of cayenne. You can reduce them somewhat by underpitching yeast (about half), starting the wort colder than the minimum fermentation temperature and allowing it to come up to just above the minimum temp and holding it there until primary fermentation is done then raising the temperature to 75-80 to finish.
Obviously this requires temperature control for fermentation. Chillenstein?
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Postby alms66 » Thu Mar 05, 2009 3:31 pm

Some stuff I've found while researching this project...
Then, of course, there's the info on Sam Adams website...

Guys doing a Utopias Clone (lot's of useless chatter)
http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f12/way-way-way-over-top-sam-adams-utopia-clone-91463/

All-grain High Gravity
http://byo.com/component/resource/article/51-21-alcohol-all-grain-beer

This lead me to the first:
http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f37/trying-brew-super-high-gravity-beer-white-labs-yeast-98257/

Champagne yeast quote:
http://www.internetwines.com/rws28347.html
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