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Big beer carbonation problems - help!

Sorry for all the detail but this one one has me frustrated.

I am having repeat problems with very slow and inconsistent carbonation of my big beers. By big beers, I mean barleywines, imperial stouts, and triples. All are over 9% abv. I’ve never had a problem with lower abv beers such as IPA’s, pale ales, etc all under 7% abv.

I made a barleywine and RIS late last year. I bottled them both in February with a fresh pitch of Danstar Nottingham. I sampled both of these batches at 4 months, flat. I rolled all the bottles to redisperse the yeast, and moved them warmer area, 70F +. Over the weekend I sampled them, 6 months in the bottle. Both had just a little pressure but nowhere near carb’d. I expect the big beers to take longer to carb but in 6 months, they should be there. At this rate, it would take another year to carb them so I decided to re-yeast with Danstar CBC-1.

As I opened them, I found about the same results in both batches. At room temperature: 2-3 bottles fully carb’d, 4-5 very slight slight carbonation, and the balance were flat.

I’ve had the same problem with previous batches of barleywine, imperial porter, and imperial stout. I’ve had very slow carbonation with the triples but generally they carb up in 3-4 months. I do have have a few bottles from each batch which are flat.

Here’s what I am doing:

I use Danstar Nottingham for the barleywine and RIS. I used fresh trappist high gravity yeast for the triples. I rehydrate dry yeast before bottling.
I don’t repitch when bottling the lower abv beers.

I am visually inspect the bottles.
I spray the bottles with star san solution and then use the sanitize cycle in the dishwasher.

I stir the bottling bucket after every 6 beers to disperse the sugars and keep the yeast in suspension.

I use brewers best bottle caps soaked in star san solution.
Once all the bottles are filled I lay the caps on the bottles, then clean the area.
I use a hand capper to seal the caps about 60 minutes after filling.

I even consecutively numbered the bottles from the last 2 triples to see if the problems are related to the filling.

Cases are moved to the basement, with is usually in the low 60’s. (I generally brew these big beers in the winter.)

I can think of three possibilities (1) plan on a year or more to carb the big beers, (2) the nottingham strain is borderline alcohol tolerance, (3) the conditioning temp is too low immediately after bottling and the yeast doesn’t activate.

Thanks for taking the time to read this long post. I’ll be starting my ‘big beer brew cycle’ soon and want to put this one behind me.

I doubt the temp would be an issue. It would take longer at that temp but its the same temp you probably originally fermented it at.

How long were they aged before you bottled them? The alcohol tolerance seems like a possibility. I can’t seem to find the alcohol tolerance of Nottingham but according to their site: [quote]“With a relatively high alcohol tolerance, Nottingham is a great choice for creation of higher-alcohol specialty beers!”[/quote]

Have you tried other yeast like champagne yeast. Maybe get some champagne yeast and drop a couple “granules” of yeast into a few bottles and recap them and see if you have better results. I had a similar problem with an extract Weizenbock recipe I brewed. The yeast just pooped out and wouldn’t carb for months. I dropped a couple granules of US-05 into a few bottles and recapped them and they were fully carbed in a few weeks. The beer still sucked so I dumped it but that’s a different story :blah:

I tend to leave the big beers on the 2nd for 2-3 months. I don’t cold crash the big beers before bottling.

I read somewhere that alcohol tolerance of Nottinham was on the order of 10% so it may be borderline. US01/WY1056 is on the order of 15%. I may go that route next time I bottle a big ale.

Hopefully more of you can weigh in on the topic.


Yes & unfortunate your dealing with subject that the Belgians, British,Irish what have you, is a heavily guarded secret, proprietary if you will so would not even bother contacting for help from them ,I learned this many years ago(late 80’s) Germany.I brought 8 1/2 liter bottles weissbier which while drinking manager called for eisbock,& dopplebock to table instructing me to return when figure out how this is done 8)

It’s alcohol tolerance. I made the same mistake last year with a RIS, using 1318. That yeast has a limit of about 9%, and that’s where I got before it stuck. Didn’t even think to look that up before hand. Eventually the bottles developed enough mild carbonation that it qualified as a “British style” stout, but I’ll be more careful about that issue in the future.

Comments on my own original post.

I decide to use Danstar CBC-1 yeast to re-pitch the RIS, barleywine, and quad that hadn’t carbonated. After 6 weeks, both were fully carb’d.

I conclude that alcohol tolerance was my original problem.

I also highly recommend the Danstar CBC-1 yeast for bottle conditioning of any ‘big beer.’ I’ll probably use it on my Belgian’s as well.

cheers !

The last 10% beer I brewed was a barleywine with S-04. This beer developed the best head that I’ve ever gotten on a big beer.

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