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Did the bourbon kill my yeast?

Hello everyone.

I just racked my third brew, a NB Wee Heavy Scotch Ale, and added an 8" medium char american oak spiral and 16oz of Basil Hayden bourbon.

When I racked the beer, it was a rich caramel color and clearly still had yeast in suspension.

Once I added the spirals and poured in the 2 cups of 80 proof bourbon, I could immediately see yeast raining down the carboy. Within 60 minutes I had an inch of yeast on the bottom of the carboy.

The yeast in question is the White Labs Endinburg WLP028.

Did I ruin my beer I worked so hard on? This was also my first beer to use a 2L starter I made with stir plate.

What are your thoughts?

I have a porter racked that took a week or more to start getting yeast on the bottom of the carboy.

Thanks for your input and direction.

Good question. I usually don’t add the spirits untill after fermentation is complete. What was your gravity reading before and after you added it. Are you sure fermentation stopped.

I hate to admit, but I failed to take gravity readings on this go round. I had some friends over to show the brewing process and consumed a few too many beers during the process and somehow dropped/broke the hydrometer.

The krausen had fallen after 6 days of rigorous fermentation. The blowoff tube was full for over two days and I racked after the krausen was gone…7 days to be exact.

Even if we don’t know for sure that I’ve killed the yeast, what would be the “optimal” time to add bourbon? I’m trying to emulate the Founder’s Backwood Bastard…or at least make something in the ball park.

I appreciate any feedback you might have.

Thanks

16 ounces of 80 proof liquor dumped into 5 gallons should dilute out to a 1% ABV boost. Scottish ale yeast should be pretty alcohol tolerant, so unless this was a really big beer to begin with I can’t imagine you pushed past the limit. Still, what you describe is new to me.

You said you didn’t take a reading, but what was the recipie’s target OG? I’m sure you were in the ballpark. Was it extract?

I appreciate the responses for sure as I put a lot of love and time in this one :slight_smile:

The OG of the extract kit is 1.083.

An update on what it looks like this morning:

The top half of the beer has a color more akin to the Porter it’s sitting next to and the bottom half still has that caramel color. There is a thick layer of yeast on the bottom already.

It’s weird to see a clear division in colors…or is it?

Friends don’t let friends brew drunk. Brew responsible. Always have a designated brewer when party brewing. You are probably alright this time but next time you may not be so lucky. :smiley:

So true! Lesson learned, for sure.

The beer still has a distinct top half and bottom half as far as color goes.

Do you think it would hurt anything to stir the beer around a little to get they yeast off the bottom and back into suspension again?

I wouldn’t be introducing any oxygen to it as the airlock bubbled a little bit after the transfer.

I’m just concerned about the two halves of beer. You can clearly see the difference in color.

Hmm. If it were me I would probably leave it alone. When you pull it out of the carboy for bottling or kegging you’ll mix it up a little bit anyway.

In the mean time, get a new hydrometer. It’s best to put your additives and extras in when you’re sure fermentation is over. I don’t think you killed the yeast though.

Really just hard to tell without hydrometer readings :?

[quote=“ewolfe”]I appreciate the responses for sure as I put a lot of love and time in this one :slight_smile:

The OG of the extract kit is 1.083.

An update on what it looks like this morning:

The top half of the beer has a color more akin to the Porter it’s sitting next to and the bottom half still has that caramel color. There is a thick layer of yeast on the bottom already.

It’s weird to see a clear division in colors…or is it?[/quote]This is perfectly normal and in another day, it will all be the darker color as it settles.

I appreciate the responses for sure. This was the first time I’ve added anything to the secondary and I was concerned I had ruined this batch…not to mention I have about $100 in this batch with the kit, starter, oak spirals and bourbon :shock:

I’m hoping I’m somewhere in the neighborhood of the Founder’s Backwoods Bastard…or something reminiscent of that when all is done.

@ewolfe

Did you rack the beer off of the yeast cake and into a secondary fermenter? If so this could be a little of the cake being racked over and settling out.

Odds are you are fine, but in the meantime it may not hurt to get a new hydrometer and take a reading. If you assume that you hit your 1.083 you should probably finish around 1.019 (assumption without know a little more about the recipe and fermentation temps, etc)

Being that this strain is extremely tolerant to alcohol, I doubt that 16 oz of 80 proof spirits would kill the yeast. I did a slurry that had 12 oz of 151 proof to 5 gals of beer and it turned out just fine.

Going forward you may be able to use some bottom shelf bourbon for your brews. By my experience Basil Hayden bourbon is very expensive, and for what you’re trying to achieve using a much cheaper blend probably will yield the same results. (I know I am going to take some flack for that comment, but my Bourbon Porter has been brewed with Wild Turkey, Makers Mark, Rebel Yell et al. and the results are the same.

Let us know how it turned out. +1 on the starter as that probably made the yeast even more healthy.

:cheers:

Not from me! I agree whole heartedly. You are adding so very little that its being diluted. And its often into a very complex and flavorful beer.

This is a nice way to put it. OP, one thing to remember is that when brewing you are dealing with some serious stuff. Heat, fire, hot liquids, glass carboys, chemicals, etc. In addition, simple things get overlooked (like adding the IC at correct time, whirlfloc, right hops, etc). I’ve learned the hard way too, and when I first started out I fell into the same thing. Often because people would want to watch. I now brew early in morning (so I can get done at decent time), but its also to prohibit drinking. If it is later in the day the limit is one beer. Another thing to watch is the friends “helping” as they often promote this or get in the way. I noticed my beer got better as I remembered the often overlooked things.

I did rack to the secondary off the yeast cake and I did grab a little bit of it off the bottom as I was being a little greedy to get all the beer out of there :slight_smile:

I wanted to take my best shot for this first addition of bourbon to the secondary so I chose a bourbon I LOVE, just in case the flavor was stronger than I anticipate. I’m taking a bunch of notes so I can learn from each batch.

The most valuable thing I learned this go round is not to invite buddies over and start cracking Founder’s Breakfast Stouts while they “help” with the batch. My other two batches were solo and things went much smoother. I shall take the advise of either an early brew session or the smart limit of one beer during the process.

I’m trying hard not to be concerned about the clear division of color in the carboy. The top half is porter like and the bottom half is caramel colored…there is still a distinct difference, like a rattlesnake shot.

I have a new hydrometer, but I’m fighting the temptation to mess with it. I figure what’s there is there and I can’t really do much about it at this point except keep my fingers crossed and wait.

Brew in a bucket. You can’t worry about what you can’t see. Relax and have a brew, if that doesn’t work have a glass of that BH, that’s a fine whiskey.

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