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Temperature and Bulk Aging

Hello Everyone,

I have a question concerning the role that temperature plays when bulk aging a beer.

Right now I am drinking a Barley Wine that I made last year, as well as an Octoberfest that I brewed back in May. The Barley Wine aged in bulk at basement temperatures for 8 months or so before bottling and further aging. The Octoberfest lagered in bulk at 35* for 3 months before bottling.

While I understand that primary fermentation needs to take place within specific and distinct ranges for both lagers and ales to accommodate the yeast, what I don’t understand is how temperature affects these beers after final gravity is achieved and the yeast have (mostly?) done their work. I age my lagers cold because that is what I was told to do, and age my bigger ales at basement temps because, well, they’re ales. But must it be this way?

How would the Octoberfest differ if it was fermented cold and aged warm. Would the Barley Wine be adversely affected if, after a warmer primary fermentation, it aged for 8 months at 35*? Would it turn out better under those conditions?

This aspect of the brewing process is a black hole for me.

1 Like

For the barley wine I envision a lot of esters reacting to form larger molecules that either precipitate or don’t have the same flaovr properties. Plus the hop acids also react and mellow. As these are nonenzymatic processes, I would think they would occur more slowly at colder temps. I think your storage conditions are ideal for the situation.

For a lager, I think the yeast are still somewhat active early on and then they precipitate and I’m assuming the cold helps this to happen. I do think a longer time at a warmer temp would accomplish some of the same thing in this instance. After all OFest was brewed in March and stored in caves (55F?) until the fall festival. I think the colder temp just accelerates the cold crash part of the lagering.

^^^ What Tom said. Aging happens faster at warmer temps so keeping the BW out of the fridge will help it get good faster and storing cold slows down the aging process while also encouraging sedimentation, leading to a cleaner-tasting beer, which is what you want in a lager. I typically age in the 60s and then when the beer is where I want it, move it to the fridge to hold it in that state as long as possible.

Thanks, guys. My guess was that there had to be more actors in play aside from the yeast, but I’ve never seen any discussion of this particular topic.


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