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I've recently taken advantage of White Labs switch to year-round availability of WLP090, as this rocket fuel of a yeast strain is very attenuative, very clean, fast, and floccuates beautifully. I love it.

I just brewed a wonderful double IPA (recipe is here, seriously, go brew this beer), using two vials of WLP090 in a whopping starter, and the trub/yeast at the bottom of this carboy is massive. I would have enough yeast to be set for months. Problem is, it's ~10-11% ABV (attenuated past the 9.4% I expected, I won't complain). White Lab's description of the yeast says that it's alcohol tolerance is "high", so I assume it can take a beating past the typical 13%, but I doubt that I want to push it up towards it's limits before washing it.

Is there a general rule of thumb, a safe percent of alcohol by volume for when the yeast is just too stressed to wash and re-use it?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

The ROT is to not reuse yeast from an OG higher than 1.060. I've succesfully pushed that to 1.073. That assumes a healthy pitchin the first place. I've also taken a bit of slurry from a higher OG and used it o make a new starter. At the OG of your beer, I'd be leery. You should use some to make a starter and carefully assess its health before using it.

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I suspected that any beer starting with the words "Double", "Imperial", "Russian", or any mix of those together would mean the yeast is toast. Thanks for the verification. – Scott Aug 2 '13 at 14:29
Coincidentally I just read this today. The author attempted to harvest the yeast from a bottle-conditioned 11% ABV beer. He was not able to culture the yeast due to the cells being non-viable. – Tobias Patton Aug 2 '13 at 16:27
I've read that same article. I saw another video on youtube recently where someone was able to successfully reuse that same yeast (from Heady Topper's The Alchemist), pulling from an 8% ABV beer. Even at that point though, it took him a couple of days to see any activity in his starter. I don't know if I'd trust the yeast past one fermentation at that rate. – Scott Aug 3 '13 at 15:58

German author Hagen Rudolph claims to have brewed a 25% ABV beer (http://www.hagenrudolph.de/Dokumente/Superstarkbier.pdf (in German)) with WLP099 (http://www.whitelabs.com/yeast/wlp099-super-high-gravity-ale-yeast).

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I can't read German, but I am well aware (by experience) of WLP099. Does White Lab's high gravity yeast allow for a higher tolerance before it isn't worth it to re-use the yeast? – Scott Aug 19 '13 at 4:49

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