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I've had a beer stall during carbonation, and I'm trying to determine what's the more likely cause -- temperature being too low, or kicked yeast struggling in a high-gravity beer. The beer itself is a 9% Stout (http://www.brewtoad.com/recipes/the-slow-escape/brew-logs/105490).

It's been in the bottle for about 4 weeks, and it is ever-so-slightly carbonated right now, the bottles hiss when opened, but it is not enough carbonation to make it pleasant to drink. I am fairly sure that I added enough priming sugar, so the cause for the stalled carbonation is most likely either temperature, or an exhausted yeast that can't get going in such a high-alcohol beer.

I'm in New Jersey and with the winter hitting right around now, it's not impossible that the temperature has been a bit low. My thermostat's been set at 70 degrees but it is on a timer and goes lower at night.

However I'm thinking that since there's some carbonation, it indicates that the conditions were good enough to get going but the yeast is just kicked. I brewed this as a special Christmas beer so I'd like to take the little time left to try to get it drinkable by the holiday.

Any suggestions? And, thanks.

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What yeast did you use? Did you add more yeast at bottling? –  Tobias Patton Dec 15 '13 at 2:20
    
I used an Irish Ale Yeast and did not add any more at bottling. –  James Errico Dec 15 '13 at 14:30
    
For completeness, the recipe lists 4oz of priming sugar, for 4 gallons of OG 1.109 –  mdma Dec 18 '13 at 22:31

2 Answers 2

If...

  • Your bottle conditioning temperature was around 70ºF, you should be OK and should have seen sufficient carbonation by now.
  • Your conditioning temperature was 65ºF or lower, it'll take longer upwards around three to four weeks.
  • You did not have a yeast starter for that big of a beer (you want a yeast starter for beers that start at an OG of 1.060 or higher), your yeast may be unhealthy, showing signs of fatigue, and do not have a high enough viable yeast population to produce more CO2.
  • If you didn't thoroughly oxygenate your wort (such as aggressively rocking your carboy or bucket for a couple minutes), you may also have produced conditions also not conducive for healthy yeast production...which would also lead to poor bottle conditioning.

When you're doing bigger beers, always make a yeast starter, oxygenate your wort, and use yeast nutrients in the last 15 minutes of your boil.

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Thanks, Michael. Going to work through your suggesting to try to get to the bottom of things. –  James Errico Dec 18 '13 at 22:15

Looking at the recipe (9.5lb LME, 3lb sugar, 1lb base malt, 4lb speciality malts) the FG of 1.040 would seem to indicate the yeast also pooped out on the main ferment. Even though this is a partial mash brew, 1.040 FG seems high given it's about 50% extract. WLP004 is not a big attenuator, which may contribute to this.

Brewing beers this big requires a lot of attention to the details - oxygenation, a large (2-3x normal) starter, yeast nutrient and temperature control are wise steps to ensure a successful ferment.

Carbonation of big beers can take up to 8 weeks. You can gently agitate the bottles to encourage the yeast to continue.

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