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I recently made a Belgium Ale, which was slow to start fermenting, but once it got going it finished fine. It cleared in a secondary and was bottled using 5oz of corn sugar for the 5 gallon batch. It's in the cellar which runs from to low to higher 60's depending on the time of day (a previous batch carbonated just fine in those conditions).

After one week I open a test bottle, it has a little gas pop, tasted ok, but was flat. Another week and the bottle popped well, was poured into a glass and got a head consistent to soda, which dissipated rapidly, leaving the beer tasting ok, but pretty flat. It seems that CO2 is being made in the bottle, does it just take longer to go into solution? Does it just need more time to create a head? Thanks for any insight.

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3 Answers 3

Take a look at this BeerSmith article: http://beersmith.com/blog/2008/06/25/enhancing-beer-head-retention-for-home-brewers/

The article makes the following points:

Foam is the result of CO2 bubbles rising through the beer. These bubbles attach themselves to substances in the beer and form a skin around the bubble

Head stability depends on the presence of substances with low surface tension in the beer which can form stable elastic bubbles. The two primary contributors to head retention are certain high molecular weight proteins and isohumulones (alpha acids from hops). Therefore beers with more proteins that are highly hopped will have higher head retention.

The glass may even be the culprit as its cleanliness may have something to do with head retention, and residual dish soap may also have an effect.

With my experience, at least 3 weeks always gave me a nice bottle conditioned beer in which the CO2 is dissolved nicely with great head retention, although I tend to use a lot of hops in my brews. I have also had good results with Munton's Kreamy X, which uses propylene glycol for head retention. I've had up to a 1.5" head in a spotless tulip glass with a bottle conditioned beer using Kreamy X, and the head stuck around, diminishing until the last sip.

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It's been 3 weeks and periodically opening a beer every few days has shown some improvement in a head, although retention is still a factor, doesn't taste bad, so at least it won't go to waste. –  Quentin Dec 31 '13 at 22:00
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Jedi Jay brough up a good point about the glass, possibly being not rinsed well and having residual soap. this could also happen when cleaning bottles. I once allowed my bottles to soak in a bleach solution that was too strong and didnt do a good job of rinsing, under the false impression that the bleach would evaporate on the drying tree. Let me tell ya, I had 2 cases of flat blondes.

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Belgian, please.

There are seemingly a billion inputs to head and carbonation tendencies. Ingredients, caramelization, adjuncts, amount of sugar at bottling, glass cleanliness, brand of dishwash all contribute. As much as I hate to give such an open answer, I think the only real path is to experiment more, controlling variables between batches.

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