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I recently started kegging, roughly 6 batches ago. Initially I would keg two batches and place them in the refridgerator, waiting two weeks for them to carbonate "naturally" (as opposed to "forced" carbonation) before I began drinking them.

Then the thought occurred to me that when I bottled, I still waited two weeks, but the bottles were at room temperature and not at 40 degrees in my refrigerator, as were my kegs. From what I remembered, beer which you let sit for a while in a bottle gets better as it ages because the yeast is still active and conditioning at room temperature.

For my next two batches that I was to keg, I then decided to leave the kegs and CO2 tank outside of the refrigerator for the two weeks of natural carbonation such that they could condition while at room temperature, instead of in the fridge.

Taking this to its logical conclusion, however, would result in the belief that kegging is inferior to bottling in regards to conditioning. After two weeks, I put the kegs back in the fridge, where the yeast become inactive and thus stop conditioning the beer. With bottling, I leave the bottles on a shelf for however long it takes me to drink all of the bottles. I simply move some bottles into the refrigerator several hours before I drink. And because I typically have 5 batches bottled at any given time, a single batch can last a long time if I rotate between each batch.

Am I correct in thinking that if you keg a batch and store it in the fridge (or store all your bottles from a batch in the fridge) halt conditioning? Am I simply mistaken? Does conditioning, or the process by which aging beer makes it taste better, have nothing to do with yeast -- or does the yeast in a keg at 40*F continue to condition the beer?

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3 Answers 3

Carbonation from conditioning is cuaused by yeast. Generally, refrigerating beer reduces the temperature below the yeasts active temperature and halts conditioning.

Beer taste changing from aging is cuaused by yeast and other factors. Not all beers improve with age. All beers have there prime. It may be fresh out of the fermenter, such with lower alcohol styles or years later like with high alcohol Belgians.

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Carbonating with yeast and priming sugar, carbonating with a CO2 tank and aging a beer (under any number of conditions) are all different animals. You can carbonate in a keg with yeast and priming sugar (treating it as a large "bottle"), but like the other posters said, it's not going to work well at fridge temps. Aging a beer has different effects depending on whether you bulk age at cellar/ferment temps before carbonating, bottle age in a cellar with bottle conditioning, or age in a keg after carbonation at fridge temps. All three generally have positive impacts on a beer. The advantage to aging after carbonation at fridge temps, is you can "taste" the difference much more easily. However, if you keg, carbonate and fridge too early, there are bulk aging at cellar temp properties that you will never get.

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Conditioning (getting CO2 into the beers) will stop or slow down to a crawl in a fridge.

Lagering (storing beer at fridge temps) will cause the beer to be clearer as more yeast will fall out. Oxidation will be minimized. Higher alcohols will be avoided.

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re: conditioning - if you're naturally carbonating by priming with sugar, then it's correct - temps are too cold for ale yeasts to ferment. Here, the question states using a tank of CO2, so the cold temperatures are in fact beneficial since CO2 is more soluble at lower temperatures. –  mdma Jul 8 at 23:48

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