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Okay, let's see if I can keep this question brief--I have a lot of followup questions that go with this so it may be difficult.

Background: Last year I decided to start doing an annual Birthday Brew Day Barleywine, wherein I'll brew a barleywine each year on my birthday and age it for years to come (for as long as I can keep them in stock...we'll see how long it goes). Last years finished off at 10.1% abv, while this years batch is at 9.7 % or so (currently in the secondary).

Context: I HATE BOTTLING!!! No, seriously, I really f$#%ing hate it!!! So, I keg all of my brews, and occasionally fill bottles from the keg using a technique that prevents oxidation and preserves proper carbonation levels.

More Context: Conventional wisdom says that for a beer to be truly "cellar-worthy", it must be unfiltered and bottle-conditioned so that the living yeast can continue to develop flavors in the beer as the years go by.

Questions:

  1. If I keg the beer, and later bottle just under half of the batch off of the keg, will the beer condition and mature in the same way when I cellar it?

  2. I'm assuming that if I force carb that too much yeast will be knocked out of suspension for it to mature in the same way--is this correct? What's the scientific explanation?

  3. I'm thinking that I'll add priming sugar to the keg, seal it up, let it carbonate naturally, and then bottle some time later. Will this solve the force-carbing problem, assuming there is one?

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1 Answer

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I personally don't think that natural carbonation or yeast in the bottle have much of anything to do with beer maturation upon cellaring. Yeast obviously plays a critical role in flavor development while making the beer and carbonating it. But I have never heard someone really say that force carbed beer and bottle conditioned beer tasted different.

When the best homebrewers I know use either technique to carbonate beer the beer largely tastes the same. Even for when I have done side by sides with my own beers.

Most pro-brewers filter out the yeast to generate a more shelf stable product, for the near term AND long term. After only a few months in the bottle the yeast is mostly dead or dying. Years later the yeast isn't doing anything to the beer except degrading into the beer.

All the flavor changes that come with time are chemical in nature. Namely oxidative type reactions. And it has little to do with yeast.

SO my take is keg, cold crash for as long as you can and bottle crystal clear barleywine fully carbed and ready to go...or age.

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I'd mark this correct except that my understanding of the yeast is that is isn't dead, per se, but is rather "dormant". Those bottles of "the world's oldest drinkable beer" that they found at the bottom of the Baltic Sea are said to have "living yeast cultures" inside (story here: cnn.com/2010/WORLD/europe/09/03/baltic.sea.beer/… ). That said, my understanding is that yeast can act upon the hop oils and cause them to degrade over time, thus bringing out more of the malt flavor. I could be mistaken about this, however... –  markskar Oct 20 '10 at 19:42
    
If in fact those yeast are alive it was because of the cold temps. But I really doubt (as a biologist myself) they were alive. –  brewchez Oct 21 '10 at 14:34
    
Some of the statements in that story are funny (at best). If the bottles were sealed how would they have gone flat, I suppose if they were corked then maybe the CO2 would escape. But if you are going to go that route then the small amounts of O2 in the water would likely get into the beer too, oxidizing it. How do they know the cultures are still living? Just a wierd story. –  brewchez Oct 21 '10 at 14:38
    
I read a few other things that have led me to agree with you. The barleywine has been kegged and carbed. Going to let it settle out even further, pour out any settled yeast, and then bottle when it's crystal clear. Thanks for the response, marking this one answered. –  markskar Oct 25 '10 at 20:47
    
I like how you keep making me work for the "shiney green checky". –  brewchez Oct 26 '10 at 11:59
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