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I have a Belgian Dubbel bottle conditioning, the recipe for which came from Brewing Classic Styles. For this recipe, Jamil says to carbonate the beer, then lager for one month at 45-50F. I have the ability to do this in my ferm chest, but doing so would mean I can't ferment anything else for that month. On the other hand, I could put the carbonated bottles into the fridge at 36F for a month before calling them ready to drink. What is the difference between lagering the conditioned beer at 36F versus 45-50F? By the time it starts its cold conditioning phase, it will have spent three weeks in the primary, one week in secondary, and four-to-five weeks in the bottle.

The yeast used was WLP500. Will this ale yeast clean the beer at 45-50F better than it would at 36F? Is it even active at 45F? Part of me wants to say he suggest those temps because they're convenient for those who keg: force carbonate, then place the keg in the kegerator, which is typically at 45-50F for serving, and leave it for a month before tapping. Since I bottle, my serving chamber (the beer fridge), which sits at 36F, is the most convenient place to keep the beer. If I lager it at 36F, will I be missing the point of lagering at 45-50F?

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3 Answers 3

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Above around 40°F, the yeast will still be somewhat active, and will continue to contribute to the beer's flavor (or, more likely, remove flavors from the beer). Below 40, the flavor of your beer likely won't change.

Which temperature range you choose should depend on how satisfied you are with the current flavor of the beer - if you think there's still too much diacteyl or other off-flavors, go with the warmer temperature.

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Good point about removing flavor. Pretty much all styles clean up themselves as they sit in the bottle, and Belgians especially do this. The "banana/fruit" aroma in young Belgians drops off after a few weeks/months of conditioning. –  Graham Jun 28 '11 at 12:26
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No difference post carbonation, IMO.

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At the point you're speaking of, there should be little enough fermentables left to make much difference to the yeast. Either temp will work equally well.

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