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I've been extraordinarily lazy lately and have kept 2 of my beers sitting around for some time.

What is the longest you've kept your beer on primary and still had good results? I'm hearing arguments back and forth as to whether or not autolysis actually exists.

I've had a IIPA dry-hopping in secondary for a month and a half now, and a choc stout sitting in primary for about the same time. i still have to secondary my stout onto some cacao nibs and vanilla beans as well, so that'll take a couple weeks.

Think I'm still okay?

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I routinely leave beers in the primary for four weeks with no issues. This is a bit longer, but all I can say is to try it! I have a feeling you'll like the result. –  Dustin Rasener May 7 '11 at 1:42

4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I have had a Porter and an IPA go for 5 months in primary. They were even in plastic buckets. They were in a cool garage for the winter time and never froze. The beers were as good as I'd expect them to be. The IPA had lost some of its aroma, so I just passed it off as a normal Pale instead. Both beers very drinkable with no off flavors.

I just recently kegged an ordinary bitter that sat in primary for 7 months. It only had an OG of 1.038!!! Stored in a sort of cool finished basement. It was in glass. I even transported the carboy in my car to my new house a month before kegging. So the yeast cake got stirred up and sloshed around a little bit. The beer tastes a bit old, but its not bad. It shows no signs of yeast flaws. (It also demonstrates a bit of quality control on my sanitation practices... yes patting myself on the back there.)

Autolysis? What is that, I say?

Your beer is fine one month in.

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Agreed with everyone above. I had a Wheat for 1.75 months and a Pilsner still in, going on 2 months. I should be getting off my butt and bottling instead of typing this even...

Cheers, Mat

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Me: 6 months in a carboy.

You're totally okay. RDWHAHB.

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I myself have never gone past a month on primary, but that's due to me wanting to keep the pipeline moving. Conventional wisdom now is that true autolysis is really, really hard to get under normal home brewing conditions. You need more heat and pressure than is generated by 5 gal of ale sitting in a carboy. I would be nervous about going past a few months on primary, but I would still be surprised if this hurt the beer (loss of hop or yeast flavor aside - don't age your IPAs and Hefes that long or they'll get boring.)

The only concern I'd have is with dry hopping your IIPA that long. You can get some unwanted grassy flavors that way, especially if the beer is dry hopping at room temps. So thats way more of a concern than off flavors from the yeast.

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1  
I have found "grassiness" from dry hopping to be related to the variety of hop, not the length of time or temp. –  Denny Conn May 5 '11 at 15:16
    
Ahhh that's interesting Denny! What are the 3-4 varieties that you recommend avoiding? –  Graham May 6 '11 at 12:57
    
Normally I'm the same way, I can't wait to get the damn stuff into bottles. This time however, work just got in the way and I just don't feel like doing anything haha. –  Brian May 6 '11 at 14:35

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