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An Belgian Tripel recipe has caught my eye, but it looks like an imperial style. OG is estimated at 1.100+, and final abv is close to 11.5%. I'm planning on a Wyeast Belgian Ardennes yeast.

My plan is to split the brew-day into at least two days; starting with a lesser volume medium-gravity wort to pitch the yeast into, then adding the sum of the wort and fermentables at high krausen, after the yeast have really taken hold.

Is this approach the best way to ensure healthy fermentation in this high gravity wort?

What alternatives are out there--and their pros/cons?

What other aspects should I be concerned with?

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I presume you're not going to make one batch, split the wort, and let part of it sit around without yeast while other part has yeast? That would mean that you seem to be setting yourself up for brewing two batches of beer, but ending up with one :) I agree that with proper oxygenation, and quantity of yeast, you should be find just pitching the whole batch. –  Dale Oct 23 '11 at 21:32
    
I ended up brewing the first 3 gallons with about 40% of the fermentables, pitching, then topping it off to 5 gallons (with the remainder of fermentables) at high krausen. It was probably unnecessary, but it ended up working out well as I used my stove for the boil and it wouldn't have been able to handle the full 5 gallons. Next batch, however, will be a single batch with a larger yeast starter :) –  STW Oct 23 '11 at 22:55
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2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted
  1. Oxygenate
  2. Pitch a proper amount of yeast
  3. Keep it at a steady temperature. For Ardennes I'd recommend starting around 66-68 for at least two days then ramping up to 70-72 until fermentation is done.
  4. Have up to 20% of your fermentables come from sugar, not malt. This is normal for Tripels.

Those are the main things. A good tripel recipe is designed to make a dry beer. If you're doing all-grain, you can dry it out further by using a lower mash temp, 148 - 149 F is common.

As for your plan, I think it's a bit excessive. Here's an alternative that gets you pretty much the same thing.

  1. When you start your boil, pull off 1 quart of wort. We'll call this your Pitching Wort.
  2. Boil the Pitching Wort (in a flask if you have one) for 10 minutes.
  3. Cover and cool your Pitching Wort to 70 degrees. If you didn't boil the wort in a flask, transfer it to a sanitized growler that you cover with sanitized aluminum foil or airlock.
  4. Take your yeast starter (or your packs of yeast, if not using a starter) and add them to the Pitching Wort. Seal with an airlock or sanitized aluminum foil.
  5. Pitch the whole thing into your main wort once it's chilled, oxygenated and in the carboy.

By creating a pitching wort from your main wort, you get the yeast active and you get them used to the wort that they'll be eating. It's great for starting a healthy, thorough fermentation.

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Nearly any yeast will ferment out a 12% ABV beer. The Ardennes yeast especially should have no trouble. I have never found it necessary to do incremental additions to the fermenter for a high OG beer. Just be certain that you pitch the right amount of healthy yeast, oxygenate/aerate well, and make a fermentable wort. That means a long, low temp mash, and since it's a tripel, 20-25% of a very fermentable sugar, like table sugar.

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