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I haven't quite found a post that answers my question, when brewing a big beer such as a barley wine I have heard talk about using champagne yeast after the initial yeast has done all it can. If my first yeast doesnt quite drop the gravity far enough could I use champagne yeast to continue the fermentation farther. If so what would be a proper way of going about this?

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homebrew.stackexchange.com/questions/3279/… related... –  baka Dec 9 '11 at 20:20
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4 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I've tried using champagne yeast in beer and don't recommend it for a number of reasons. First, and most importantly, if you pitch the right amount of healthy yeast in the beginning, it just isn't necessary. second, champagne yeast ferments different sugars than beer yeast. that can leave strange flavors in your beer. Having followed the advice about champagne yeast when I was a new brewer and gotten poor results, I wouldn't recommend the practice.

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Have you used one of the "Turbo Yeasts" that are bred for higher Alcohol Tolerance? I believe the OP is looking to be able to take a very big beer to a significantly higher Alcohol Percentage hence the use of Champagne Yeast after primary fermentation is complete. Very useful input though with regards to your experience with this yeast! –  Kevin Colby Dec 9 '11 at 16:20
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Yes, I've used some and tasted beers made with others. None impressed me as making a good beer. Turbo distiller's yeast just didn't taste good and the White Labs high gravity yeast didn't perform well and left funky flavors. I've made beers up to 14% ABV with standard beer yeast, pitched in large healthy amounts. If for some reason you want to go above that, then I guess you need to do something else. –  Denny Conn Dec 9 '11 at 18:26
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BTW, fermentation is misspelled in the tag above. Anybody know how to fix that? –  Denny Conn Dec 9 '11 at 18:45
    
I agree with Denny about the yeast flavor of the White Labs yeast. Very distinctive. Similar to a taste in Long Trail Brewery's Triple Bag that I think comes from the yeast. Also, the champagne yeast would produce a very dry beer if left to ferment out. –  Lynn Neeley Dec 9 '11 at 19:18
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I have found that champagne yeast does very little to finish a beer once the primary yeast has already fermented out most of the easy sugars. Trying these mythological steps to FIX a beer is never a substitute for learning to "do it right" in the first place. IMO –  brewchez Dec 10 '11 at 13:57
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You can absolutely do this!

After primary, I would rack to a secondary fermenter (keep enough headspace just in case) and pitch a healthy started of the second yeast. You may consider adding some yeast nutrients as well (similar to what would be done for a Mead) to promote good yeast health. Let this go for the same amount of time that you would normally let a primary fermentation go (I use 2 weeks as a rule of thumb). Make sure you take gravity readings after you rack so you have a new OG for this second "Primary" fermentation.

Finally I would rack to a secondary (tertiary?) for clearing and bulk aging. I would also be extra careful about oxygen in these racking steps since this will be a beer kept for a long time and there are additional stages that could lead to oxygen based spoilage.

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THe utopias example is somewhat flawed because they got their high ABV by continually feeding the beer simple sugars. The non brewers yeast strains in that example were highly alcohol tolerant and are specialized at consuming only the simple sugars being re-added periodically. Its not the same as trying to get wort sugars from a high gravity brew to ferment out with champagne yeast. –  brewchez Dec 10 '11 at 14:04
    
Ahh, I must have confused it with another high ABv beer produced this way, I'm pretty certain I recall this having been done commercially. Aside from the misstep on identifying the comercial example of this process, I hope the rest of this was helpful to the OP. –  Kevin Colby Dec 11 '11 at 16:20
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I have never had a stalled out beer get moving again with the addition of champagne yeast. I suspect this is primarily because the primary yeast has already consumed the types of sugars that champagne yeast are capable of fermenting. Wen people do report a drop in gravity post additions of champagne yeast I suspect its the primary strain coming back to life a bit when other things were done while adding the champagne yeast (warming it up, rousing, maybe even some fresh sugar additions if a starter was made with the champagne yeast and of course the inevitable addition of a bit of oxygen when opening the fermentor and adding the new yeast).

Brewers yeast WILL get you where you want to go as long as you have learned to use it right and apply it properly to the wort you are trying to brew.

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None of these techniques willmake a big impact, but you can squeeze a couple more points out if your careful.

More importantly, don't decide if your beer is good based on SG. The most important measurement is taste.

Adding dry yeast to.already fermented beer doesn't work.

The best thing to do is Krausen. Make a starter and pitch into your beer at the peak of fermentation. Pitch a bunch and oxygenate the starter well to stremgthen the cell walls. I would recommend lager yeast as it can eat slightly larger sugars.

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