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I brewed a GLBC Christmas Ale Clone in November, trying (futilely) to have it ready for Xmas Eve. Had it in bottles two weeks before, but to no avail. As this beer finished up around 9.3%abv, the yeast in the bottles had a lot more work to do given the boozy conditions inside the bottles.

After 5 weeks in the bottles (ambient temp in my house is around 65 degrees), and virtually NO carbonation (despite my priming sugar calculation on Tastybrew.com), I found a spot that generally stays 70 degrees or warmer: a shelf above my dryer in the laundry closet. Shook the cases really well, stored them up there, and was able to be patient enough to forget about them for exactly one week.

After one week up there, I noticed significantly more carbonation. A much more pronounced 'hiss' when opened the bottles, plus about a half inch, quickly-dissapating head. Also, there was good carbonation in the first few sips, giving way to a flatter beer by the end of my bottle sample.

A few questions:

1.) When the dryer is running, it can get up to 75-78 degrees in that spot. When it isn't, it is usually around 70. Are these swings harmful to the beer?

2.) Since there was no carbonation for so long, does this simply 'reset the clock' for carbonation? In other words, the louder hiss tells me there is a lot of CO2 in the headspace, but will this dissolve into the beer? Not to be a maniac, but I am looking to get the nice, soft carb bubbles that you get from a well-conditioned beer (they help make the alcohol heat more palatable!)

3.) At a certain point, will I see any benefit from cellaring the beer at 60-65 degrees? Given the ABV of this one, I am hopeful that it will age well. When would you all start the cellaring process?

I'm thinking to leave them up there for two more weeks, then stick them in a cool corner of the cellar to age, let the flavors meld, and the alcohol mellow out.

Thanks in advance. This is my first really big beer (1.093 OG), and I realize that these are not for the impatient. I'm just curious as to how best to get this beer into its prime.

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I'm not a bottle conditioning expert, so I'll just comment. I agree with your thinking. That beer will want a few months in the bottles to really be at its best. Also, did you chill it overnight before opening the tester? CO2 dissolves more readily into cold liquid, and an overnight chill will help get you the even carbonation you're looking for. –  JoeFish Jan 26 '12 at 15:30
    
nope, stuck it in the freezer for 40 minutes, then left out for 10 so it wasn't ice cold. probably served at around 40 degrees. –  Pietro Jan 26 '12 at 18:05
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definitely leave it in the fridge overnight before tasting and see if you notice an improvement. –  JoeFish Jan 26 '12 at 18:37
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1 Answer 1

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Over a week or two, the temperature swings wont make much difference since there is little flavor contribution from the fermentation that goes on in bottle conditioning - for a high gravity beer, the priming sugar represents only about 1% of fermentables.

It sounds like after a week, fermentation of the priming sugar is pretty much done - the remaining time is conditioning and allowing the CO2 to dissolve.

Leaving beer at warm temps for a month or more may give off flavours, since the yeast are being forced to have a high metabolic rate by the temperature, yet there is little food left to consume. I would leave them in your warm place for another week to be sure all the sugar has fermented, and then store the beers at cellar temperature (35-55F). This will help them condition, drop clear and dissolve the CO2 in the headspace.

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