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So I'm doing my first "Big Beer" this weekend. It's an Imperial IPA with an estimated OG of 1.096. I'm using Wyeast 1056 with yeast nutrient, a shot of pure O2 and intermittent shaking. Using Mr.Malty's calculator, it says I will need a 1.56L starter w/ 2 smack packs. Now usually I make my starter on Thursday evening for a Saturday afternoon brew session. But, since this is such a bigger beer then I usually brew, I was wondering if I should do anything extra or different this time to get the yeast prepared

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I like to make my starters well in advance so they can ferment out and I can decant the spent wort, rather than pitching it into my nice fresh wort. Also, you can make a larger starter and only use 1 smack pack if you want to save some money.

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I often wonder by the calculator suggests more than one pack. With enough wort and nutrients, and sufficient step-ups, you can grow as much yeast as you want from the smallest amount - a single cell if you wanted. The main difference, other than cost, is time, since with less initial yeast, more generations are required. – mdma Apr 24 '12 at 17:08

For a really big beer (and 1.096 is pretty big) you might consider making a full batch of 'little' beer as a starter (OG of 1.040-50). I would consider doing a smaller, mild-tasting session ale so as to not potentially contaminate the 'big' beer with residual flavors. After primary is finished, siphon off the beer and pitch your big beer wort directly on top of the yeast cake. Use a blowoff tube.

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You probably don't want to rack directly onto an old yeast cake. Better would be to harvest and rinse a jar full of yeast from the small beer, and then pitch that into the big one. – baka May 10 '12 at 19:52
More often than not I just rack right on top of the old cake. I've had no issues with off-flavors yet. – bk0 May 10 '12 at 20:35

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