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I kegged a batch of hefeweizen on Sunday morning and force carbonated. My all-grain recipe was a combination of several that I found online, but largely an original creation. The plan was to leave the batch in primary for a week and then transfer to secondary for three weeks or so. Life circumstances prevented me from racking the beer to secondary, so it sat in primary for nearly two and half weeks. One of the weizen recipes I consulted called for a two week primary fermentation with no secondary, so I went ahead and kegged without a secondary fermentation.

Things of note:

  • Pitched one pouch of Wyeast 3638 Bavarian Wheat Blend in wort cooled to 64 degrees.
  • Fermented at a steady 68 degrees (temperature controlled by putting it in my basement, which is really steadily 68 this time of year).
  • Fermentation was really active for 4-5 days. After that, there was no visible sign of fermentation activity, however, I did not pull a sample until beer was kegged.
  • The beer tasted good out of the carboy after 2.5 weeks (albeit 68 degrees and flat)
  • On Monday night, the batch was sufficiently carbonated but tasted a little green; mostly a little too sweet. Definitely drinkable and on the right track, but I probably jumped the gun a little.
  • The gravity right before kegging was very near the expected final gravity. Expected OG 1.051, expected FG 1.014; actual OG 1.056, actual FG 1.020.

Bottom line: the beer doesn't seem finished now that I've carbonated it. Should I leave it in the pressurized keg in the fridge and condition for a few weeks to a month; or should I release pressure, let it go flat, and put it back into a carboy to finish out?

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How much variation was there recipe to recipe on line? Hefe is basically wheat and two row. I only ask because I am always interested in where people get recipes online. –  brewchez May 15 '12 at 23:33
    
There was a fair amount of variation; basically things that didn't seem to fit the style. I the recipe I leaned on most heavily used Pilsner malt instead of two row, but I did a blend. The total grain bill was about 55% wheat, 20% Pilsner, 25% two row. I threw in some rice hulls before the sparge to help with prevent compaction. –  Jordan May 16 '12 at 0:54
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2 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I would leave it in the keg - there's little to gain from racking, and you risk contaminating or oxidizing the beer. An Ale yeast has a hard time conditioning at fridge temps, but the beer will condition in the keg if you take it out the fridge and leave it for 10-14 days at room temp, around 64-70F/17-20C. You don't have to bleed off the CO2.

Once the beer has conditioned, you can then put it back in the fridge for a few days before serving. This gets the CO2 back into equilibrium at serving temp so the beer is properly carbed.

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I don't think a hefe two and a half weeks in the primary would have any conditioning left to do. Its likely more a fermentation/yeast management issue. –  brewchez May 15 '12 at 23:42
    
I don't think the FG will drop any more, and that could be a mash schedule problem. –  mdma May 16 '12 at 8:17
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For a hefeweizen (or any wheat beer) secondary can be detrimental because these beer are best fresh. Once primary is done, the prime drinking window starts to close. I just kegged a hefe myself, 16 days in primary 1050 down to 1012. Very nice taste going into the keg. So your two an a half weeks sounds perfect to me.

If the beer has some sweetness to it I wonder what your fermentation was like. Basically temp and pitch rates can create a range of interesting esters. Those esters can come across as sweet.

I'd look to that part of your process because the time in primary and no secondary sounds good to me. If you are at your final gravity then the beer was done. I'd bet the beer was done fermenting 5 days in and has been "conditioning" ever since. So that's not your problem, IMO.

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thanks for the note. I added details of my yeast and fermentation above. The beer is not overly sweet; just a touch sweeter than I expected. To be clear, you would recommend serving the beer now rather than conditioning more? –  Jordan May 16 '12 at 0:47
    
what you say is true, but most regular strength beers are done in 5 days and then spend the rest of the time conditioning - hefe is no different in this regard. The main difference is that wheat beers should be consumed young - 4-6 weeks I've found to be optimal. But does this answer the question - what should he do with the keg of beer he's got. –  mdma May 16 '12 at 8:04
    
Drink it, learn from it and rebrew it. Based on the info provided it might not ferment out any more. Like I said take a closer look at your fermentation routine (temp, pitch rate and oxygenation). As mdma suggests you might wonder about your mash schedule too. Check to be sure your mash temp is really where you think it is. 1020FG might be a bit disappointing, but its not the end of the world. He could always simply bring the keg to room temp and degas it a couple times a day and see if the gravity drops in a week. But I doubt it will. –  brewchez May 16 '12 at 21:11
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