Planning a strong & sweet Belgian style ale, I expected OG to be as high as 1.096. Because of my extremely amateur setup, I used two pots instead of one big one for the boil (between them both I managed to fit in only 2 gallons of wort, out of a 5 gallon batch). OG ended up a whopping 1.103!!! I believe this is due to high evaporation (and I suspect that the specialty grains soaked a large amount of water up).
OK so now fermentation. It took less than a week to drop to 1.040, but we're at 2.5 weeks now and it doesn't seem to be budging from 1.038. Even after swishing the carboy around a few days ago.
I'm perfectly happy with the taste and sweetness of this beer. But if I bottle at FG 1.038, is this a bottle bomb waiting to happen? Or does one of the following scenarios sufficiently explain the phenomenon:
- The yeast (S-33) has reached its alcohol tolerance, and cannot ferment the brew further. (The beer is at either 8.5% or 9.5% ABV, depending on what formula you use.)
- Not enough yeast pitched (1 packet, rehydrated & proofed, and lots of hand-aeration).
- Small boil volume has reduced efficacy of process to break down sugars, leaving unfermentable sweetener in the mix.
- Small boil volume has increased caramelization of sugars, rendering them unfermentable. (Seems likely due to flavor.)
- Large amounts of Mystery Proteins in the wort (evidenced by foam that never stopped appearing in one of the pots).
- Divine intervention / household hobgoblin / angry ghosts of Belgian beer crafters.
Fermentation temp is not an issue. It hasn't gone below 25C/77F during the entire fermentation.
I'd appreciate any insight. Especially "just bottle it and it will be fine". I'm hoping for that one.