I would like to make a higher gravity beer, an Amber specifically. With the yeast (Dry Yeast - Safale S-04) I currently use, I get stuck at about 5.8% ABV (SG 1.074, current gravity 1.030). Do I need yeast starter? Do I need to use a different type of yeast? Are some yeasts better in more alcoholic conditions?

  • Any idea how old the yeast is? Was this part of a kit, and if so, is there a date anywhere on it? Did you aerate the wort before you added the yeast (this is very important). – Scott Apr 24 '14 at 15:47
  • It was part of a kit. I don't have the box anymore :( . However, the store I get it from has a homebrewing section that the store keeps well managed and in date. I poured from a bottling bucket (no tube, just the spigot) into the carboy, added the yeast, then gave a light swirl. – BryceH Apr 24 '14 at 16:19
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    I'm hedging my bets on unfermentable extract mixed with lack of aeration. Read more about aeration in the question: When is aeration good and/or bad in homebrewing?. – Scott Apr 24 '14 at 16:43
  • Someone mentioned offhandedly that there is a nutrient mixture to help re-excite the yeast. Is there truth to this, and if so can someone point me in a direction of what to get? – BryceH Apr 24 '14 at 17:13
  • At this point yeast nutrient isn't going to help you. It would have benefited from a tsp during the boil, but obviously it's well past that. At this point, I'd recommend searching this site for stuck fermentations and using some of the techniques found to fix this batch. – Scott Apr 24 '14 at 17:23

White labs Super High Gravity (WLP099) yeast claims to be alcohol tolerant up to 25% ABV. Normally most ale yeast shouldn't have a problem with 1.074 sg. Perhaps a yeast starter or better temperature control is needed.

But for a stuck fermentation right now pitch some champagne yeast. It won't mess with the flavor and is great to get the gravity down. It is very commonly used for RIS and Barley wines.

  • A lot of good information but this is the best answer I've seen thus far! Thanks! – BryceH Apr 30 '14 at 23:42

5.8% ABV is not considered "higher gravity". There should be no problem S-04 or most any dry or liquid yeast up until closer to 10% ABV.

It sounds like your fermentation is either stuck or simply not complete.

When did you brew? What size packet of S-04? Did you pitch the whole packet? What fermentation temperature? Did you do anything for aeration/oxygenation of wort? What was your brewing procedure; did you do a full-volume boil, or top up with water?

  • I get that 5.8% isn't a higher gravity beer. I was wondering if the yeast I am using is not able to thrive as the beer becomes more alcoholic. Which is why I keep getting stuck right around 5.8%. – BryceH Apr 24 '14 at 14:59
  • To answer your questions though. 2 weeks ago, the packet that is about the size of a wet-wipe packet, 67-72º, I've gently shaken the fermentation vessel twice after it got stuck at 1.030 over a week ago, a 3 gallon boil with 2.5 gallons cold water topped off. – BryceH Apr 24 '14 at 15:01
  • There's 4-5 questions for clarification here - they should be in the question comments. – mdma Apr 24 '14 at 15:01
  • Was this an extract beer? – Denny Conn Apr 24 '14 at 15:47
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    That can easily explain it. When using extract, it's not a bad idea to replace 10-20% of the extract with table sugar to ensure fermentability. That's what I've done when I designed extract kits of my all grain recipes fro Northern brewer. The extract versions them turned out remarkably similar to the AG versions. – Denny Conn Apr 24 '14 at 16:44

Wort is what determines fermentability in general, not yeast. Almost any ale yeast can easily ferment a 10+% beer. But if you don't make a fermentable wort, the yeast doesn't matter. Many times extract beers are less fermentable due to the way the extract is made. An all grain beer mashed at a high temperature or with large amounts of less fermentable malts like crystal can finish high, also. If you have consistently high FGs, look first at your recipe and ingredients.

  • Good info. I will post the exact ingredients when I get home. I've made a 9.3% ABV Red by adding some extra grains and DME, it just seems to get stuck at a higher FG on the Amber for some reason... – BryceH Apr 24 '14 at 16:24
  • You gotta work at it to get an ordinary English Strain like S-04 to get up to 10% ABV even if the wort is super fermentable. I use it a lot and find that with many English strains when they get to a certain amount of attenuation they are ready to flocculate out. Good O2 levels at the beginning and carefully monitoring the temperature input is the only way to get something like S-04 to go that high. If you let the temp start to drop they start shutting down. YMMV – brewchez Apr 25 '14 at 11:58
  • But that's becasue of flocculation, not alcohol tolerence. I've used S-04 for a 10% BW and you just have to keep rousing it and raising the temp. – Denny Conn Apr 25 '14 at 15:04

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