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I have a barleywine in progress that seems to have stalled around 9% ABV with some residual sweetness I'd like to try and reduce. After 2.5 weeks in primary all activity had stopped so I racked off to fresh fermentor. Two more weeks with agitation and SG hasn't really fallen any more.

I'm thinking of pitching Safale US-05 to see if it can drop it a few more SG points. I've found little advice on how to prepare yeast for such a toxic environment. This comment in a post about preparing a starter argues it's a pointless exercise as only 'unhealthy' yeast will result from highly alcoholic environments. Sounds a bit wonky to me - I'd expect unhealthy yeast to die and the survivors to be more resilient..

My own idea would be to rehydrate as usual in ~25°C water for ~15 mins, then slowly add barleywine over another 30 mins or so to gradually bring it up to 9% before pitching. Seems more likely to give them a chance to adapt than by pitching straight from being rehydrated.

All views on this from those with relevant experience very much appreciated.


Edit: Details of (slightly experimental) recipe. Batch ~15L approx - all quantities are estimates as I used the parti-gyle split method..

Mash - 60 mins @ 67°C (target temps hit)

  • 5.0 kg Marris Otter Pale
  • 0.2 kg Crystal 120

Boil additions

  • 0.1 kg roasted barley ('tea' from cold steep)
  • 0.5 kg light DME

Nottingham yeast

OG 1.083 | FG 1.016

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No worries...05 will perform fine without anything special. Rehydrate it for best performance and then just toss it in. I've gone to 12% ABV with it with no issues. But my question is, how do you know it's the yeast? Why isn't it a fermentability of wort issues? Tell us more about your recipe and procedure in order to help figure out what's going on.

  • Thanks Denny. Recipe details added. Any comments? – geotheory Jul 27 '15 at 16:58
  • OK, I don't see a lot of unfermentables there in terms of ingredients. The extract will be to some extent, but there's not a lot of that. Nottingham should have no trouble at all dealing with a 1.083 beer. However, since the gravity hasn't fallen further, I really suspect that fermentation is done. I also think that's a fine FG for a 1.083 beer. Is there some particular reason you want it lower or think it should be? – Denny Conn Jul 27 '15 at 19:32
  • One thing you can do is try a fast ferment test (sometimes called a forced ferment test). That will tell you is it's the wort or the yeast. Take a sample and put it in a container like a jar. Add a LOT of yeast to it...it can even be bread yeast. All we want to do is find out how low that wort will ferment. Leave it in a warm place for a few days, then take a reading again. If it's dropped, you know there's still fermentation to be done. If it hasn't, the beer is finished. – Denny Conn Jul 27 '15 at 19:32
  • Hmmm, yeah maybe it is done. It is still a bit sweet though, although perhaps that'll reduce after 3 months conditioning. I've pitched the 05 anyway to see if there's any effect. – geotheory Jul 27 '15 at 21:16
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    Keep in mind that sweetness can be as much due to lack of hops as fermentation. Also, alcohol adds sweetness, so stronger beers will seem sweeter. – Denny Conn Jul 28 '15 at 15:27

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