Homebrewers Association | AHA Forum

General Category => All Grain Brewing => Topic started by: nateo on April 28, 2012, 10:07:10 PM

Title: Stupid high gravity brew
Post by: nateo on April 28, 2012, 10:07:10 PM
I'm trying to figure out a way to brew Avery's Mephistopheles. Years ago I talked to one of the brewers about this briefly, and IIRC he said they start at 1.146, and just pitch fresh yeast everyday until it's done. Since I don't have access to tons of free yeast, I'm thinking of dividing the fermentables into three additions:

Step 1: 8L @ 1.080, ferment to 1.020
Step 2: Add 8L @ 1.155, new gravity 1.087
Step 3: Add 2L @ 1.376

Step 1 would be an otherwise "normal" beer, and step 3 would be just dextrose and turbinado. I'm not sure about step 2. I haven't mashed a beer that large before. What efficiency should I expect? I'm planning on a long boil for that one.

My reasoning for doing it this way is to keep the pressure on the yeast as low as possible, and to be able to start out with a reasonably sized initial pitch.

Any thoughts?
Title: Re: Stupid high gravity brew
Post by: erockrph on April 29, 2012, 04:29:13 AM
I don't have any experience with this, but this sounds kind of similar to how they brewed the Dogfish 120 on Can You Brew It. IIRC, they did do a second pitch of WLP099 after the initial ferment, and then continuously fed it dextrose every 12-24 hours until yeast activity died off. I'd definitely check out that episode if you haven't yet.
Title: Re: Stupid high gravity brew
Post by: tygo on April 29, 2012, 12:52:20 PM
Last time I made a 1.127 wee heavy I got 70% efficiency.  Since it's all malt I don't have the option of feeding it so it all goes in at once on top of the yeast cake from a 70/-.  Your plan sounds like it would work fine.
Title: Re: Stupid high gravity brew
Post by: nateo on April 29, 2012, 01:19:50 PM
I guess my main questions is, "What's the most efficient way to get 8L of 1.155 wort?" I have a couple pounds of DME, but I'm worried about the extract adding unfermentable sugar.

What's the practical upper limit for the gravity from first runnings? What's the grist-to-water ratio at that limit? Like I said, I haven't mashed anything that big before, so I don't really know what I'm doing.
Title: Re: Stupid high gravity brew
Post by: tygo on April 29, 2012, 01:48:41 PM
I don't have an exact answer to your question but for the beer I mentioned above I mashed 29.5 lbs and got 20 liters from the first runoff with a SG of 1.095.  If you took about 13 liters of that and boiled it down to 8L you would have a wort with a gravity of 1.155.

So you could do that and then use the rest of the first runnings and the second runnings to make another beer.

On my system, this beer represents the practical upper limit for me.  But it could be different for others.
Title: Stupid high gravity brew
Post by: andrew000141 on April 29, 2012, 02:27:51 PM
One of the other guys sort of suggested this but you should use dextrose over DME. You won't have to worry about unfermentable sugars that way
Title: Re: Stupid high gravity brew
Post by: nateo on April 29, 2012, 02:29:29 PM
Tygo - That's great. How thick was your mash?

Beersmith isn't very useful for what I'm trying to do, so I know I'll have to do some on-the-fly calculations when I'm brewing the second half of the wort.
Title: Re: Stupid high gravity brew
Post by: nateo on April 29, 2012, 02:30:49 PM
One of the other guys sort of suggested this but you should use dextrose over DME. You won't have to worry about unfermentable sugars that way

I'm planning on using 20% dextrose and turbinado already, and that's about as much I'm willing to go. Mephistopheles is thick, so I don't want to dry it out too much.
Title: Re: Stupid high gravity brew
Post by: tygo on April 29, 2012, 02:40:15 PM
How thick was your mash?

Ratio was 1.25.  29.50 lbs into 36.25 qts and lost about 14.25 qts to absorption in the tun.

And my actual first runnings were about 20L (corrected above post).  I was forgetting the gallon I pulled off to boil down.  So my efficiency was actually a little better than what I posted above.  More like 78%.
Title: Re: Stupid high gravity brew
Post by: kylekohlmorgen on April 30, 2012, 03:15:52 PM
...I have a couple pounds of DME, but I'm worried about the extract adding unfermentable sugar...

Since you're using 20% dextrose/turbinado with the WLP099, I think you're OK here. Meph IS pretty thick... does Avery use sugar when they brew it?

How about aeration? What's your plan? Seems like taking it to three steps would give you less of a window to aerate than if you started bigger, aerated longer into fermentation, and then dosed out those 2L of sugar solution at the end (DFH does it this way).
Title: Re: Stupid high gravity brew
Post by: rjharper on April 30, 2012, 03:28:09 PM
This was my recent attempt.  OG 1.13 down to 1.028.  Things I learnt;

I mashed at 151, go lower, plenty of non fermentables.
I added the sugars after the boil, add them to the fermenter at high krausen
I oxygenated heavily at pitching, I should have done it again later.
I used a full yeast cake of WLP007, it got to 1.042, then I had to grow up 099 and repitch late to the game.  Pitch the 099 earlier when there's less alcohol to impede.
Ferment cool and slow.

I added bourbon soaked oak cubes for a month.  I love the overall flavor, just wish it was ever so slightly drier.  This scored 41 at Bluebonnet last month.


BeerSmith 2 Recipe Printout - http://www.beersmith.com
Recipe: 082 Tzar Bomba RIS
Brewer: Ross Harper
Asst Brewer:
Style: Imperial Stout
TYPE: All Grain

Recipe Specifications
--------------------------
Boil Size: 10.74 gal
Post Boil Volume: 6.24 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 6.00 gal   
Bottling Volume: 6.00 gal
Estimated OG: 1.134 SG
Estimated Color: 66.0 SRM
Estimated IBU: 89.9 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 68.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 58.7 %
Boil Time: 180 Minutes

Ingredients:
------------
Amt                   Name                                     Type          #        %/IBU         
18 lbs                Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)           Grain         1        58.1 %       
4 lbs                 Munich Malt (9.0 SRM)                    Grain         2        12.9 %       
1 lbs                 Carafa III (525.0 SRM)                   Grain         3        3.2 %         
1 lbs                 Chocolate Malt (350.0 SRM)               Grain         4        3.2 %         
1 lbs                 Coffee Malt (150.0 SRM)                  Grain         5        3.2 %         
1 lbs                 Oats, Flaked (1.0 SRM)                   Grain         6        3.2 %         
1 lbs                 Roasted Barley (300.0 SRM)               Grain         7        3.2 %         
1 lbs                 Wheat, Flaked (1.6 SRM)                  Grain         8        3.2 %         
2.00 oz               Galena [13.20 %] - Boil 60.0 min         Hop           9        72.1 IBUs     
1 lbs                 Treacle [Boil for 15 min](100.0 SRM)     Extract       10       3.2 %         
2.00 tsp              Irish Moss (Boil 15.0 mins)              Fining        11       -             
1.00 oz               Galena [13.20 %] - Boil 15.0 min         Hop           12       17.9 IBUs     
1.0 pkg               Dry English Ale (White Labs #WLP007) [35 Yeast         13       -             
1.09 Items            Oxygen (Primary 2.0 mins)                Other         14       -             
2 lbs                 Dememera Sugar (2.0 SRM)                 Sugar         15       6.5 %         
1.0 pkg               Super High Gravity Ale (White Labs #WLP0 Yeast         16       -             


Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Light Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 31 lbs
----------------------------
Name              Description                             Step Temperat Step Time     
Mash In           Add 8.7 gal of water at 162.6 F         151.0 F       120 min       

Sparge: Batch sparge with 2 steps (0.20gal, 5.50gal) of 170.0 F water
Title: Re: Stupid high gravity brew
Post by: nateo on April 30, 2012, 04:31:51 PM
Since you're using 20% dextrose/turbinado with the WLP099, I think you're OK here. Meph IS pretty thick... does Avery use sugar when they brew it?

How about aeration? What's your plan? Seems like taking it to three steps would give you less of a window to aerate than if you started bigger, aerated longer into fermentation, and then dosed out those 2L of sugar solution at the end (DFH does it this way).

Avery uses Turbinado in all of the big Belgians, or at least did circa 2009 when I lived in Boulder. They don't list it on the website, but I remember the brewer talking about how stupidly expensive it was compared to plain table sugar, but they felt it was worth the price. IIRC at that time they used 3787 for their "Demon" series.

I don't have a way to oxygenate, and I'm hoping that by dividing the fermentables and keeping the gravity low, I can coax the yeast to ferment it out reasonably well. I'm planning on front-loading the harder-to-ferment sugars, so I can use a champagne yeast if necessary to ferment the simple sugar addition.

RJ - Thanks for the feedback and recipe. Definitely food for thought. I'm thinking of using a reverse-mash technique (160*>140*), IIRC like Budweiser uses to brew a highly attenuative wort without additional enzymes.

I've noticed (and Denny mentioned in his article in the latest Zymurgy) when using bourbon, or bourbon soaked oak, that the vanilla in the bourbon exaggerates the perception of sweetness.
Title: Re: Stupid high gravity brew
Post by: Joe Sr. on April 30, 2012, 07:35:54 PM
I don't have a way to oxygenate, and I'm hoping that by dividing the fermentables and keeping the gravity low, I can coax the yeast to ferment it out reasonably well. I'm planning on front-loading the harder-to-ferment sugars, so I can use a champagne yeast if necessary to ferment the simple sugar addition.

I don't recommend using champagne yeast.  I've done it, as well as using wine yeast.  I didn't care for the results too much.  I found it to be perceptible in the flavor of the beer (a BDS).

As far as oxygenating your wort there are some pretty simple ways to do so.  If you run it through a screen filter as you transfer to your fermenter that should add some oxygen (though not likely the amounts you'll need).  Lots of people use the mix-stir which is economical and doesn't require much in the way of equipment (a drill).

As far as access to "tons of free yeast" you could hold some back from your initial pitch, grow it up in a starter (hold back some wort, too) and pitch that again later once the initial fermentation seems to be slowing down.  I'd rather do this than turn to the champagne yeast.

I have also found that bourbon adds a sweetness to beer.

Good luck.  Sounds tasty.
Title: Re: Stupid high gravity brew
Post by: nateo on April 30, 2012, 07:53:24 PM
Joe - You're probably right about the champagne yeast, although a BDS with champagne character sounds good to me.

I might look into using WLP099. I haven't used that one before. I've gotten S-04 to get up to 13%ABV with a lot of love, so I think under the right conditions a lot of yeast can tolerate high gravity.

I can aerate pretty well, but I don't have an O2 pump.
Title: Re: Stupid high gravity brew
Post by: Joe Sr. on April 30, 2012, 08:14:58 PM
I should clarify my "I didn't care for the results too much" statement.

The BDS with champagne yeast wasn't bad, but I didn't expect to notice the champagne yeast as much as I did.

I also used wine yeast on a high gravity beer to finish it, and the beer is very tasty (and strong).  I brewed it in 2006 after I resigned my last job and still have a bottle or two somewhere.  It definitely has a "winey" character to it though.

IME you'll get very different and perceptible flavors from both champagne and wine yeast, so if you're shooting for a true clone they're probably not what you want.

On the other hand, they will definitely help to finish the beer to a lower gravity.
Title: Re: Stupid high gravity brew
Post by: nateo on April 30, 2012, 08:21:20 PM
One of the best beers I've made was a sour fermented with wine yeast. Wine yeast definitely has a flavor contribution, and in certain cases it's great. I think you're right about wine yeast not being the best choice for this beer, though. I'm shooting for something close, but not a clone per se.
Title: Re: Stupid high gravity brew
Post by: rjharper on April 30, 2012, 08:25:53 PM
One of the best beers I've made was a sour fermented with wine yeast. Wine yeast definitely has a flavor contribution, and in certain cases it's great. I think you're right about wine yeast not being the best choice for this beer, though. I'm shooting for something close, but not a clone per se.

I'd run with wlp099 if you could.
Title: Re: Stupid high gravity brew
Post by: kylekohlmorgen on April 30, 2012, 08:27:40 PM
I think making a beer THIS big with out pure O2 is risky business.

The WLP099 may be able to handle it, but without proper nutrition/aeration it may give you some funky resuts. I've never used this strain, but White Labs cautions that its finnicky and needs a lot of TLC to reduce off-flavors.
Title: Re: Stupid high gravity brew
Post by: nateo on April 30, 2012, 08:38:54 PM
I'm sure you're right about O2. It's been many years since I've had to dump a batch. I'll roll the dice on T-58 and normal aeration, and either dump it if I need to, or revise my planned sugar additions and aim for a lower gravity.

I'm concerned with how finnicky WLP099 is purported to be. Since I'm not going over 15% ABV I think that's do-able with "normal" yeast, but I might be fantastically wrong. Either way, I'll let you guys know how it turns out. I probably won't get a chance to brew this one for a few weeks yet. 
Title: Re: Stupid high gravity brew
Post by: kylekohlmorgen on May 01, 2012, 01:43:15 PM
Sounds good - please update with how it goes - I don't feel like I see enough follow-up after a thread has run its course!
Title: Re: Stupid high gravity brew
Post by: nateo on May 01, 2012, 02:11:12 PM
Sounds good - please update with how it goes - I don't feel like I see enough follow-up after a thread has run its course!

I don't mind looking dumb, so I'll let you know what a horrible success/failure it turned out to be.
Title: Re: Stupid high gravity brew
Post by: nateo on July 26, 2012, 04:19:34 PM
I've got the first round in the fermentor now. I had a yeast cake left over from a Dubbel, so I'm using that instead of trying to build up a regular starter. It's a blend of Ardennes (3522) and T-58. Avery has tweaked their recipe since I started thinking about this, so their OG is lower now.

Depending on my actual volume and gravity of stage two, I'll adjust the volume and gravity in stage 3 to target 30L with a cumulative gravity of 1.135. I'll be splitting that in half to age it. I had a version called "meph addict" at the Avery tap room years ago where they dumped a pound of coffee into a keg of Mephistopheles, so I'll age 1/2 on oak, and 1/2 on oak with coffee beans.

Here's my basic plan:

Stage 1 (completed)
Size: 11L
OG: 1.073

2kg Floor-malted pils
400g Aromatic
400g Special B
200g Carafa II
200g Black Barley

50g Magnum (10%) @ -60min

1tbsp yeast energizer

Stage 2:
Size: 17L
OG: 1.105

7kg F-M pils
500g Black barley
400g Carafa II

100g Magnum (10%) @-60min

1tbsp yeast energizer

Add yeast cake from tripel that's currently fermenting

Stage 3:
Size: TBD
OG: TBD

50% Turbinado
50% Dextrose
Title: Re: Stupid high gravity brew
Post by: nateo on August 09, 2012, 10:34:00 PM
Stage 2 made it into the fermentation chamber. It's split into two buckets, and I dumped another yeast cake of Ardennes into them.

Recipe I ended up with:
9kg FMPils,
670g roasted barley
230g Carafa II

100g Magnum -90min

Stage 2 OG/volume: 1.117 / 16.75L
Total from stage 1 plus new yeast cake: 1.019 / 13.25
Updated gravity: 1.070 / 30L

I'm at 1.093 cumulative gravity at this point. Once it's made it through this stage, I'll be adding sugar for 8L @ 1.200 to bring the batch gravity up to 1.116.
Title: Re: Stupid high gravity brew
Post by: mihalybaci on August 09, 2012, 11:25:31 PM
What is your fermentation temperature? I've been thinking about making a port-like beer similar to Sam Adam's Utopias using a similar method of stepping up the gravity. I don't want to add any spirits (as in "Radical Brewing") to get a high ABV though, so I'm very curious as to how the method works. good luck!
Title: Re: Stupid high gravity brew
Post by: nateo on August 10, 2012, 01:56:32 AM
What is your fermentation temperature? I've been thinking about making a port-like beer similar to Sam Adam's Utopias using a similar method of stepping up the gravity. I don't want to add any spirits (as in "Radical Brewing") to get a high ABV though, so I'm very curious as to how the method works. good luck!

Freezer is set to 56*. Johnson controller cycles down -4* from setpoint. In the real deal Mephistopheles they use 3787 (or equivalent) and pitch fresh yeast every day until it hits terminal gravity. I don't wanna deal with that, so I'm stepping it up to be as nice to the yeast as I can. 
Title: Re: Stupid high gravity brew
Post by: a10t2 on August 10, 2012, 03:26:08 AM
Sorry I missed this thread the first time around. Maybe it's too late, but this may still be helpful: http://forum.northernbrewer.com/viewtopic.php?t=65941
Title: Re: Stupid high gravity brew
Post by: erockrph on August 10, 2012, 12:44:25 PM
Thanks for keeping us posted. How did you manage with your efficiency on this wort addition? Did you sparge at all?

I just did my first high-gravity brew a couple of weeks ago and I was surprised to see that I was right in my usual efficiency ballpark even though my mash was on the thicker side (for BIAB at least - 1.82 qt/lb). I don't have a refractometer, so I don't know my preboil gravity, but after my usual 90-minute boil I got a 1.110 wort.

I seem to hear "well, I don't know how well BIAB would work for a high-gravity beer" a lot, but it didn't seem to really affect my efficiency. I don't have my system 100% dialed in yet, so take this with a grain of salt, but I won't hesitate to brew barleyines/IIPAs/Quads/etc with my current setup going forward.
Title: Re: Stupid high gravity brew
Post by: nateo on August 10, 2012, 04:23:32 PM
I'm not exactly sure what the efficiency was, because it was an unevenly split partigyle. I don't think it was great, but it wasn't awful either. I think the mash efficiency was about 85%. I collected 23.5L of 1.085 wort, and boiled for about 120min to get to 16.75L of 1.117 wort. I also collected about 17L of 1.037 wort for a different beer. I sparged twice for the first beer, one more time for the last one. I could've sparged again to get some more gravity, but I didn't need it.

One of the nice things about brewing this beer in stages is that I don't really have to stress about hitting my gravity at any point, since I can make up the difference with the next addition.
Title: Re: Stupid high gravity brew
Post by: nateo on August 10, 2012, 04:32:32 PM
Sorry I missed this thread the first time around. Maybe it's too late, but this may still be helpful: http://forum.northernbrewer.com/viewtopic.php?t=65941

Wow Sean, we have much different definitions of "stupid high gravity." Anything over 1.100 is stupid high to me. 1.214 is pretty crazy.
Title: Re: Stupid high gravity brew
Post by: nateo on August 15, 2012, 02:39:09 PM
Step three is in the fermentor. Kraeusen was still high but gravity was down to 1.025 when I added step three. Didn't take into account how large the volume of sugar would be, so I ended up with 9.75L @ 1.170 instead of 8L @ 1.200. Cumulative gravity was 1.112, so not too far off my target. Lowered the ferm temp to 54* when I added the sugar.

The base beer was surprisingly clean. Definitely warm alcohol, but fusels were very low. Bitterness and roasted character were too high, but we'll see how it ends up after the sugar additions.

I didn't have enough turbinado on hand, so I subbed a portion of brown sugar.

Step 3:
8L of water
718g turbinado
894g brown sugar
891g fructose
1391g cane
456g dextrose
Title: Re: Stupid high gravity brew
Post by: AmandaK on August 16, 2012, 02:19:26 PM
Very interesting. Thank you for updating this, I've been following it for a bit and may try something of the sort in the near future.

Thanks!
Title: Re: Stupid high gravity brew
Post by: nateo on August 28, 2012, 01:30:40 AM
Checked the gravity today. It was 1.008! That puts the ABV at ~13.9%. The kraesen had dropped, so I think it's done. There's still some aging I want to do with it, but I think I succeeded in making it pretty balanced and drinkable. Alcohol isn't crazy. Very warm, but smooth. Nice rummy character. Not quite as dark as I wanted it to be, and not as "stout-like" as I remember Avery's being. It's roasty, and it's black in the glass, but it's red-to-amber around the edges. The roasty gives way to the rummy really quickly. Next time I'll up the black/roasted barley, and not use the carafa. I think the carafa was too subtle.

I'll be adding American oak to both, and coffee beans (grounds?) to one. Any recommendations for how much coffee to add?

FWIW Avery changed the stats for Meph on their website again, so I'm not really sure what recipe they're using these days. The last one I had was about 15% ABV, IIRC, so mine is a bit lighter alcohol than I was shooting for.
Title: Re: Stupid high gravity brew
Post by: Joe Sr. on August 28, 2012, 02:22:17 PM
The last one I had was about 15% ABV, IIRC, so mine is a bit lighter alcohol than I was shooting for.

My BDS came in around 12%, and that was scary strong, at least for me.  Served it for my 40th birthday party and people loved it, but I kept warning them about the power.  I should have heeded my own advice.

As for adding coffee, the last time I did it I simply brewed espresso and added it to taste.  Lots of different approaches, though, such as cold brewed, dry beaning, etc.
Title: Re: Stupid high gravity brew
Post by: nateo on August 28, 2012, 03:03:10 PM
My liver is probably happy I didn't hit my target. Meph is an over-the-top, thick, huge stout. What I made is more to my taste, and much more "drinkable" but not really a good clone of the commercial version. I probably used too much simple sugar. Next time, maybe closer to 10% of the grist, and turbinado only. Hopefully the oaking and coffee will add some texture/structure to complement the flavors.

It's hard to tell for sure before it's carbonated, but the flavors are solid. I think the hop bitterness is appropriate. I was looking for aggressive roasty stout and rummy flavors. I think it's more balanced toward rummy than roasty. I wanted a thicker mouthfeel, but the oak may help that.

Overall, it was a very clean ferment with no excessive fusels. The hydro sample was deceptively smooth, and it's only a month old. I'd say that the way I did the incremental feedings, with low ferm temps, can be used to keep stress on yeast low, minimize off-flavors, and induce high attenuation in a stressful environment. From 1.112 to 1.008 is nearly 93% apparent attenuation, which was beyond what I was expecting.