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General Category => Kegging and Bottling => Topic started by: Brewtopalonian on November 26, 2017, 07:49:09 PM

Title: Belgian Strong Ale Bottles
Post by: Brewtopalonian on November 26, 2017, 07:49:09 PM
Hi All!

I'm a keg brewer for the most part.  I haven't bottled since I got my kegerator and switched to all grain batches.  However, I am going to be making a Duvel Clone next week (I know, bottling is a ways off).  From everything I've read, it seems as though bottling is really the only way to go for a Belgian Golden Strong Ale as the carbonation is different (I'm not here to debate this, it's simply the overwhelming majority of brewers believe this makes a difference in this ale).  I was wondering if you had any suggestions for the type of bottles to use for this?  I will be carbonating to 3-4 vols, which is a lot more than most beers I've brewed.  I'm guessing this is what gives Duvel its champagne like mouth feel.  Will standard beer bottles and caps be able to withstand this pressure?  My LHBS has "Belgian Beer Bottles w/corks", is this a gimmick or is it designed for exactly this purpose?  Is the glass stronger than typical beer bottles?  If I go this route, should I get champagne wire caps for the corks? 

Thanks for any suggestions!  I'm really excited to brew this beer!
Title: Re: Belgian Strong Ale Bottles
Post by: dmtaylor on November 26, 2017, 08:57:32 PM
You don't need to bottle this.  I doubt that the "overwhelming majority of brewers believe this makes a difference in this ale".

I've been bottling exclusively for ~150 batches since 1999.  I never use more than 3/4 cup priming sugar for 5 gallons.  It's not worth the gushers you'll get if you do.
Title: Re: Belgian Strong Ale Bottles
Post by: Brewtopalonian on November 26, 2017, 09:12:17 PM
Thanks Dave.  I think you've just given me my next experiment.  I'll try a double blind study with some overly enthusiastic participants to see if they can tell the difference between a beer I've force carbonated in a keg vs. a bottle carbonated beer.   :D

I say "the overwhelming majority of brewers believe this makes a difference in this ale" because for the dozens of recipes I've read for Duvel, there tends to be an agreement in regards to bottling vs kegging.  However, for the life of me I can't find any info on whether or not they used special bottles for this.
Title: Re: Belgian Strong Ale Bottles
Post by: denny on November 26, 2017, 09:36:09 PM
I once did an experiment where I force carbed beer and also bottled it with table sugar, brown sugar, honey and a few other things I don't recall.  It was really difficult to try to get the all carbed to the same level, but I think I got pretty close.  I gave them 2 months for the CO2 to absorb.  When people tried them, no one could tell one from another nor had a preference for any of them.
Title: Re: Belgian Strong Ale Bottles
Post by: denny on November 26, 2017, 09:36:42 PM
Thanks Dave.  I think you've just given me my next experiment.  I'll try a double blind study with some overly enthusiastic participants to see if they can tell the difference between a beer I've force carbonated in a keg vs. a bottle carbonated beer.   :D

I say "the overwhelming majority of brewers believe this makes a difference in this ale" because for the dozens of recipes I've read for Duvel, there tends to be an agreement in regards to bottling vs kegging.  However, for the life of me I can't find any info on whether or not they used special bottles for this.

You need to use bottles with a punt in the bottom, like champagne bottles.
Title: Re: Belgian Strong Ale Bottles
Post by: Brewtopalonian on November 26, 2017, 09:45:43 PM
Awesome, thanks for the input!  Champagne bottles sounds like fun.  It also sounds expensive.  Either way it's going to be a fun brew, can't wait to try it.  I'll be trying some new techniques that I haven't done before such as step mashing and cold conditioning and letting the yeast raise the temp of the beer to 81... Things that don't normally make sense. 
Title: Re: Belgian Strong Ale Bottles
Post by: Nathan on November 27, 2017, 01:25:20 AM
I’ve had good luck with 1 l and . 5 l swing tops bottling this style of ale   I’d say that the yeast and warm temps have a lot to do with the carbonation level I would be hesitant to put more than a cup of priming sugar in 5 gallons batch


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Title: Re: Belgian Strong Ale Bottles
Post by: Brewtopalonian on November 27, 2017, 04:57:52 AM
I’ve had good luck with 1 l and . 5 l swing tops bottling this style of ale   I’d say that the yeast and warm temps have a lot to do with the carbonation level I would be hesitant to put more than a cup of priming sugar in 5 gallons batch


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The recipe calls for a little over 5 ounces by weight of corn sugar... Does that sound right?
Title: Re: Belgian Strong Ale Bottles
Post by: Nathan on November 27, 2017, 06:46:36 AM
I’ve had good luck with 1 l and . 5 l swing tops bottling this style of ale   I’d say that the yeast and warm temps have a lot to do with the carbonation level I would be hesitant to put more than a cup of priming sugar in 5 gallons batch


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The recipe calls for a little over 5 ounces by weight of corn sugar... Does that sound right?
Cup weighs about 7 ounces so 5 would be fine just over 3/4 cup


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Title: Re: Belgian Strong Ale Bottles
Post by: ethinson on November 27, 2017, 02:50:54 PM
Is there a reason to do the carb up that high? Just "to style"? 4 volumes is close to soda/champagne levels and that seems a little excessive. 

In my experience I haven't had any issues with standard 12 and 22oz beer bottles and crown caps, for my Belgian Dark Strong, even with bottle conditioning for over a year.  But I also set my carbonation level at 2.7 or so volumes.  I've never gotten feedback that it was undercarbed, but to each their own.

If you do the corks you absolutely need the cage to hold it (unless you put the cork all the way in and cap over top of it, but with the style bottle you describe I don't think you can do that).
Title: Re: Belgian Strong Ale Bottles
Post by: dmtaylor on November 27, 2017, 04:03:01 PM
In my experience I haven't had any issues with standard 12 and 22oz beer bottles and crown caps, for my Belgian Dark Strong, even with bottle conditioning for over a year.  But I also set my carbonation level at 2.7 or so volumes.  I've never gotten feedback that it was undercarbed, but to each their own.

+1, ditto, bingo.  Fully carbonated at a reasonable 2.3-2.7 volumes CO2 has NEVER been considered "undercarbonated" in my experience either.
Title: Re: Belgian Strong Ale Bottles
Post by: Stevie on November 27, 2017, 04:10:36 PM
I’ve been dinged for under carb in a saison. That was 3 volumes. The “effervescent” descriptor was cited and the judge said it should have been champagne like.
Title: Re: Belgian Strong Ale Bottles
Post by: dmtaylor on November 27, 2017, 06:35:10 PM
I’ve been dinged for under carb in a saison. That was 3 volumes. The “effervescent” descriptor was cited and the judge said it should have been champagne like.

Was it a gusher?  No?  Then I doubt it was truly 3 volumes.  Something odd happened in the bottling or bottle-priming process.  Maybe the yeast was really tired, or temperature effects, or.... I'd have to be there to know for sure.

Also keep in mind.... individual judges are human.  Was this beer entered into at least 2 or 3 competitions?  Or was this just one judge's opinion?  Did you agree with his opinion, or not?
Title: Re: Belgian Strong Ale Bottles
Post by: Stevie on November 27, 2017, 06:59:53 PM
No it wasn’t a gusher, both of the judges noted it, and all other bottles were fine to my memory and I bottled primed off of a keg so the sugar was well dissolved. Beer scored well enough otherwise. Actually the judges notes were near identical which leads me to think one judge influenced the other too much.

You said it doesn’t matter in your experience and I mentioned a case in mine where it did.
Title: Re: Belgian Strong Ale Bottles
Post by: dmtaylor on November 27, 2017, 09:16:48 PM
You said it doesn’t matter in your experience and I mentioned a case in mine where it did.

Fair enough.

the judges notes were near identical which leads me to think one judge influenced the other too much.

...And that is typical and unfortunate, and why I rarely enter competitions anymore... besides the fact that half my beers suck pretty bad.  ;)
Title: Re: Belgian Strong Ale Bottles
Post by: Brewtopalonian on November 27, 2017, 10:38:49 PM
Thanks guys, this is all super useful input. I believe I'm going to go for a "Pilsner Champagne" if you will.  So, yes, perhaps I will use champagne bottles and cork them with wire cages. I'll post a pick in a couple months.
Title: Re: Belgian Strong Ale Bottles
Post by: klickitat jim on November 29, 2017, 11:58:20 AM
I don't believe people can tell the difference between 2.5 volumes and 3 unless they are side by side. A 2.5 that is a few degrees warmer will be just like a 3... but I do think that people can mistake a 3.5 or higher for a gusher. They see side flowing out and immediately think infection. They will then imagine a slew of off flavors.

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Title: Re: Belgian Strong Ale Bottles
Post by: Big Monk on December 07, 2017, 04:32:31 AM
Thanks Dave.  I think you've just given me my next experiment.  I'll try a double blind study with some overly enthusiastic participants to see if they can tell the difference between a beer I've force carbonated in a keg vs. a bottle carbonated beer.   :D

I say "the overwhelming majority of brewers believe this makes a difference in this ale" because for the dozens of recipes I've read for Duvel, there tends to be an agreement in regards to bottling vs kegging.  However, for the life of me I can't find any info on whether or not they used special bottles for this.

One thing you could try that would replicate the Yeast+Priming Sugar bottle conditioning used by the Belgians for natural carbonation is to use Spunding. When you are close to final gravity (4 points or so) you transfer to another keg and install a spunding (pressure relief) valve. Set it for the desired PSI and it will be fully carbonated when it reaches final gravity. You now have a 5 gallon bottle of perfectly conditioned beer! You’ll only need to use CO2 to serve.
Title: Re: Belgian Strong Ale Bottles
Post by: JJeffers09 on December 09, 2017, 06:24:11 PM
750mL Belgian beer bottles.  Roughly $28/12 new, or start saving up from local breweries.  I agree with the nostalgia of a bottle conditioned brew, but its your hard work in the bottle/keg.  Do whatever you want to do...
Title: Re: Belgian Strong Ale Bottles
Post by: Big Monk on December 09, 2017, 09:36:40 PM
If you are already a keg brewer, there is zero reason to bottle when you can naturally condition the beer in the keg. The concept of Spunding in the keg and bottle conditioning are identical:

   a.) You want naturally carbonated beer
   b.) You want active yeast at packaging to do this

You simply transfer with 4-6 points left, attach a pressure relief valve set for the proper PSI for your desired carbonation, and you wait until final gravity. I love the allure of bottle conditioning but if I had kegs I wouldn’t bother. There is zero advantage to bottling if you can spund the beer.

Good luck!
Title: Re: Belgian Strong Ale Bottles
Post by: lawsont on December 25, 2017, 08:39:31 PM
I've tried kegging Belgian beers several times, and it's never worked out well, because I've found it very difficult to pour a highly carbonated beer out of keg.  I bottle all my Belgian beers now, because it's much easier to get them up to 3.5 to 4 volumes and get a decent pour in the glass.  I use thick bottles I've saved up over the years from commercial Belgian beers (German doppelbocks also have thick bottles).  As you probably know, it's important to add fresh yeast to these beers prior to bottling so that they carbonate properly. 
Title: Re: Belgian Strong Ale Bottles
Post by: Big Monk on December 26, 2017, 02:11:35 AM
I've tried kegging Belgian beers several times, and it's never worked out well, because I've found it very difficult to pour a highly carbonated beer out of keg.  I bottle all my Belgian beers now, because it's much easier to get them up to 3.5 to 4 volumes and get a decent pour in the glass.  I use thick bottles I've saved up over the years from commercial Belgian beers (German doppelbocks also have thick bottles).  As you probably know, it's important to add fresh yeast to these beers prior to bottling so that they carbonate properly.

I’d argue that high carbonation is a detriment to homebrewed versions of Belgian beers. The high carbonation often accentuates flaws in the beers. I aim for 2.5-2.7 volumes in my bottled beers.
Title: Re: Belgian Strong Ale Bottles
Post by: Robert on December 26, 2017, 03:43:19 AM
Just jumping  in here going back to your first post, assuming high carb was essential to the mouthfeel etc.  If you take Duvel, for instance, as a model,  they go to great lengths  to get a very high degree of attenuation (and in fact a low protein level in conjunction, owing to high adjunct content.)  I suspect that will get you more mileage than worrying about CO2 levels.
Title: Re: Belgian Strong Ale Bottles
Post by: lawsont on December 27, 2017, 04:44:39 PM
I've tried kegging Belgian beers several times, and it's never worked out well, because I've found it very difficult to pour a highly carbonated beer out of keg.  I bottle all my Belgian beers now, because it's much easier to get them up to 3.5 to 4 volumes and get a decent pour in the glass.  I use thick bottles I've saved up over the years from commercial Belgian beers (German doppelbocks also have thick bottles).  As you probably know, it's important to add fresh yeast to these beers prior to bottling so that they carbonate properly.

I’d argue that high carbonation is a detriment to homebrewed versions of Belgian beers. The high carbonation often accentuates flaws in the beers. I aim for 2.5-2.7 volumes in my bottled beers.

My thinking is that the high carbonation is essential to most Belgian styles (it creates the type of mouthfeel and dry character one would get from a commercial Belgian tripel, for example).  In fact, the BJCP descriptions of beers such as a Belgian Tripel and Belgian Strong Ale explain that they should be highly carbonated, so low carbonation is actually a flaw.  As a beer judge at competitions, I've had many homebrewed examples that were undercarbonated, and they did not score well.  If carbonation is bringing out flaws in a beer, then I'd rather fix the flaws than undercarbonate the beer. 
Title: Re: Belgian Strong Ale Bottles
Post by: Big Monk on December 27, 2017, 06:47:22 PM
I've tried kegging Belgian beers several times, and it's never worked out well, because I've found it very difficult to pour a highly carbonated beer out of keg.  I bottle all my Belgian beers now, because it's much easier to get them up to 3.5 to 4 volumes and get a decent pour in the glass.  I use thick bottles I've saved up over the years from commercial Belgian beers (German doppelbocks also have thick bottles).  As you probably know, it's important to add fresh yeast to these beers prior to bottling so that they carbonate properly.

I’d argue that high carbonation is a detriment to homebrewed versions of Belgian beers. The high carbonation often accentuates flaws in the beers. I aim for 2.5-2.7 volumes in my bottled beers.

My thinking is that the high carbonation is essential to most Belgian styles (it creates the type of mouthfeel and dry character one would get from a commercial Belgian tripel, for example).  In fact, the BJCP descriptions of beers such as a Belgian Tripel and Belgian Strong Ale explain that they should be highly carbonated, so low carbonation is actually a flaw.  As a beer judge at competitions, I've had many homebrewed examples that were undercarbonated, and they did not score well.  If carbonation is bringing out flaws in a beer, then I'd rather fix the flaws than undercarbonate the beer.

Attenuation gives the beer it’s mouthfeel and dry character. 2.5-2.7 volumes of CO2 is certainly not undercarbonated.

I’m arguing that people brew these styles fundamentally flawed anyway and that carbonating to greater than 3 volumes isn’t helping them out at all.