Last Thursday I brewed my first high-gravity beer - a Belgian Barleywine (cross between Koenigs Hoeven Dubbel and Thomas Hardy Ale) clocking in at 1.110 OG. I've heard so much about needing to be really careful with taking care of your fermentation for beers in this gravity range. I've had a few nailbiter moments this past week, but in each case I chose the RDWHAHB approach and it paid off.
Day 2 - my airlock is bubbling at a decent clip. Fermometer reads 68. Looks good to me. 8 hours later, airlock is going berzerk - fermometer reads 73. Crap! Way higher than I wanted to see. Should have expected this, but I didn't. RDWHAHB - rigged up a swamp cooler with several frozen water bottles.
Day 3 - 8 hours later - fermometer now reads 65. Now I'm starting to worry if I brought the temp down too fast and may end up stalling out the yeast. Airlock is still chugging along, albeit a bit slower.
Day 4 - Airlock activity has slowed way down. Starting to worry a bit more about the yeast. Rouse the fermenter and let it sit in the swamp cooler another day (but don't change the ice so the temp can creep up)
Day 5 - No airlock activity whatsoever. Dammit. RDWHAHB - rouse again and take the fermenter out of the swamp cooler.
Day 6 - Still no airlock activity. Crack the lid on the bucket and take a peek - no krausen whatsoever. Looks like a bucket of motor oil. Didn't have time to take a gravity reading, but I'm really thinking it's stuck at this point. Still, I RDWHAHB since this is a bucket and fermentation could still be creeping along without seeing much airlock activity.
Start thinking of contingency plans: Do I get a vial of WLP099 and get a starter going? I was going to reserve a gallon to pitch Brett into - do I just Brett the whole batch now? Do I need to put my Brew Belt on ASAP? Decide to RDWHAHB and reserve judgement until I get at least 1 gravity reading.
Day 7 (today) - The moment of truth. Various calculators are giving an estimated FG in the 1.024-1.028 range. I figure there's no way I'd get there from 1.110 with only 4 days or so of steady fermentation activity.
The sample reads: 1.029 - and the gravity sample is tasting damn good. The sweetness level is just fine as-is, so even if it doesn't drop another point I can live with it. Didn't pick up on any significant fusels either, so the early excursion to the mid-70's seems like no harm/no foul.
Lessons learned: A) RDWHAHB really works and B) WY1762 is a beast of a yeast