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Author Topic: Who Kegs Big Beers?  (Read 1072 times)

Offline Clint Yeastwood

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Who Kegs Big Beers?
« on: January 24, 2024, 06:46:20 pm »
Anyone else here put big beers in kegs? I have only made one big beer recipe. I had a keg of it in the keezer back when I gave up brewing, and it sat forever. When I decided to dump my beers, I tried the heavy one, and it was wonderful. Seemed like it had improved tremendously. I have seen people ask whether beers age in kegs, and mine definitely did. I have some on tap right now, brewed last year.

I can't do bottles. I got sick of bottling. The mess. The infections. The labor.

I just wrote recipes for two new heavy beers, and I ordered the grain. I see people online using huge kettles for 5-gallon batches of big beers. I am planning to BIAB in my 10-gallon pot. Seems like it ought to work for one beer if it worked for another. Am I missing something?

I'm trying to make something inspired by St. Bernardus Christmas Ale, but I'm using wheat and Sabro. Someone suggested Special B, which I have never tried, so I put that in. It should be around 1.092. I'll call it Happy Halfwit Winter Ale. I'm also trying to make my first imperial stout. I was going to call it Steppe Mash, but I decided to call it Steppe Brother. shooting for 1.084. Both CO2 beers.
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Offline dbeechum

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Re: Who Kegs Big Beers?
« Reply #1 on: January 24, 2024, 10:00:13 pm »
Always do because I hate bottling too!

Do everything to keep the beer cold and purge the kegs of oxygen.
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Offline Semper Sitientem

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Re: Who Kegs Big Beers?
« Reply #2 on: January 25, 2024, 03:51:59 am »
I’ll be that guy. I like bottling. It allows me to brew and have in my inventory many different styles. Currently, I have 12 different beers representing 6 different styles and a cider. Also makes it easy to share with friends and neighbors with the understanding that bottles are returned. I can’t remember the last time I had an infection and I don’t find it that messy.

Now, I only do 3 gallon batches, which is my sweet spot. More than that and I can see it turning into a PITA.
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Offline HopDen

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Re: Who Kegs Big Beers?
« Reply #3 on: January 25, 2024, 04:22:23 am »
Yes, definitely! As stated above, purge keg with co2 if possible and keep at 35*F. I had a Baltic Porter that was 4 years in the keg and it was delicious. Minimize oxygen, keep cold, carb it and it will "age" to perfection.

Offline pete b

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Re: Who Kegs Big Beers?
« Reply #4 on: January 25, 2024, 05:46:24 am »
One thing I have done before with a RIS is bottle and age half the batch and keg the rest. That way I had some ready to drink, some bottle conditioned to cellar, and I didn’t have a big beer taking up keg space for months instead of weeks (or worse: drinking a 9% bee at the same pace as a 5% because it’s there).
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Offline Andy Farke

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Re: Who Kegs Big Beers?
« Reply #5 on: January 25, 2024, 06:11:23 am »
For my "big beer" batches, I usually aim for 2-3 gallons, rather than 5 (I personally choose not to have that much of a high abv beer on-hand!). I have a few old 2.5 gallon pinlock kegs, and it's not too awful space-wise to have them sitting around. I haven't done more than about a 9 month residency in the keg, but that worked fairly well.

You will probably be OK for a 5 gallon BIAB batch in a 10 gallon kettle, but I would recommend sparging the grains if possible after you pull the bag from the pot. You're going to get a big efficiency ding (typical for me is going from ~70% efficiency for a "regular" beer down to around 60% efficiency or lower on a "big" beer without sparging). The kettle is going to be FULL during the mash, so be prepared for any spillage. if you sparge, you may likely need to boil a bit longer too. I always keep some DME on-hand, too, in case I need to up the gravity that way. Brewing big beers is always a fun challenge!
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Offline Megary

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Re: Who Kegs Big Beers?
« Reply #6 on: January 25, 2024, 06:28:03 am »
For big beers, I'm in the 2-2.5gal range which will net me about 20 bottles +/-.  I don't keg them because I don't have the space or extra kegs to tie up a prime spot for a beer that I would consider a "rare occasion" drink.  If circumstances were different I might change my mind.

For those that keg these big beers and keep them cold, do you find the beers age the same way as if they were bottled and stored at cellar temps, say 55-60°F?  I was always under the impression that storage temp was a key factor on how these big beers mature/age/mellow/oxidize/ etc.  Stored refrigerator cold would "lock-in" the beer as is, while stored at cellar temps would allow for different flavors to develop (both good and bad).

Offline goose

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Re: Who Kegs Big Beers?
« Reply #7 on: January 25, 2024, 07:08:37 am »
The only beer that I bottle is a Barleywine.  I keg it first to carbonate it then bottle it.  My Imperial Stout which is in the 9% range is always left in a keg.

Yes, stronger beers that are aged for longer periods of time get way better.  I still have a barleywine that we made in 2014 that is delicious!  The '16 is really good as well (my brew buddy and I try to make one every year).  This year we made an English Barleywine as a club project that is now aging in a bourbon barrel and will be there for probably 6 months or so.
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Offline redrocker652002

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Re: Who Kegs Big Beers?
« Reply #8 on: January 25, 2024, 07:36:17 am »
This is really interesting to me.  I have never made but have considered doing something in the stout realm.  The question regarding bottling, I do when I have something in the keg but like to have a batch ready when the keg kicks.  I find bottling to be ok, not very messy at all.  I put the bucket on the counter, run the tube from the spigot to the bottling wand, and bottle most of them on the open dishwasher door.  Any spillage, and there usually is, ends up on the door and get's washed away when the next load of dishes is done.  Bottles are then rinsed off, boxed and put into my closet at about 60 to 70 degrees.  Left for a week or two then one or two in the fridge to try until I feel they are good. 

For whomever said they give them to friends, I do the same.  Usually the deal is, if they bring my back my bottles, they get full ones in return.  LOL.  One of my workmates offered to buy some of my last brew.  I told him I was out, but next time I had some I would give him some.  If he wanted to "donate" to offset my cost I would be ok with that. 

Offline Kevin

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Re: Who Kegs Big Beers?
« Reply #9 on: January 25, 2024, 09:25:41 am »
Big beers, small beers, I keg all of my beer. And of course beer ages wonderfully in kegs... the biggest breweries in the world (Whitbread, Barclay Perkins for example) in London stored their beer in vats so large that one of them held a publicity stunt where they served a dinner party for dignitaries inside one of them. There is another story of a vat that held 1.23 million liters burst and cause a flood in London that killed 8 people. Beer was kept in these vats for up to a year.
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Offline reverseapachemaster

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Re: Who Kegs Big Beers?
« Reply #10 on: January 25, 2024, 09:52:21 am »
I've always bottled those beers because I'm not moving high gravity beers that quickly. Right now I only have one tap so even with my three gallon kegs I'd probably sit on it for more than a year. (I realize I could swap kegs.) Bottles also gives me the opportunity to age the beer and enjoy it's journey. OTOH there's certainly an appeal to the opportunity to pull small pours and not commit to 12oz at a time. I'm currently brewing an 8% beer that will go on tap as I'm expanding my number of taps so I'll see whether it makes sense for me to go that route. This is 100% a question of preference. There is no wrong answer.

I agree with Andy--think about your process in light of the gravity of the beer and equipment volume. You'll most likely see a hit to your efficiency and may want to adjust your recipe and process to hit your targets.

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Offline BrewBama

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Re: Who Kegs Big Beers?
« Reply #11 on: January 25, 2024, 10:11:31 am »
I keg all beers as a sort of bright tank to cold crash and carbonate in. Lagers may stay there a bit longer than Ales. After conditioning is complete, I may move the beer to serve from that same keg, or I may decide to bottle it from that keg to age, carry it to a club meeting, or send off to a competition at some point in its life cycle.

Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Who Kegs Big Beers?
« Reply #12 on: January 25, 2024, 11:18:18 am »
I had an American Barleywine that maintained good hop aroma and flavor for years. Paid attention to the cold side O2 exposure, closed transfer into a prged keg. I'm going to do another one.

If you have enough kegs, you can have variety from kegged beer.
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Re: Who Kegs Big Beers?
« Reply #13 on: January 25, 2024, 04:25:18 pm »
The real question is does bottling produce a different (enough?) beer?

I know people who will only drink BMC in a bottle because draught tastes different.  And it does.

I only bottle ATM but have kegged in the past and filled bottles from the keg for friends.  That method produces a very nice bottled beer as far as carbonation is concerned because their is no guessing or calculating priming sugar additions.

I only bottle sours, lambics, krieks, framboise, gueuze, etc... now Berliner Weisse could be kegged as I'm not sure that bottling would make a difference on that one.

So, yes, I have kegged big stouts and porters with success but at the time I had the keg space to age them.

Offline John M

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Re: Who Kegs Big Beers?
« Reply #14 on: January 25, 2024, 05:51:54 pm »
Mr. Yeastwood, I fancy myself an expert when it comes to brewing high gravity beers using BIAB. In addition to my workhorse 10 gal kettle, I also have a 15 gal kettle for high gravity beers, and bigger batches of session beers. If you use BrewFather (correctly), it will tell you how much your water + grain volume should be.

Per St. Bernardus website, their Christmas Ale is 19.7 Plato= 1.082 OG.  I'd be using a pilsen base malt for that beer, which would lead me to do a 1 1/2 hour boil. So that increases the water volume. I'd say it'll be close! (Assuming you're shooting for a full 5 gal batch).

Edit: just saw that your recipe is 1.092. From my experience, you won't have enough room to do a true full 5 gal batch. Maybe 5 in the fermenter, but not 5 packaged.

Edit #2: It just occurred to me that most likely 5-10 points of that will probably come from simple sugars added post-mash. You may pull it off if that's the case!

« Last Edit: January 25, 2024, 06:55:00 pm by Lloyd Christmas »
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