"On Lees"

Discussion in 'Cellaring / Aging Beer' started by geocool, Jun 1, 2012.


Does beer age better when it's "on lees?"

Poll closed Jun 8, 2012.
  1. Yes, beer ages better on lees.

  2. No difference.

  3. No, beer ages better when force carbonated and bottled with little/no sediment.

  1. geocool

    geocool Jun 21, 2006 Massachusetts

    I thought about posting this in the homebrewing forum, but I think it works better here.

    Do you think that beer cellars/ages better when it is "on lees," basically bottle carbonated with yeast sediment in the bottle? Or is it better when it is force carbonated and bottled with little/no sediment in the bottle?

    I'm asking for a homebrewing reason -- I'm planning on making a RIS and am trying to decide if I should bottle carbonate, or force carb in kegs and then bottle with my beer gun. I think the question is better posed here where people can post about their experiences cellering both commercial beer and homebrew, and also talk about their favorite beers to age, how they are packaged, and if they think the packaging affects how well they age.
    Duff27 likes this.
  2. treyrab

    treyrab Aug 26, 2007 California
    Beer Trader

    I think pretty much everybody will agree it ages better bottle conditioned, unfiltered, with the yeast in the bottle.
    rbrefbeerman and harrymel like this.
  3. Jtc2811

    Jtc2811 Dec 13, 2011 California
    Beer Trader

    I have found that bottle conditioned homebrew is prone to overcarbing if left to cellar too long in Leeds. I have a year old porter that explodes out if the bottle. The same has happened with older bottles of jolly pumpkin and once with a bottle of weinstephaner vitus
  4. youradhere

    youradhere Feb 29, 2008 Washington
    Beer Trader

    I'd say so long as you don't filter or pasteurize the beer it should age just fine, so my vote is for the force carb option. I have found that as mentioned before in the post, there is potential for overcarbing, furthermore you have to be careful of yeast sludge when pouring (moreso with the lees option, as each beer is essentially a mini carboy.) I've several bwines and RIS that I have bottled from the keg, they age great, still have a slight film of yeasty sediment at the bottom of the bottle after setting for several months, and after 4 years the carbonation has stayed about the same (I'm sure over the years the volumes has increasedby .0002 or something imperceptible.)

    Of course you know what this means George, you need to force carb half the batch and bottle condition the other for a true empiricle conclusion for yourself. :)
    Duff27 likes this.
  5. daryk77

    daryk77 Jun 16, 2005 District of Columbia
    Beer Trader

    That's weird, what if you are in the US?

    For homebrewing purposes I would think this wouldn't matter too much as you will still have yeast in suspension if you force carb or not, just to a different degree. If you are going to filter your beer that is a different story.
  6. youradhere

    youradhere Feb 29, 2008 Washington
    Beer Trader

    Yes. And the overcarbing is from the larger yeast population from bottle conditioning. I don't care if you are from Europe, I am American and therefore righteous and infallible. Merica, fuckya! Insert nationalist slogan!
  7. youradhere

    youradhere Feb 29, 2008 Washington
    Beer Trader

    ....aaand yea I get the joke. Nope no rimshot for you! ;)
  8. markmiller

    markmiller Dec 28, 2010 New York
    Beer Trader

    "My father lives in Leeds...Live-LIVED in Leeds...he's dead now. I used to spend my summers there."

    Some free coasters to whomever gets the reference.

    Is it going to "age better" is a tough call.

    Once fermentation is complete, the yeast is done right? I'm sure theres some golden ratio when bottle conditioning. A perfect point where all fermentation has occurred in the bottle, with little to no settlement? Is the settlement helping at all at that point? I don't think so, but I'm not sure.
    Kopfschuss and drgarage like this.
  9. jedwards

    jedwards Feb 3, 2009 California

    Ironically, the best-aging filtered & force-carbonated beer is called Lee's.
  10. youradhere

    youradhere Feb 29, 2008 Washington
    Beer Trader

    The increasingly poor decisions of Todd Margaret? Thunder Muscle anyone?
  11. Kopfschuss

    Kopfschuss Aug 19, 2009 Oregon

    woosterbill likes this.
  12. markmiller

    markmiller Dec 28, 2010 New York
    Beer Trader


    BM me an address and I'll hook you up!
  13. geocool

    geocool Jun 21, 2006 Massachusetts

    Well I have to say I thought "on lees" would win this poll, but Jim backs up my suspicion that if I had asked a bunch of homebrewers only, I think the results would have been opposite. I'm agreeing that yeast in the bottle is important, but since both methods are unfiltered and do involve at least a small amount of yeast in the bottle, that probably there isn't that much difference.

    I do not agree that "bottle conditioned homebrew is prone to overcarbing if left to cellar too long [on lees]." Barring contaminations, the amount of sugar added is the limiting factor in bottle carbing. Once the sugar's gone the yeast has nothing left to ferment.

    Yes, Jim, I think maybe you're right! Watch this space in 2015 for preliminary results!
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • Extreme Beer FestĀ® Cometh

    February 3-4, 2017. Boston, Mass. Limited tickets available. Prepare for epicness.

    Learn More
  • Free Trial Subscription

    Reside in the US? Interested in a free 1-month trial subscription to the print edition of BeerAdvocate magazine?

    Yes! Sign Me Up!