A couple of weeks ago I brewed a Robust Porter with Cherrywood smoked grains and chocolate added at flameout.
OG was approximately 1.080, it was properly chilled and had lots of oxygen in it - in fact so much foam was in the 6gal carboy that it "foamed over" when I added the 1l starter of Ringwood (dated 11/20/2010).
The starter itself was made two days before, but didn't seem to want to take off - no krausen, and only weak little bubbles coming up from the bottom of the flask.
1-2 days after pitching, there was a little bit of activity - thin krausen and a little bubbling in the airlock. Then it stopped more or less completely.
Another 4 days later, I pitched another 1 liter Ringwood starter (dated 12/10/2010) which was nice and active, good krausen. I swirled the yeast well into the carboy and placed it back at about 67F ambient temperature.
But, another 3-4 days later, and nothing is happening - no krausen, no bubbling, no nuthin'.
At this point I'm not sure what's going on, as I've never had a non-starter like this. Granted, I haven't done a gravity reading yet, but I find it unlikely that it fermented out "under the radar" with an OG like that, but I guess stranger things have happened...
Any suggestions to a) what's happening and/or b) what to do next? Try more or different yeast? Siphon the wort off its current yeast cake and try again? Make yeasty malt shakes?
First thing... take a gravity reading!
Have you ever used Ringwood before? (I haven't.) I've seen a lot of different (mostly negative) stuff on the web about it. Some say it should only be used in open fermentations (to help dissapate excessive diacetyl & esters).
I wouldn't rack off. If the gravity hasn't dropped as much as you'd like, I'd pitch a different yeast. Also, take a taste. If it seems really estery, I'd pitch a clean ale yeast to balance it out and clean up diacetyl... dry US05 so as not to dilute with another starter.
Thanks a million for your sage advice, Sam - a little cool-headed common sense was what I needed.
I did a reading, and it's at 1.024, only 4 more points to go! I've never seen a beer ferment so quietly (other than my Brett beer some months ago), so I was really wondering what was going on.
The flavor is great, both the smoke and chocolate are coming through - should be pretty awesome after a few months of aging.