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: Lager brewing, what's the go?

cafelinhchi

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So I can brew a fairly good ale, I am scared to try lagers.

I have good temp control but am scared about the process. Anyone got a simple recipe to try bit like the DSGA version of a lager?

Any tips etc?
 

jtoots

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I've just been dabbling in lagers for the past year or so, a couple things i've learned along the way:

-yeast count is critical, lagers need more than ales.  make sure you're using a tool to calc out how many vials/packets you're using.  dry yeast will be more enticing here than for ales IMO.

-if you're looking for recipes, one of my favorite resources is "brewing classic styles".  they're usually very simple malt bills.

-don't rush pitching your yeast, especially in the summer.  if your chiller can only get you down so far, transfer to primary, get it in your temp control home, continue dropping to the temp your yeast wants to see, then finally pitch.  i've read a bit about how a warm pitch can be less than optimal.

-check out brulosopher's fermentation schedule below, this will save you time over the traditional lagering schedule.  essentially, pitch cold, stay cold for the majority of primary, increase temp for a bit, then lager for clarity.

http://brulosophy.com/methods/lager-method/

nothin' to it but to do it!  nice and easy, you just have to pay more attention to temps during fermentation.

 

Maine Homebrewer

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I make lagers in the winter when my basement is temperature gets down into the fifties.

Like jtoots said, you definitely want to chill it all the way down before pitching the yeast. Yeast will produce heat of its own, so if you don't chill it down enough before pitching, and the yeast takes off before the wort cools all the way, the majority of the fermentation could happen at above optimal temperatures. I did that once. Learned that lesson the hard way. The beer was still good, but it could have been better.

Speaking of heat, I've had the fermometer stuck to the side of the carboy read as much as six degrees warmer than ambient during peak krausen. So don't count on ambient temperature being the same as fermentation temperature. You'll want ambient to be colder by at least four degrees when you start the process.

One thing about ale is that it tastes, well, like ale. The yeast imparts quite a bit of flavor to the final product. Not so much with lager. It comes out much cleaner. This is both good and bad. It's good in that if you have a good recipe with good ingredients, then it will shine through. It's bad in that there's much less of a fudge-factor than with ale.

Other than that there's nothing to it. Primary fermentation takes longer than ale, and then there's the whole lagering process (which is nothing more than storing it at near freezing for a month), but that's it. 

The biggest differences are temperature and time. The process is the same (with the exception of lagering).
 

jtoots

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Maine Homebrewer said:
The biggest differences are temperature and time. The process is the same (with the exception of lagering).

...To keep the conversation going...

Once I got the temp control thing going, and tried a couple lagers, I now usually lager my ales as well.  This helps clear everything out so that when you keg/bottle you get much less solid in the mix. 
 

Roadrocket

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Lager brewing is not as scary as you think. Get a stir plate, pitch plenty of yeast and control the temperature properly. I cool the wort and yeast to 7 degrees Centigrade before pitching then raise it by 1 degree each day until it reaches 10. When fermentation is almost complete I raise it to 16 degrees to let the yeast clean up. Once finished I rack it off the yeast to lager for a month at 1 degree. I get good clean, crisp lagers that most people say are better than most commercial ones.
 

twhitaker

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I am itching for the  colder weather so I can make some lagers again myself . Saving and pitching yeast in  one quart mason jars; or the entire yeast cake from the previous batch works well for me to ensure plenty of yeast.  Don't over sparge as tannins and other off flavours will be easily detected in  lager beer- stop runnings at 1.010 SG. Use quality malts and hops, I keep the grain bill simple with often a single malt. Use a quality pure lager yeast. Doesn't have to be an expensive liquid culture but use a good one. Saflager 34/70 or S-23 for me depending on temperature I can keep. Other than keeping things at about 45 F during the whole process except for a short diacetyl rest, and waiting 3 to 4 weeks for fermentation to finish, it's the same as making ale. I have started drinking lagers without  actually cold ageing beyond that, and they were fine, however a couple of months cold ageing perfects the finished product.  Remember at first it takes about 3 tries at a batch to really perfect a brew. CHEERS
 

Beer Lover

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The biggest problem with lagers is the cold storage.  With a good temp controller you are set.  Have been brewing Bock Beers for the spring, Oktoberfest for October and Czech Pilsner's.  Had no problems.
 
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