Author Topic: That German Lager flavor, round 2  (Read 5077 times)

Offline nateo

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That German Lager flavor, round 2
« on: December 23, 2012, 10:17:19 AM »
So the first thread got really long, and I realized I couldn't remember what conclusions we came to. There was some conflicting info, which I think is why this topic hasn't been settled. I read through the thread again, and took some notes:

Necessary things:
noble hops
decoction (or not)
huge starter
low mash pH (5.2)
late hop additions
sulfury yeast
lager on the yeast cake
German ingredients
aerate well
FWH
aroma hops @ 10-15min or aroma hops @ 5min
extended aging (or not)
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Offline denny

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Re: That German Lager flavor, round 2
« Reply #1 on: December 23, 2012, 10:49:26 AM »
IIRC, Kai's conclusion was that it's the aging.
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Offline mabrungard

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Re: That German Lager flavor, round 2
« Reply #2 on: December 23, 2012, 11:33:11 AM »
I guess that I missed a recommendation for a 5.2 mash pH.  I feel that would be a little lower than desirable to promote that malt backbone that I like in the styles. Low pH improves the fermentability and that will tend to reduce the malt presence. I prefer 5.3 to 5.4.
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Offline nateo

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Re: That German Lager flavor, round 2
« Reply #3 on: December 23, 2012, 12:00:24 PM »
I guess that I missed a recommendation for a 5.2 mash pH.  I feel that would be a little lower than desirable to promote that malt backbone that I like in the styles. Low pH improves the fermentability and that will tend to reduce the malt presence. I prefer 5.3 to 5.4.

Someone mentioned it near the beginning, I think they said 5.2 or 5.3.

My goal in making this thread was to distill that conversation into something more like cookbook instructions, to summarize concrete step someone could take to improve their German-style lagers.
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Offline dmtaylor

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Re: That German Lager flavor, round 2
« Reply #4 on: December 23, 2012, 12:58:03 PM »
IIRC, Kai's conclusion was that it's the aging.

+1.  I think this hits the nail on the head.  Otherwise the answers are pretty obvious as far as I can tell.  To state what I think is fairly obvious, here it all is:

Use all fresh German ingredients
big yeast starter
constant fermentation temperature less than 50 F
racking is optional.

Near the end of fermentation, it wouldn't be a bad idea to do a diacetyl rest at 60-65 F, but only if there's diacetyl, otherwise skip it.

When fermentation is done, wait for the beer to clear, then keg or bottle right away, and then wait a good long 6 to 9 months in order to instill "that elusive German flavor".  It will be good before then, but could be even better with age at least according to the Americans' palates.

I think that's pretty much all there is to it.

The only other question I have really is whether decoction makes a difference.  Many people say no it doesn't.  However, and this is only one data point: the best German lager that *I* ever made was triple decocted.  Coincidence?  I'm honestly not sure yet, and I am not jumping to any quick conclusions based on just my one data point.  Many more experiments are needed before *I* make up *my* mind.
« Last Edit: December 23, 2012, 12:59:53 PM by dmtaylor »
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Offline nateo

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Re: That German Lager flavor, round 2
« Reply #5 on: December 23, 2012, 01:18:37 PM »
The only other question I have really is whether decoction makes a difference.  Many people say no it doesn't.  However, and this is only one data point: the best German lager that *I* ever made was triple decocted.  Coincidence?  I'm honestly not sure yet, and I am not jumping to any quick conclusions based on just my one data point.  Many more experiments are needed before *I* make up *my* mind.

To add one data-point, in the experiment I did comparing melanoidin malt to triple-decoction, 6 of the 8 evaluators preferred the melanoidin malt beer. My wife did a blind tasting, and she strongly preferred the decocted beer. I did two blind tastings, and couldn't really tell a difference, and slightly preferred a different one each time.

There might be a difference in how people perceive flavor. There might also be a psychological component too. When I was a decoction 'true believer,' decoction was the best thing ever and gave my beer an imitable richness and depth of flavor. Now that I'm skeptical of the effects of decoction, I can't tell the difference.

Maybe if I applied German labels to my beer, it would taste more authentic. . .
« Last Edit: December 23, 2012, 01:35:29 PM by nateo »
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Offline bluesman

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That German Lager flavor, round 2
« Reply #6 on: December 23, 2012, 04:04:48 PM »
One other potential issue mentioned was oxidation due to shipment.
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Offline beersk

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Re: That German Lager flavor, round 2
« Reply #7 on: December 23, 2012, 04:18:10 PM »
One other potential issue mentioned was oxidation due to shipment.
That's true.  But I can never taste the wet cardboard in beers like Spaten.  The last helles I brewed had just a tad of that flavor I'm looking for and I lagered that on the yeast cake for 2 weeks before kegging for another 2 weeks at 40F.  Thinking I need more late hops, bigger starters/more yeast, and lager longer on yeast cake. Just sucks to take up the fermentation chamber space for one carboy.  Need to brew two lagers a couple days apart and lager both, so it seems more worthwhile.
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Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: That German Lager flavor, round 2
« Reply #8 on: December 23, 2012, 05:31:41 PM »
One other potential issue mentioned was oxidation due to shipment.
If you get "honey" notes in a German light lager,that is oxidation.

Edit - when the bitterness gets rough, that is oxidation, too.
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Offline nateo

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Re: That German Lager flavor, round 2
« Reply #9 on: December 23, 2012, 07:16:08 PM »
I would think homebrewers would have no problem getting their beer to oxidize.
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Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: That German Lager flavor, round 2
« Reply #10 on: December 23, 2012, 08:21:37 PM »
I am going to be pragmatic tomorrow and do a single infusion on a Vienna. Will see how that turns out.
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Offline hoser

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Re: That German Lager flavor, round 2
« Reply #11 on: December 23, 2012, 08:30:30 PM »
I am going to be pragmatic tomorrow and do a single infusion on a Vienna. Will see how that turns out.

The best Vienna I ever did was a single infusion over night.  Scored a 43-45 in 2 comps.  I have brewed it a couple other times since and I haven't been able to replicate it since.  The only thing I haven't repeated is the overnight mash......Need to to that again me thinks?

Offline jeffy

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Re: That German Lager flavor, round 2
« Reply #12 on: December 23, 2012, 08:32:04 PM »
I am going to be pragmatic tomorrow and do a single infusion on a Vienna. Will see how that turns out.

I am fresh out of pragma, so I am going to decoct a MaiBock.
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Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: That German Lager flavor, round 2
« Reply #13 on: December 23, 2012, 08:53:29 PM »
I am going to be pragmatic tomorrow and do a single infusion on a Vienna. Will see how that turns out.

I am fresh out of pragma, so I am going to decoct a MaiBock.
Something I just want to try and see how it turns out. Will do plenty of decoctions soon!
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Offline dcbc

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Re: That German Lager flavor, round 2
« Reply #14 on: December 28, 2012, 12:25:13 PM »
IIRC, Kai's conclusion was that it's the aging.

That has been my conclusion as well.  The only German lager that I have ever done late hops in was the pilsner and schwarzbier.  Even my bohemian pilsner gets hopped at FWH, 80, and 30.  I haven't noticed too much of a difference in decocted beers and those that are temperature controlled through a Hochkurz schedule of 142/158/168 (apart from my level of exhaustion on brew day).  For most styles though, single infusion works well.  I reserve the Hochkurz for the bopils.  All ingredients are important, naturally.  Continental malt, hops, and yeast with low carbonate water (I'm lucky in that regard). 

Pitch cold, and let it slow rise a few degrees to your fermentation temperature (48--50 F; 45 for bopils).

But with all of these things nailed down, these beers are always better if given time to age.  The hop bitterness drops a little and every gets that  nice blend of flavors that.  For lack of a better description, early on, one flavor or another tends to be more pronounced; after a time, everything is more subtle and in balance.  I have found that at around a month in the keg is where they really get good.

Not being able to get fresh German beer here is what drove my brewing habit early on.  I have sought to perfect these styles for years.  It is a long road, but as my beers have improved, it has been worth the effort.

The bopils I have on tap right now is probably the best I have brewed yet.  I will miss it until I can get another one on.
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