Author Topic: Ales exclusively thus far... Time to brew a lager!  (Read 1242 times)

Offline dilluh98

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Ales exclusively thus far... Time to brew a lager!
« on: October 16, 2015, 07:59:23 PM »
Alright, I’ve seen a lot of delicious sounding/looking lagers and pilsners on this forum and I feel like it’s time to take a crack at one as I’ve exclusively brewed ales to this point.

So my first lager noob question is, does my lager have to lager in the fermentation chamber or can I lager in the bottle? Second: what would be a good first recipe/yeast to try out if I wanted to just go for a 1-2 gallon batch? Opinions on temperature ramping along with said recipe/yeast selection would be handy too. If it helps, I think simpler would be better for first go-round in terms of both recipe, yeast and fermentation ramp schedule. I'm not incredibly picky when it comes to style in the lager category but dry and spicy pilsners are hard to beat IMO. Thanks!

Offline goschman

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Re: Ales exclusively thus far... Time to brew a lager!
« Reply #1 on: October 16, 2015, 08:09:17 PM »
In my limited lager experience W34/70 works great and might be a good option for smaller batch size. It is very versatile and forgiving at less than idea temps (from what I hear). It is the same strain as WY2124 from what I understand. I did a pale lager with it that turned out spectacular.

There is a lot of information out there regarding an accelerated lager fermentation schedule. For me, I keep it at 52F for a few days or until airlock activity starts to slow then ramp it up a couple of degrees a day until it is at 60-62 for a diacetyl rest then back down. This is usually about 15 days in total for me.

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

On Tap/Bottled: Haze for Daze IPA, G Pils, Maibock, Watermelon Cider         

Fermenting: Kolsch
Up Next: Summer Ale, Gose

Offline dmtaylor

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Re: Ales exclusively thus far... Time to brew a lager!
« Reply #2 on: October 16, 2015, 08:26:56 PM »
Lots of different ways to make good lagers.  My preferences and general process:

Yeast selection is important.  You really cannot go wrong with Wyeast 2206.  W-34/70 is also a favorite.  Beware WLP820, it's a bad yeast for many reasons.

With a small batch, you are fortunate!  You can skip making a starter.  Otherwise, making a starter is crucial.

I like to chill my wort down to about 48-50 F.  Then pitch and let that go until fermentation seems like it's slowing down, then check the gravity.  When gravity is half of what you started with (e.g., 1.060 turns into 1.030) then taste it and warm it up a few degrees.  If it tastes like sulfur or buttery at all (diacetyl), then keep it in the 60s for several days.  Otherwise mid 50s would be good enough.  In either case, it will probably finish fermenting within a week after you warm it up, and warmer temperatures will only help it and not hurt.  Once you are certain that fermentation is totally done (check gravity over the course of 3 or 4 days at least), then you should cold crash it until the beer is clear.  This can take a few days or a few weeks.  If you want to speed things along, you can also add gelatin and then it will clear within 48 hours.  From there you can bottle and have it finish up in the bottles.  If you taste a bottle within a couple of weeks and it tastes like sulfur or diacetyl at all, don't worry, just warm up your bottles for 2-3 weeks and these problems will disappear while the yeast eats the stuff.  After about a month of conditioning, your lager should be ready to drink, and if you're lucky, even sooner than that.  However...

You'll most likely find that if you can hang onto a few bottles for a good 6 to 9 months, the lager will just get better and better with age.  Hang onto at least a few for that long and see what a difference it makes.
« Last Edit: October 16, 2015, 08:30:42 PM by dmtaylor »
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Offline 69franx

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Re: Ales exclusively thus far... Time to brew a lager!
« Reply #3 on: October 16, 2015, 08:33:24 PM »
One of my first lagers was Ron "Bluesman" Price's Ringler Pilsner. The recipe is in the main site's recipe wiki and. Old not be much easier: 100% pilsner malt 2 additions of Hallertauer Mittelfrueh fermented with 830/833 or 34/70. I've done it with all 3 and they all rock in this recipe!
Edit to add: I think Ron knows what he's doing as he now is a pro brewer, but I'm not certain is he is featuring this recipe or not in his lineup, but it don't get much simpler imo
Frank L.
Fermenting:
Conditioning:
In keg:
In Bottles:  
In the works: Hopefully brewing 10 gallons of Pilsner tomorrow for a family reunion in July, then back to IPA and  a barleywine to age

Offline BrodyR

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Re: Ales exclusively thus far... Time to brew a lager!
« Reply #4 on: October 16, 2015, 08:34:01 PM »
1) Lagering in the bottle should be fine. With temp control it seems like you don't really need a long lagering period.

2) I did a 100% pils malt with saaz that was awesome and an oktoberfest split evenly between Pils, Vienna, & Munich. IMO the pils was better but I also pitched more yeast. W34/70 is a great idea since it saves you the trouble of building a large starter (then again with small batch you may be fine anyway?).  And as I understand it theres less variance amount lager yeasts than ale.

The Brulosophy fast lager method worked great for my pils. Basically I ramped up the temp after a few weeks in then crashed it down to 30f for a couple days and added gelatin. Came out really clean tasting and clear as commercial beer.

Offline charles1968

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Re: Ales exclusively thus far... Time to brew a lager!
« Reply #5 on: October 16, 2015, 08:36:24 PM »
Yes you can lager in the bottle. All lagering really does is clear chill haze and soften bitterness a little*, so if you can live with chill haze, lagering isn't essential. However, at this time of year you can lager your bottles in an outdoor building for a few weeks if you don't have a lagering fridge. Fining with gelatin before lagering at close to freezing point speeds up the lagering process.

For a first recipe I'd recommend Bee Cave Brewery Kolsch on the homebrewtalk website, which is made with a German Kolsch yeast (WLP029). Strictly speaking it's a German ale yeast rather than a true lager yeast but the flavour it gives is delicious and very lager-like. You don't need a giant starter and you can ferment at normal ale temps with it. The recipe produces a very pilsner-like beer that is spicy, crisp and hoppy - but with a bit of character from the Kolsch yeast. I prefer WLP029 to W34/70, which I've found a bit bland.

If you want to use a true lager yeast, you need to build a big starter and ferment cold. If you don't have a brew fridge, you can cold ferment by putting your FV inside a sleeping bag or insulated container with a large (min 2 quart) frozen bottle of water. This will hold the temp at exactly the right level for 2-3 days before you need to change the bottle. WLP800 is the classic pilsner yeast and works well but is slow.

You need water low in bicarbonate hardness to make good pilsner, so you might need to treat your water before you mash.

* edit: lagering also reduces diacetyl, but you can avoid that by raising the fermentation temp up to room temp for the last few days in the FV. See fast lager method on brulosophy as recommended by others on the thread.
« Last Edit: October 16, 2015, 08:50:22 PM by charles1968 »

Offline Joe Sr.

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Re: Ales exclusively thus far... Time to brew a lager!
« Reply #6 on: October 16, 2015, 09:25:47 PM »
If you want to use a true lager yeast, you need to build a big starter and ferment cold. If you don't have a brew fridge, you can cold ferment by putting your FV inside a sleeping bag or insulated container with a large (min 2 quart) frozen bottle of water. This will hold the temp at exactly the right level for 2-3 days before you need to change the bottle. WLP800 is the classic pilsner yeast and works well but is slow.

I've used Rubbermaid storage containers.  Fill them water, add frozen bottles to keep it cold.
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Offline dilluh98

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Re: Ales exclusively thus far... Time to brew a lager!
« Reply #7 on: October 16, 2015, 09:30:20 PM »
I have a fermentation chamber so this part isn't an issue. Good suggestions thus far y'all. Thanks!

Offline dilluh98

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Re: Ales exclusively thus far... Time to brew a lager!
« Reply #8 on: October 16, 2015, 09:35:51 PM »
However...

You'll most likely find that if you can hang onto a few bottles for a good 6 to 9 months, the lager will just get better and better with age.  Hang onto at least a few for that long and see what a difference it makes.

Continuing to show how little I know about lagers (I love to drink them though!)... I've never heard this before. Is it just a continual smoothing out of any harshness from sulfur related byproducts? Also, when you crash cool lagers and/or add gelatin, does this still leave enough yeast in suspension for bottle conditioning?

Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: Ales exclusively thus far... Time to brew a lager!
« Reply #9 on: October 16, 2015, 10:00:14 PM »
Also, when you crash cool lagers and/or add gelatin, does this still leave enough yeast in suspension for bottle conditioning?


Yep. Crashing and gel just take the yeast down below the visible threshold. There'll still be plenty of yeast to do the job, assuming a roughly average OG. A big dopplebock might benefit from a little yeast at bottling, otherwise no worries.
Jon H.

Offline dmtaylor

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Re: Ales exclusively thus far... Time to brew a lager!
« Reply #10 on: October 16, 2015, 10:09:17 PM »
However...

You'll most likely find that if you can hang onto a few bottles for a good 6 to 9 months, the lager will just get better and better with age.  Hang onto at least a few for that long and see what a difference it makes.

Continuing to show how little I know about lagers (I love to drink them though!)... I've never heard this before. Is it just a continual smoothing out...?

Yes, exactly.  And the malt flavors can become slightly more caramelly and thus more complex with age as well as they begin to oxidize slightly.  Age I think is what gives some imported beers "that special German lager flavor" that I love so much.  You don't get it quite as much from a fresh lager, it takes time to mature.

Also, when you crash cool lagers and/or add gelatin, does this still leave enough yeast in suspension for bottle conditioning?

Yes, not a problem at all, unless you lager it for a very long time, maybe 6 weeks or longer.  Less than that, and you won't need to worry, there's enough yeast in there yet, even with gelatin.
Dave

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Offline charles1968

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Re: Ales exclusively thus far... Time to brew a lager!
« Reply #11 on: October 16, 2015, 10:32:20 PM »
If you want to use a true lager yeast, you need to build a big starter and ferment cold. If you don't have a brew fridge, you can cold ferment by putting your FV inside a sleeping bag or insulated container with a large (min 2 quart) frozen bottle of water. This will hold the temp at exactly the right level for 2-3 days before you need to change the bottle. WLP800 is the classic pilsner yeast and works well but is slow.

I've used Rubbermaid storage containers.  Fill them water, add frozen bottles to keep it cold.

I've tried the water container method too but really struggled to get the beer significantly cold that way. You need insulation to get the beer temp much lower than ambient and air is a much better insulator than water. The water method is very popular on forums but I think it's better suited to keeping beer warm with an aquarium heater in cold weather.

Offline Stevie

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Ales exclusively thus far... Time to brew a lager!
« Reply #12 on: October 16, 2015, 11:16:11 PM »
I think your wrong on water being a good insulator.

The reason the water bath works is because the water has a very large specific heat capacity while air does not. It actually has one of the highest. Simply put, it takes more energy to increase the temperature of a gallon of water, than it does a gallon of air. While a water bath is a viable method to hold a beer in the lager range, it's not practical. It will take cold wort, cold water, and a lot of ice bottles swapped out as the temp rises.

The same can be seen with unheated swimming pools. If water didn't maintain its temp, unheated pools wouldn't be useful in the morning or after sundown.

Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: Ales exclusively thus far... Time to brew a lager!
« Reply #13 on: October 16, 2015, 11:35:49 PM »
I think your wrong on water being a good insulator.

The reason the water bath works is because the water has a very large specific heat capacity while air does not. It actually has one of the highest. Simply put, it takes more energy to increase the temperature of a gallon of water, than it does a gallon of air. While a water bath is a viable method to hold a beer in the lager range, it's not practical. It will take cold wort, cold water, and a lot of ice bottles swapped out as the temp rises.

The same can be seen with unheated swimming pools. If water didn't maintain its temp, unheated pools wouldn't be useful in the morning or after sundown.

Exactly. I used the tub of water with water bottles for a few years with good results. Lots of thermal mass there. Just have to be regimented about changing the frozen bottles.
Jon H.

Offline charles1968

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Re: Ales exclusively thus far... Time to brew a lager!
« Reply #14 on: October 17, 2015, 08:01:17 AM »
I think your wrong on water being a good insulator.

I didn't say that. Water is a poor insulator but air is a good one.


The reason the water bath works is because the water has a very large specific heat capacity while air does not. It actually has one of the highest. Simply put, it takes more energy to increase the temperature of a gallon of water, than it does a gallon of air. While a water bath is a viable method to hold a beer in the lager range, it's not practical. It will take cold wort, cold water, and a lot of ice bottles swapped out as the temp rises.

And therein lies the problem. 5 gallons of beer already has a high thermal mass. Adding another few gallons in a trub of water increases it, so you need lots of ice bottles to bring the temperature down, especially in summer. Because it's difficult to insulate the whole system, it's continually absorbing warmth from the environment and you have to keep changing the ice bottles - twice daily in summer, despite the high thermal mass. I've tried both methods - trust me, the waterless method is much better. It only takes one or two ice bottles to bring the temp down to lager range and then it sits there thanks to the FV's thermal mass and the insulation around it. It works the same way as a fridge - FV surrounded by cold air surrounded by insulation. I've got a batch of pilsner on the go at the moment and have only had to change the ice bottle once in the last week. It's not a great picture but you can just see the ice bottle, now melted but I'm going to leave it and let temp rise a bit to finish off.




While a water bath is a viable method to hold a beer in the lager range, it's not practical. It will take cold wort, cold water, and a lot of ice bottles swapped out as the temp rises.

Agree 100%
 
« Last Edit: October 17, 2015, 08:10:35 AM by charles1968 »