I made a starter for a marzen using 2 packets of 17-week old Wyeast 2206. I made the starter wort using 325g of Briess Pilsen light DME and 1 teaspoon of Wyeast nutrient into 3.5 qts or 3275 ml of water, which came out at a volume of 2.85 liters after boiling and cooling. I pulled the yeast packs from my refrigerator and brought them to room temperature, and then smacked them. I have to say that the yeast came from a supplier in Idaho to my Indiana home in June over a three day transit period and arrived warm with a thawed-out freeze pack. One of the yeast packs did not swell much at all after smacking it, and the other swelled just slightly, with the packs sitting at room temperature for 4 hours after smacking. I used them anyway. Before pitching the yeast into the Erlenmeyer flask with the starter wort, I placed the flask with the wort and also the unopened yeast packs into my fermentation chamber/refrigerator with the temperature set to 51°. I bubbled some oxygen into the wort for about 30 seconds and then pitched the sanitized yeast packets into the starter wort when the temperature of the wort was about 57°, figuring that the mixture would cool to the 51° setting and all would be well. The plan was to cold crash the starter at about 35° after about 24 hours on the stir plate in the 51° environment, noting that the mixture would have gone through high krauesen, etc. After waiting a few days for the yeast to settle at the bottom of the flask, on brewing day I would then siphon off the spent wort, add a pint or so of boiled and cooled to 48° water and pitch the slurry into the roughly 5 gallons of boiled and cooled (to the 48° pitching temperature) wort. The problem was this: the starter never seemed to take off. No krauesen ever formed at the top of the mixture in the Erlenmeyer flask at all, after 12 hours on the stir plate and even after a few days. My thoughts are 1) the yeast was not very viable or perhaps was pretty dead after the trip from Idaho, or 2) having done only 1-liter ale starters in the past, I didn’t know how a lager starter would behave, and there was nothing wrong because it’s not supposed to make any kraeusen on top to speak of anyway. Is there anything wrong with this process, other than it is quite lengthy, or with my expectations of lager starter behavior? I pretty much followed instructions from the Pickelhaube marzen recipe in the Jan/Feb issue of Zymurgy and used BeerSmith2. Is there another good lager starter process to use that will work well? This is my first lager, and my ale starters in the past all came out fine. I wound up tossing the starter and did not mash the grain; I just stopped there because I ran out of time before having to go out of town. Which brings up another question - with the grains all crushed at the supplier in early June, and still sitting in my cool basement in vacuum-sealed packs, how long would the grains remain viable so that I could try this again?