[.... An online search showed a wide range of times for lagers to complete. 10 days to 4 weeks.
Among several other contributing factors I am sure, I believe long lethargic fermentation and off smells and tastes are a symptom of stress. Far too many home brewers use too little yeast IMO. ...especially lager yeast.
Some beers can take advantage of the stress to induce a certain flavor. But by and large, that is not the case.
I was in the same boat but began pitching more and saw a dramatic difference. I used to dread brewing a lager, now it’s just another beer.
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I guess we are in a different boat...or keg, as we have brewed lagers pretty much exclusively for 20+ years.
We purposely over pitched the yeast. One swollen smack pack, plus a starter that was on it's 3rd generation.
Based on the large volume of CO2 present in the ferment chamber, plus the healthy blow off of CO2, this would not be categorized as a "lethargic" ferment. Quite the opposite.
We are now in day 9, at 55 degrees F, and the ferment activity is as strong as it was at the beginning.
There are zero "off odors". And the beer tasted good last Sunday. But it was still sweet, telling me it has a ways to go to completion. I will have to be patient, and have confidence that it will turn out just fine.
This is brewed for a brewing partner, who is completely new to the art of making beer.