Brewing Lagers without Lagering

This video, from Brewing TV, covers a topic of interest to many brewers – how to get a clean, crisp lager beer without the need for lagering equipment (i.e. dedicated fridge + temperature controller).  This video covers three methods on how to do this.

Methods & results are summarized below the fold…

Method 1:
Brew with a clean ale yeast, at cooler temperatures (15-18C).  The guys at BrewingTV used 2 packs of US-05 dry yeast into 5 US gallons, which is known for its low diacetyl and dry finish.  They brewed as cool as they could (66F/19C).

Method 2:
Use lager yeasts at ale temperatures.  Some will actually produce nice beers, despite being above their ideal temperatures.  Wyeast 2124 (Bohemian Lager) is recommended by Wyeast for this purpose.  The guys at BrewingTV used a starter to get their yeast numbers up, and fermented as cool as they could (66F/19C).

Method 3:
Use ambient temperatures. This means you brew in fall/winter, at a time when average temperatures should be in the lagering range. Temperatures will fluctuate more than you’d normally want, but it can work. The guys at BrewingTV used a cold, uninsulated closet that was at 15C/59F and California common yeast.  You could use a garage, or insulated box outside, if you lack a cold room/closet. Canucks like myself need to approach this method carefully – our night-time & winter temperatures could easily turn the ferment into a beer-cube!

Method 1:
66-68F fermentation, 5 weeks in primary (temps dropped to 62F by end).  Some fruitiness, rye flavours.

Method 2:
Side-by-side with method 1 for fermentation (split batch).  Was very clean, cleaner than US-05 (method 1).  But of a sulphur edge, but otherwise clean.

Method 3:
Fermentation was @ 58-60F, 2 weeks primary and 2 weeks in secondary. Beer was clean, but didn’t ferment completely.

Final thoughts:
This is an interesting set of methods to try – and some that I will most certainty be exploring. My one concern is that the beers brewed by BrewingTV using these methods were stronger-tasting (bocks) compared to many styles of lagers. They had great success, but I’m not sure how well this method will work for lighter-bodied lagers. That said, one of the hosts mentioned using methods #3 for pilsners with great success!

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