Its Lager Time!

40L in the pantry

This is going to be a long post…but I swear there is a recipe and brew day in here somewhere.

Many, many, many years ago I lived in a much colder part of the country, and I frequently brewed lagers. I now live in a warmer part of the country, and no longer brew lagers. The reason for that change in my brewing practices is entirely due to the weather…and how I used to lager. No fridge for me, all I had was months of below-freezing weather, a cheap bimetallic coil thermostat, a heat-lamp, and an insulated cardboard box. In other words, I had a basic fermentation chamber in which the beer sat in a carboy in an insulated box out in the yard, and a thermostat switched on one of those old-school ‘red’ heat lights to keep the temperature from dropping too low. The disadvantage to the cheap thermostat was a few batches that had a little ice on top, but even those batches turned out pretty good.

In my new home the weeks and weeks of consistent below-freezing temperatures simply does not happen; hell, last week we ranged from a high of 15C (shorts weather for us Canuks) through to -15C (beer freezes solid, we leave the sandals in the closet). Not exactly lager-compatible, given you want to keep temps pretty consistent in the 4C to 12C range…and I’m still too damned cheap to buy a fridge for brewing.

So I’ve been watching some of the experiments and tests being conducted by the home brew community on altered lager fermentation profiles with great interest. My interest was first tweaked by a Brewing TV video on lager workarounds, which compared 3 different methods ways to “lager” without lagering (my post on this video) . Its a great video so its worth embedding again:

More recently, Brülosophy has done a series of fermentation temperature experiments in which they found that (some) lager yeasts can produce perfectly serviceable beers when fermented at ale temperatures. There are two split-batch experiments using lager yeasts in the series right now (1 and 2), both of which produced lagers (a pilsner and helles respectively) where the warm-fermented lagers could not be distinguished by experienced tasters from their properly (or near-properly) lagered split.

That. Is. Awesome.

The temperature in the
pantry should work.

Its also not a surprise, once you think about it. The whole point of lagering is to suppress ester formation, leading to a very clean tasting beer. And historically, before the advent of pure yeast cultures, lagering would also have limited bacterial spoilage, also aiding in the creation of clean tasting beers. But move forward to today, where we have good cultures of pure yeast, have access to good ingredients, and know other methods to reduce ester formation (namely, good pitch rates and good oxygenation), and its not too much of a surprise that we can now get clean lager-like fermentations without actually lagering.

So I’m talking a page out of Brülosophy’s book (and stealing their recipe & yeast), and giving it a go myself. I’ve taken the pilsner recipe from the first lager temperature experiment at Brülosophy, but am using the Saflager Lager (W-34/70) used in the second lager temperature experiment; mostly because I didn’t have enough time to build up a proper sized starter of yeast from my bank in the time between brew-inception to my planned brew-day. Today I am brewing with my wife’s uncle/my occasional brew-and-fishing partner, Mike, and so this beer is named after him – Uncle Mike’s Pilsner.

Recipe and brew-day notes below the fold.


My approach to this is simple, and is little more than a fusion of the various methods tested by Brülosophy, the guys at Brewing TV, and a few other blog posts I’ve come across. The idea is simple – start with a large pitch of healthy yeast, oxygenate the wort well, and keep the first 4 to 5 days of the fermentation cool (as this is when ester formation occurs). For me, this is easy. With weather what it is, it’ll be no problem to cool the beer to a pitching temperature between 10 and 15C (50-60F). And with my cellar holding steady (in winter) around 16C, it should be trivial to keep temperatures from raising above 20C.

Once the first 5 days are done I’ll move the fermenter into the main part of the basement, where temps hover around 20C (70F); a perfect temperature to ensure full attenuation and cleanup of off-flavours in the final 10 days of fermentation. Kegging, cold-crash and gelatin should give a nice clear beer about 3 weeks after brew day.

Heck, if this works, my next few beers may very well be lagers…starting with this one.


Uncle Mike’s Pilsner
German Pils
Type: All GrainDate: 20 Feb 2016
Batch Size (fermenter): 40.00 lBoil Time: 60 min
Boil Size: 48.20 lAsst Brewer: Uncle Mike!
End of Boil Volume 44.20 lBrewhouse Efficiency: 72.00 %
8.00 kgPilsner (2 Row) Ger (2.0 SRM)Grain192.2 %
0.68 kgCarapils (Briess) (1.5 SRM)Grain27.8 %
35.44 gMagnum [12.00 %] – Boil 60.0 minHop327.1 IBUs
60.00 gSaaz [3.75 %] – Boil 20.0 minHop48.7 IBUs
2.00 tspIrish Moss (Boil 10.0 mins)Fining5
60.00 gSaaz [3.75 %] – Boil 10.0 minHop65.2 IBUs
60.00 gSaaz [3.75 %] – Steep/Whirlpool 15.0 minHop73.6 IBUs
2.0 pkgSaflager Lager (DCL/Fermentis #W-34/70) [50.28 ml]Yeast8
Beer Profile
Est Original Gravity: 1.048 SGEst Final Gravity: 1.010 SG
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 5.0 %Measured Final Gravity: 1.010 SG
Bitterness: 44.5 IBUsEst Color: 3.4 SRM
Mash Profile
Mash Name: Single Infusion, Light Body, Batch SpargeTotal Grain Weight: 8.68 kg
Sparge Water: 34.25 lGrain Temperature: 22.2 C
Sparge Temperature: 75.6 CTun Temperature: 22.2 C
Adjust Temp for Equipment: TRUEMash PH: 5.20
Mash Steps
NameDescriptionStep TemperatureStep Time
Mash InAdd 22.89 l of water at 73.2 C65.6 C60 min
Sparge Step: Batch sparge with 2 steps (10.03l, 24.23l) of 75.6 C water
Mash Notes: Simple single infusion mash for use with most modern well modified grains (about 95% of the time).
Based on Brusopholy recipe & quick lager method: Process:
-Cool wort to below 20C
-Rehydrate/pitch yeast
-Maintain as low as possible (cellar, 16C or so) for 5 days, then warm to 20 for final 10 days
-Keg & fine with Gelatin

-Add 6ml of lactic acid to mash water to keep pH at ~5.5
-Temperature was dead-on, conversion complete in 70 min

-Quickly chilled
-OG of 1.054; 6 points above predictions!

-Chilled beer to 15C; pitched yeast at this temp
-Pantry at 14-15C

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