The lager is the most sought after style to try and nail down perfectly. I have heard many homebrewers, some even pro-brewers, express the difficulty of making the the perfect lager, pilsners in particular.
While I have never had issues attempting this personally, mainly because my lager palate sucks, I still have tried myself to make a great one. Oddly enough the best “lager” I made scored a 34 in a competition, yet it was brewed with US-05, 2-Row and not lagered. Don’t tell anyone.
The other lagers I’ve attempted I’ve done the usual American standard way where one ferments low (50F-ish), raises it up near the end of fermentation (65F-ish), then cools it back down for lagering. Warming it up helps clean up any pre-curser to diacetyl that the yeast spits out during fermentation. It can reabsorb it essentially at warmer temps, or makes sure it does at the very least. But what if one never raises the temp? Can you imagine the horror!
You know who doesn’t raise the temp for diacetyl rests? German brewers! That’s right, the founding fathers of the lager. They are however cognizant of the issue, so what they do instead to clean it up is add fresh fermenting wort about 5 days into fermentation (or when the beer is about 5 – 6 gravity points from finishing). That fresh fermenting wort is what cleans up any off flavors. They never raise the temp and fermentation slowly continues during the whole time the beer is lagered for 4-6 weeks. That is why they lager beer.
Before I continue, I will be referencing this article by Burkaiser on all of this. Blame them if I get anything wrong. In this article it is referenced that there are six different ways a brewer can lager a beer at home. I will only talk about the way I will be doing for this post, but I will say that in the six options, there is only one mention of raising the temp to the 65F range, and it is stated, “such a rest is not really necessary. But it can be helpful when the used yeast shows a very sluggish fermentation performance and has a hard time reaching the targeted final gravity when kept at fermentation temperatures.” Fascinating.
The one I am doing is similar to what the German brewers do and is the closest to what a home brewer can do to mimic them: Collect the wort, cool it to 50F, pitch my yeast, keep the beer in the primary until it is at least within 4 gravity points), rack to a secondary, add fresh fermenting wort (called krausening), let all of it finish fermenting, get it cold to serving temps, and carbonate. You can also carbonate naturally with a spunding valve. I don’t have one, so I will do it with C02.
I can’t fail.
Batch Size: .75 Gallon
Est ABV: 5%-ish
Boil Time: 60 Min
(64.4%) – Munich 3-5L
(24.6%) – German Pilsner
(6%) – Caramunich
(5%) – Melanoiden Malt
(1.5%) – Carafa III
60 Min @ 154F
(19 IBUs) Perle (4.5% AA) @ 50 Min
(7 IBUs) Perle (4.5% AA) @ 10 Min
WLP830 Southern German Lager
Collected the wort on brew day and set aside one emptied honey jar full of wort to freeze to use as the starter to krausen with later. Pitched the yeast into wort at 50F.
10/9/18: Made a starter with the leftover wort.
10/10/18: Gravity at 1.030.
10/12/18: Gravity at 1.014. This yeast strain apparently can go as low as 1.007, but I went with the standard 1.010 mark. Transferred to a keg (bent the dip tube up a little as this was going to be my serving vessel as well) and added the starter to it. I started the starter a little too soon as the krausen had fallen already on it, but it was still active, hopefully. I put a blow off tube connected to my gas in line. Kept at 50F.
10/27/18: Removed the blow off tube.
11/10/18: Put gas on it and held at 36F to carbonate.
11/18/18 tasting notes: