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Brewing Your First Lager
Want to Brew Lager Beer?
This is the time of year when the brewers who do not have a temperature controlled brewing system can brew a few authentic lager beers. The characteristic that makes lager beers unique is that they finish crisp and clean, with little to no estery aroma that is normal for English Ales, Porters, and Stouts.
To make a good lager beer, you as the brewer must maintain fermentation temperatures within the range of the particular Lager Yeast you have chosen for your beer. If you visit the Wyeast web site and review the different Lager yeasts, you'll find that they run a range of different temperatures, some settling more clear than others after fermentation is complete, and some requiring a diacetyl rest to produce a good clean beer. Pretty complex? Not really.
Let's keep things simple for your first few lager brews. One of my favorite lager yeasts is the Wyeast 2112 California Lager yeast. I like it because it produces lager-like characteristics at ale temperatures (58-68F). California Lager Yeast also settles out after fermentation is complete, and leaves your brew much more clear than many of the other yeasts. One thing to remember, be sure to let the beer set in the primary fermentor for a 2-3 days after fermentation is complete. I hurried one batch and racked the beer off the yeast shortly after the fermentation was over. Much to my suprise, the beer had a pronounced butter-scotch aroma and flavor. And I mean PRONOUNCED! So much that the next morning, I could still taste the butter-scotch!
In the colder months, if you wish to venture into the other lager yeasts, check out the temperature in your cellar. If it stays between the mid-50's to lower 60's, you should be in good shape. To stabilize the temperature, I have placed my carboy in a large plastic tub, filled with water and placed 20 oz plastic soda bottles filled with water and later frozen. Drop 3-4 of the frozen bottles into the water in the morning and after work, remove the morning bottles and replace them with 3-4 freshly frozen bottles. If your cellar or basement is already on the cool side, this will knock the temperature down several degrees. By adjusting the number of frozen bottles, you can regulate the fermentation temperature fairly accurately. A few degrees fluctuation shouldn't have a huge effect on the finished beer.
If you want to get serious about your brewing, pick up a copy of "Brewing Lager Beer" by Greg Noonan. While it is not a big book, it really answers some of the questions you may not have thought about asking! Things like your mash pH, decoction mashing, mash water treatment, and yes, lagering your beer! This is a book I have read several times and have the original and the "NEW" version of "Brewing Lager Beer" Be sure to pick up and begin reading your own copy today.
You'll be glad you did! .