Brewing a Lager

Posted by Old Ale Jay on 1/11/2017 to Homebrew FAQ

Lagers are my favorite brew and I prefer to brew lagers at all times of the year.  I can hold a consistent fermentation temperature in my lager chest and turn out some really tasty homebrew, but It seems lagers are still a really big question mark for many homebrewers. Let's spend this week’s knowledge segment with a little education from your favorite homebrew shop, Austin Homebrew Supply.

Where to start? First you have to pick a recipe.  AHS has over 250 different lager recipes. Now is a great time to start a Spring Maibock for the upcoming season.  Once you pick a recipe, these steps will help ensure you have success brewing your next lager!!

Brewing a lager is not different from brewing any other style of beer. Mash your grains or bring your extract to a boil. Add your hops as specified in your recipe and chill your wort. First note in brewing a lager is to pitch enough yeast to ensure proper fermentation. A two liter starter is generally enough yeast for a five gallon batch. A big starter is key. If you have any questions on starters, our staff members are delighted to talk homebrew and will readily help you with this process.

Batch is brewed, starter is pitched, time to start the fermenting process. I like to start my fermentation about 65°F. This will allow the yeast to start fermenting within 12-24 hours. Once fermentation has started, drop your fermentation temperatures to the temperature suggested by the yeast manufacturer for the yeast you are using. Do not use the temperatures in the recipe, always follow the guidelines provided by the yeast manufacturer for fermentation temperatures.

Fermentation will take longer with a lager than it will with an ale. I like to wait fourteen days for primary fermentation and raise my temperature to above 62°F for an additional 72 hours. The purpose of raising your temperature is to ensure fermentation is complete and to go through a diacetyl rest. The diacetyl rest will allow the yeast to take on any off flavors in your beer from fermentation– you must raise your fermentation temperatures above 62°F to accomplish this.

Once fermentation is complete (take a hydrometer reading) and your diacetyl rest is complete, it is time to rack your beer. Rack to a clean, sanitized carboy and affix an airlock. I like to use the twin bubble airlocks for secondary on my lagers. This will avoid water being sucked back into the fermenter as you drop your temperatures. After racking to secondary, you should drop your temperatures by 5°F every 24 hours until you reach 35°F. You can go down as low as 32°F, just be careful not to freeze your beer.

You are now lagering! Lagering simply means cold storage. You are going to cold store or “lager” your beer for at least 6 weeks and I prefer to go at least 8 weeks with all of my lagers.  After 6-8 weeks, you are ready to package your beer. I prefer to use a keg for my lagers. You just worked for 10 weeks to create dazzling clarity, it would be a shame to have any sediment in bottles.

Force carbonate and you are ready to enjoy an amazing lager in the next 24 hours. Not as much mystery as many will lead you to believe. Once you have a homebrewed lager, it will be tough to not add a few to your arsenal each year. Below are a few things you may want or need for brewing lager.

Temperature Controller

Kegging System

Thermometer

Bock

Thermometer Strip

Hydrometer

Spring Maibock

Test Jar

Pint Glass

Baltic Porter

Old Ale Jay

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Date: 1/18/2017
Kevin Brown
Hello Old Ale Jay, Interesting article. I bought your Munich Helles partial mash kit. I like what you wrote about using the yeast manufacturers temperatures. When I get on Wyeast website and look up Wyeast 2308 (which is what I am using) it list the temperature range at 52 to 62 F. So, does that mean I primary at 62 and then secondary at 52 and not turn it cold until conditioning? That would make things very simple. Also, at the end of your article you say force carbonate and enjoy in the next 24 hrs. Is that just for kegging? Surley bottle conditioning would be 2 weeks? Thanks-Kevin
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Date: 1/21/2017
Ben
Hi Kevin, Thanks for reading and commenting on our blog. The temperature range listed for the yeast is the ideal range for that yeast. For Wyeast 2308 that yeast wants to ferment between 52-62. If you were to ferment outside of the listed range, the yeast may impart off flavors in the beer or may not function optimally during fermentation. For that particular yeast I would ferment around 55 in primary and secondary with a diacetyl rest in between. Then once i'm ready to lager I would step the temperature down 4-5 degrees a day until the beer is at 35 degrees. After that I would let it lager for 6-10 weeks. If you have any other questions please feel to reach out. -Ben
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