Thursday, January 31, 2013

My First Lager

I've been thinking about brewing up my first lager for a while now. The issue though is that I don't have any precise temperature control, so keeping a lager fermentation cold and a lagering stage even colder has been a major hurdle. However, over the past several years I've realized that in the middle of winter my cellar, "mudroom", and garage might just work for what I need. I almost tried this last winter, but I think we had the warmest winter on record and temps were never to my liking, so I abandoned the idea. This year, however, we've had some seriously cold weather - so cold in fact, that I was starting to worry it might be TOO cold to brew a lager. But things have warmed up just enough and I think I have a window to get this thing done. So, a week after brewing a dark, bold American Stout, I found myself staying up into the wee hours of the night to brew something on the complete opposite side of the beer spectrum - a "classic" German Pils.

I went simple with the grist - just Pilsner malt and a little acidulated malt to help with the mash pH. However that was about the only part of the brew that I decided to go simple with. I ran a three-step mash - infused the first step to 131°F for a protein rest for 20 minutes, stepped the mash up to the saccharification rest of 148°F for 45 minutes and then pulled a thin decoction, boiled for 10 minutes, to get me up to mash out at 170°F. I also tried first wort hopping for the first time - hoping to get some of the smooth bittering and lingering hop flavor that some folks say you get with this technique. I'm still pretty confused about the proper technique - do the first wort hops replace some hops in the recipe? And if so, which ones? Or are they used in addition to the other hops? And how much bittering do you really get from them? In the end I used them as an addition and treated their IBU contribution like a regular 60 minute addition - bascially following Gordon Strong's advice in Brewing Better Beer.

I ended up using 100% New Zealand Pacific Hallaertau hops...not exactly a classic hop to use for a German Pils, but I had them in my freezer and wanted to use them. A lot of places suggest that they are similar to the quintessential German noble hop, Hallertau Mittelfrüh, so I am optimistic that they will work just fine. I pitched a stepped-up starter of White Lab's German Bock yeast (WLP833) and have the beer fermenting in my mudroom which has an ambient temperature between 48-50°F. We had a warm front come through today, so I am a little nervous that the temp will climb a bit...but another cold snap is forecast starting tomorrow night, so I am thinking it should be OK. I plan on letting the fermentation go for a couple weeks or so and then rack to a carboy and lager it in my garage, which is currently at an ambient temp of 38°F.

I'm excited about this, but, as my first lager, I am feeling very rookie-like. I haven't stressed like this over a beer in quite some time!

Gartenwasser Pils
brewed on 1/27/13

Recipe Specifications

Batch Size: 3.50 gal
Estimated Color: 3.7 SRM
Estimated IBU: 37.2 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75.00 %
OG: 1.053 SG
FG: 1.012
ABV: 5.4%

6 lbs 8.0 oz Pilsner malt - 98 %
2.0 oz Acidulated malt - 2 % (for mash pH)

14 g NZ Pacific Hallertau [4.50 %] - First Wort
14 g NZ Pacific Hallertau [4.50 %] - 60.0 min
9 g NZ Pacific Hallertau [4.50 %] - 15.0 min
9 g NZ Pacific Hallertau [4.50 %] - 1.0 min

German Bock Lager (White Labs #WLP833)

Mash Schedule
Protein Rest @ 131°F - 20 min
Sacch. Rest @ 148°F - 45 min
Decoction (10 minute boil) for mash-out @ 170°F

Water - estimated
Ca: 57 ppm
Mg: 11 ppm
Na: 3 ppm
Cl: 56 ppm
SO4: 94 ppm
Alkalinity: 20 ppm (as CaCO3)


Brett said...

Looks good! I will be brewing a lager soon as well. I have a ferm chamber but its efficiency is not the greatest so I can only brew lagers in the winter as well. I made one, my first, last year and it came out ok, although I think I waited a little too long to do a diacetyl rest and then didn't get the temp high enough. Something tasted a little "off" with, although it progressively got better lagering in the keg! So my only recommendation is to perform the diacetyl rest before placing it out in the garage.

Jim Lemire said...

Brett - Thanks for the tip. I figured I would taste it before lagering to see if it neededa d-rest. Though, just to be safe, I'll probably warm it up for a few days anyway! I just hope my garage will maintain cold enough temperatures long enough.

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