Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Make a starter with no stir plate, Make a lager with no fermentation chamber... What?

This easy to brew beer actually won an NHC
Award in the light American Lager, and
Without a lagering fridge.

Easy Lager with No Fermentation Chamber

Here is a recipe for you all.   A simple down to earth lager recipe for those of you who think you can't make a lager because you don't have a lager fridge.  This is a simple recipe, it is nearly impossible to screw up.   The recipe features California Lager Yeast,  this yeast has been hybridized over a hundred years to perfom just fine at low ale temperatures.  You'll need to use liquid yeast for this, there is no dry equivalent, Wyeast 2112 or WLP 810, both work fine.  You will need multiple packs, or you will need a starter.  My calculator on brewtoad says you'll need 285 to 290 billion cells to ferment this cleanly, and maximize attenuation.  No worries.  Just make a starter...

You can make a starter if you have a 1 gallon fermenter.   You do not have to have a stir plate or an Erlenmeyer Flask.   All you need is a pot, some DME, your yeast, a 1 gallon jug, and an air lock... So how do you do this?   It's easy... and it happens to be step one of making this beer.

A 1 Gallon fermenter is all you need to make big, baddahz
Yeast Starters.  You don't even need a stir plate.
You should make your starter 72-96 hours before brewday.   So Tuesday night, if you're brewing on Saturday.  Wednesday morning at the latest.  Hours before you will begin your starter you need to smack your pack, and remove it from the fridge. If you are using WLP810 just remove it from the fridge.  Put 3 liters of water into a pot and bring it to a boil with 1.5 cups of DME and 1/8th of a teaspoon of yeast nutrient.  Let it chill down to room temperature.  Then chill it to about 60-62 F.   Yes these yeasts do fine at low ale temps, but not high ale temps, not 68 -72 F, so try to get them both under 65... While the yeast is chilling, sanitize your 1 gallon jug and your air lock.  You could get by with out an air lock... but why? Chances are if you have a one gallon jug,  you have an air lock for that jug.   Now that the yeast and the DME solution are both at temperature, pitch the yeast into the DME (wort).  Next, take a piece of sterile saran wrap or aluminum foil and cover the opening.... now shake the bejezus out of it.   Get all that good oxygen down into solution.   Now here is the hard part... every time you walk by your starter, give it a good mix.  Just pick it up and give it a shake, or a good swirl.  You want that oxygen down into the starter.   That's it. Just shake it up when you walk by.  Call your wife when you're at work and have her do it a couple of times too... or train your dog to do it. Stop shaking it the day before brew day,  The night before brewday cold crash your starter.   On brew day you can decant off the"beer" And just save the creamy wonderful yeast that is on the bottom.   I like brewuniteds yeast calculator.... for our batch we may actually build up extra to harvest for future batches.  I'll definitely be saving the yeast when this batch is done.  All of the yeast.  I covered this earlier, but if you didn't see it, woodland brewing research has shown that

This is an all grain recipe.  If you want a partial mash version of it... I'll happily post a link.  If you want an extract version... well... It doesn't work so well. Pilsen liquid extract is kinda dark.  It just doesn't look right when you brew it extract. Pilsner DME might work, but I haven't tried it...

Counterbrew Champagne Lager  
OG  1.040
FG  1.013 (with care early in fermentation you can get this down to 1.008, and that is low enough)
BJCP Category:  1a
IBUs   12 - 15
SRM  1 - 2
ABV 3.77% to 4.3% depending upon how low you can push the FG.

Grain Bill

6.5 # of pilsner malt
.5 #  of carapils
.5 # of corn sugar (dextrose) late boil

Mash at 148-150 for 60 minutes.  I use 3.5-4  gallons of strike water, and then I rinse to volume.  
I adjust the water with 5.2 stabilizer.  Sometimes acid mix, often gypsum.

Hop Bill
.6 ounces of hallertauer at 60 mnutes
.4 ounces of hallertauer at 15 minutes.
.5 ounces of hallertauer dry hop 4 days.

Wyeast 2112 California lager - make a starter as described above or 3 smack packs

1 tsp of Irish Moss Late in the boil
1 tsp of Yeast Nutrient Late in the boil
1 tsp of Fermaid K yeast Nutrient, when High Krausen is subsiding.
Maybe 1 tsp of amylase enzyme if the fermaid K doesn't drop the lager to under 1.010.

Fermentation Schedul
You have to aerate a lager.  I use an aquarium pump.   I will aerate this for 25 to 30 minutes.
Ferment in the low 60s Fahrenheit, (Ill make 3-4 batches in the winter and ferment in my basement). When the Krausen starts to fall, I will add the Fermaid K and give the fermenter a swirl, with out aerating.
After another week Ill check the gravity, if it hasn't fallen enough, I'll add amylase enzyme.

This beer will be brewed soon.  We will follow the beer through the process with reports and photos of the process and the progress.   We will show you that by being aware of your environment and by using time tested common sense approaches and techniques... you too can brew a great light american lager.


  1. Hey David - do you lager this recipe at all?

  2. I often try to... but it's usually so good that we break into it and start drinking. I did bottle lager 48 of them for Christmas... they've been in the garage fridge for 2 weeks. But you really don't need to lager.

  3. I guess the thing to remember is that 2112 is technically a hybrid yeast. Yes, it is S. Pastoranus, or S.Carlbergenis, if you prefer. But, it behaves like a super clean, low attenuating ale yeast. You can't make a huge beer with this yeast... well you could, but they come out sweet. You have to give it attention in fermentation if you want it to come out crisp and low FG.

  4. Update... Craig... The champagne lager lasted 2 nights during christmas, my family loved them.