Sunday, February 14, 2016

Lager at Ale Temps: German Pilsner Brew day STEP MASH... back in the counterbrew kitchen... by myself

Saturday Brew day in the counterbrew kitchen.  All by myself. The other members of the brew crew all had other plans.  MA is on a "beercation" in Denver.  Jake and John have valentines plans with their lovely wives.  So it was up to the old man to carry the torch.  To keep the momentum going.  So I spent Saturday doing general home brew stuff and brewing a 2.5 gallon German lager the easy way, kind of...

What is the easy way?  Is there a magic way to make a lager at home?  Is there a way to ensure that a lager comes out crisp and clean, with out all the extra fussing with pre chillers,  fermentation chambers, and months of lagering?   Well simply put, yes there is, and it is all about yeast selection.

There are a handful of lager yeasts that work just fine at ale temperatures.  Particular strains that just don't happen to throw off many off flavors even at higher temperatures.   Just last week over at Brulosophy, Marshal displayed that you can use Fermentis 34/70 at 70 F and produce a clean crisp lager.  Now this is not true of all lager yeasts.  But some of them will work just fine.  So which one?  What yeast can you turn to for reliable lagers at ale temperatures?  Note, this doesn't mean un controlled fermentation.  You need to keep these around 62 F - 65 F.

  • Fermentis 34/70 - I've used it for years at 62 with absolutely no problems.
  • Fermentis K-97 - technically a Kolsch yeast, but you'd never know it.
  • Wyeast 2112  California Lager - Used it for years for my Champagne Lager
  • Wyeast 2124 Bohemian Lager
  • White Labs 810 San Francisco Lager -  Used it on Saturday! Doing great Sunday Morning.  This is a very malt forward style of yeast.
  • White Labs 862 Cry Havoc
  • White Labs 080 Cream Ale Blend
Began my brew day by racking a strawberry wine, and by checking on the gravity of a Belgian Strong Dark Fruit Beer... What?  you never posted about that!  Well no, no I didn't.  We do make some more advanced beers, and sours that I don't post about on this blog.    I also re dosed a Bret IPA we are working on, as of this morning there is a beautiful pellicle on the beer.  

Ground the grains fine.  I always try to mill my grains on brew day.  I don't know the science for sure, but I feel like the closer to brewing, the better.

step 1:  132 F
Today was a step mash brew day.  I was using the amazing Weyermann Barke Pilsner (TM) malt.  This is my third time using it, and now I am feeling a little possessive of it.  Planning what future brews I am willing to use it for and what I am not.  Definitely going into my upcoming Bierre D' Mars, Saison, Bierre d' Garde, and another lager.  But it's not going into the California Common, or any of the upcoming IPAs, etc.  It is just too special for that.  Too valuable. Too Yummy!

Today was all about the step mash.
The recipe for the "Die Achtung" Pilsner
2.5 gallons
1.048 OG
1.012 FG
33 IBUs

3.3lbs of Weyermann Barke Pilsner
.3 lbs of Cara/Crystal 40 Lovibond
.3 lbs of Corn Sugar Added in 1 quart of water as High Krausen is stable (improves attenuation)
1 ounce of Hallertauer  (4.5 AAU)   at 60 /70  4.5 Alpha Acid
Iris Moss
Yeast Nutrient
Gelatin Fining

Step 2:  146 F for 40 Minutes
Step Mashing is not hard, it is also not strictly necessary on many beers.  But I find it improves extraction, and flavor.  And flavor is what it is all about for me.    So I often step mash.  I brew loads of Belgian beers, and when you are brewing a Belgian, and you want lots of phenolic flavors, you have to step mash.  (More on that in another post).   The first rest was at 132-135 F.  I can get there with the 141 F water that comes out of my tap.  And that is nice.

Step 3: 152 for 15m
After 15 minutes I rose to 146 F  where I rested for 40 Minutes.   Then up to 152-154 F,  Then Mash out at 170 ish.   My efforts produced a delicious wort that clocked in at 1.039 OG.  That is 86.28% sports fans.  So you tell me if it was worth it.  There is a faster way to do a step mash too.  You can use boiling water to more quickly change the temperature of your wort.  But that wasn't an option for me on this brew day.  My other 5 gallon kettle has delicious Chili in it.   Truth told I don't mind it taking a little longer.  It makes for a leisurely calm brew day.  It also involves me more in the process.   

Nailed it.  
The boil was uneventful.  The wort was foamy so there was a lot of foop.  I always scoop the foop.  I have no need for those proteins in my beer.   Single Hop addition.  1 ounce of Hallertauer at 60 minutes.  Irish Moss and yeast nutrient at 15 minutes.   

Chilling the batch,
love the color
Chilling the batch was frustrating as always.  20 minutes is too long.  The ground water seemed to be at around 60.   But with a single coil in a sink full of ice water it still took 20 minutes. Chilling drives me crazy.  Eventually, I'll break down and buy a Jaded chiller.  But for now, I really prefer using 2 chillers at one time.   

I aerated the batch with my aquarium pump and pitched the pack of WLP 810.   Some people say 810 is too malt forward, and I am using Weyermann Barke Pilsner (TM).  So this beer could be a malt bomb. (fine by me, not what was intended but still yummy!)  Only time will tell.  But if it isn't super crisp, I'm sure I'll still love it.  I love malty beers.  As of this morning it has built a beautiful Krausen and millions of tiny bubbles are rising to the surface.   Should be another delicious German Pilsner.    As you can see, I have a fondness for crisp lagers.


  1. Sorry to leave you hanging this weekend, Dave! Looks like you still had a great/relaxing brew day! So fitting you racked your strawberry wine on Valentine's Day; I have to think that was premeditated given your overt romanticism of DIY libations. Can't wait to try that lager!

  2. Thanks, Looking forward to brewing with the Gang again. But if Im not mistaken. We have about 50 gallons of stuff fermenting? Nice to brew with a great crew! The lager is kicking! I added .25 gallons of water and .3# of sugar last night to bring it to the full 2.5 gallons. It completely took off again. Love that yeast. The strawberry wine... tastes very dry, still cloudy, needs to degas, probably degas, fine, and stabilize this week, so we can back sweeten and bottle next week.

  3. Replies
    1. Of course I will, but in truth, Ive been making this exact beer for over 15 years. It always comes out crisp and clean. The only major change is the Weyermann Barke Pilsner (TM). It may be extra malty this time.

  4. Hey David. Great post. Thanks for sharing. I'm working my way through some 2.5gal batches of lager as well, so I love seeing and hearing what others are doing. I share your chilling woes & frustration...well I used to : ). I recently picked up one of the chillers from JaDeD brewing. It's a custom chiller they call "The Mantis." It was reviewed on in a slightly larger form. Mine is a bit smaller, but HOLY MOLY! does it ever work well. I'm not "selling my channel" but I posted a video of me using it on my YouTube channel. You can see the chiller here:

    And you can see it in action here:

    Cheers and happy brewing!

    1. Ill check it out. Thanks. I just don't trust plate chillers, and counterflow chillers. It's not the big scary infections that ruin beer. It is the minor infections. And If you cant see it, you can't clean it. (Exception to this rule is the BrauSupply Plate Chiller. Steven has a great cleaning process on his channel)

    2. Nick, we went ahead and bought the bullet. Our Jaded Hydra should arrive today. Thanks for the recommendation. Can't wait to use this beast.

    3. Awesome! You're going to love it. Report back with your experiences. Cheers and happy brewing.