Brewdyssey – Lager

It is the fear of the unknown that often drives our heroes forward. New experiences must be attempted, lest they haunt our brave brewers forever. Without expanding their horizons they know that they are destined to do naught but wander around the same small circles that they ever had. With this in mind our brave Brewmeisters forge into uncharted  territory and take on a new challenge. Join us in the telling of this, our next instalment of the Brewdessy…

Evening brothers and sisters. ‘Tis I Bifur, here to relate the tale of our latest brewing adventure. It’s now some years into our brewing adventure and we’ve tried lots of styles, IPA, stout, Saison and god awful goblin inspired brews to name but a few. We have however always shied away from one style: Lager. There’s a couple of reasons for us avoiding this particular beverage. The first is neither of us are actually that sure we enjoy Lager that much and the second is that the process of brewing a Lager involves, well, Lagering. For the uninitiated Lagering is a process whereby the beer is fermented much more slowly than normal whilst being kept in a relatively cold environment. It’s a technique that was more or less discovered by accident in Germany back in the golden age of brewing.

It was this cold storage issue that most vexed us. Neither Dwalin or I had access to a refrigerated environment where we could store a fermenter with 20 odd litres of beer doing its thing in it. After an amount of research we concluded that our best approach would simply be to brew the Lager in winter time and leave it outside for month or so to do its thing. The cold British winter should provide all the chilling the process required and we should end up with our very own Lager at the end of the process; what could be more simple? It might have worked, it could have worked, who knows? The problem was we just weren’t happy that the high fluctuation and potential freeze/thaw the beer would be subjected to would result in anything other than a waste of money and time. So we needed another solution. Luckily we were saved, as we often are, by our parents. My parents have access to a garage in their part of the mine that (as we established by taking a series of measurements over a week or so) kept a fairly consistent temperature of around 10 degrees Centigrade, which should be perfect for our intended experiment.

Sorted. All we had to do was brew the beer, transport it to the garage, leave it to Lager and BAM! perfect beer. Did it go like that? Does it ever? Read on and you’ll find out..

Brewday… During the initial stages brewing a Lager is very much the same as brewing any other beer. Grain gets sparged, wort gets boiled. We used the following recipe, trying to create a Lager that fitted the classic style but at the same time had enough flavour to satisfy our picky selves:

Grain – 4kg Pilsner, 0.5kg Vienna and 0.25 Cara Malt

Hops – 30g Halletau Mittelfruh at 60 minutes, 10g Pacific Jade at 30 minutes and a dry hop of 30g Pacific Jade

Sparge went great, boil went great, we cooled the beer down to a manageable temperature with our awesome cooler and then… our first issue… how to get the beer to the garage. Naturally we’d both drunk quiet a lot of beer so driving it over was out of the question. Our solution? Sack barrow:

Luckily we were only about ten minutes walk from where we needed to be so we began the epic journey through the streets of London, wheeling our beer to its destination. What could possibly go wrong?

This.

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Yep. We dropped it. We were drunk, we weren’t paying attention, lets face it; we’re idiots… over it went, right over onto its top. Luckily we were saved by the genuinely well constructed vessel supplied to us by the great Wilko. The lid stayed secure! Not one precious drop of our future Lager was spilt, we knew we’d got lucky and we oh so carefully placed the beer back on the trolley and very, very carefully wheeled it the rest of the way.

We got there and installed the fermenter in the garage. All safe and sound. We left it to cool right down to the ambient temperature overnight and the next day I came back and pitched our yeast into it (WLP830). Then our second disaster struck… Snow and lots of it. Now we knew that the British winter was cold, but we’d clearly annoyed the Brew Gods by dropping the Lager on the journey as it got really cold. So cold in fact that the fermentation refused to start. Bugger. Still, we’re not so easily beaten and we’d had the foresight to get two packets of the WLP830 yeast and with the second packet I created a magnificent starter; Malt, yeast nutrient and plenty of time is what I used:Yeast starter.jpg

Its worth pointing out at this juncture that it is a bad idea to pour just boiled water into a non heat proof container… it warps it badly. Funny but slightly wasteful…

Anyway. The starter was introduced to the beer and we moved the fermenter to a slightly warmer part of the room, wrapped it in a few layers of bubble wrap in order to keep the temperature nice and consistent and even put a low powered heater in anti frost mode nearby to keep the ambient temperature high enough to keep the yeast happy. it was all starting to feel like quite a lot of effort at this point and I was questioning the point of it all.

 

 

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Nice and snug! Honestly, there’s a beer fermenting under all that…

Soon the glorious sound of bubbling emanated from the airlock and the Lager slowly and Steadily chugged its way to fully fledged alcoholic beverage status.

Some months later it was all done and, having learnt our lesson, I secured the fermentedlager car treasure into the front seat of my friends car and (with me in the back seat behind it, holding it securely, just to be sure) brought it back to my part of the mine. The rest of the process passed disaster free. We added another batch of yeast when we primed as the Lagering process will often remove so much yeast that it wont be able to carbonate itself in the bottles. Once in the bottles we left it to sit and do its thing for a few weeks and here’s the result:

Lager

The name? Long story… Ask Dwalin.

Overall we were happy with our Lager. I was particularly impressed with the Malt profile that came through beautifully and it had a hint of hops to round the flavour of nicely. Definitely a good summer Lager. Now to wait for the summer…

It was an amount more effort than we were used to putting into making a beer, there were some issues that had to be overcome but despite this I think we’ll try another Lager. Its no fun if its easy, right?

Cheers people

Freud judges those who do not pay attention.