Friday, February 2, 2007

First Lager

Back in 2002, my good friend from HS enlisted in the army as an Intelligence Analyst. For about two years he was stationed outside a small town southeast of Munich called Bad Ibling. Naturally, drinking the finest German/Bavarian lagers was infused into nearly every social event. He enjoyed classic Munich Helles, Dunkels, Octoberfest, and local strong fest beers. I managed to visit him there, and pretty much marveled at his fortunate circumstances.

After I heard Brian returned home, we got back in touch. He was impressed by my new hobby of home brewing, and started helping out. So I asked him what style he would like to brew. Then he mentioned the beer he was so accustomed to drinking…the one and only Munich Helles (specifically...
Augustiner Brau Lagerbier Hell). I said…I hadn’t brewed a lager before, but the pale lager style is what I wanted to brew in the very beginning (specifically a hoppy pilsner).

Since the brew date was scheduled for January 7th 2006, I thought…"the weather is cold enough, so why not?" So I quickly brainstormed how to regulate the primary and secondary fermentation temperatures. A space heater thermostat would keep a consistent primary temperature out in the porch. For maintaining lager temperatures, I thought about turning my ten gallon Rubbermaid mashtun into an icebox. I then fabricated a Styrofoam lid that fit perfectly around the neck of the secondary 5-gallon carboy. By weighing it down with books, it creates a tight insulated lid. Over the course of a week I slowly added more and more ice. It worked perfectly.

My first attempt at a good clean pale Munch lager was a complete success. It’s still one of Brian's and my favorites. Unfortunately a whole year would pass until I could brew another one. Since then I’ve become much more attracted to tasting/drinking lagers. I feel like lagers provide just as much room for experimentation as does the brewing of ales. This winter season I am getting in about 19 gallons of lager beer. (Munich Dunkel, Schwartzbier, Bohemian/Czech Pilsner, and four 1 gallon experimentals)

Overall, brewing lager beers has been a rewarding experience. I totally recommend it. It doesn’t take a whole lot to maintain cold temperatures during the winter season (well...in the northern zones). And the end result is well worth the time and energy. It definitely provides a nice break/alternative to normally brewing ales throughout the rest of the year.

Munich Helles – 1st Lager
Brewed January 7 & Bottled March 5th 2006
Lagered 1.5 months at 32-35*F
Utilized a diacetyl rest

Grains:
10 lb. 2-row malt
.5 lb. Cara-Pils
.25 lb. Flaked Wheat

Hops:
.75 oz. Hallertau 60min
.50 oz. Hallertau 40min
.50 oz. Hallertau 20min

Yeast:
2308 - Munich Lager


Results:
Having never brewed a lager before, I didn't know what to expect. Brian said it tasted just like his favorite session beer back in Germany. It was a very clean tasting pale gold lager with good malt character and low subtle bitterness. It finished just a bit sweet. It's great head retention and carbonation helped create a sense of dryness. It was very clear and thrist quenching. Overall, we were quite impressed. The only regret is only brewing 5 gallons of it. I didn't take accurate measurements so...
Approx. OG = 1.046
Approx. FG = 1.012
Approx. ABV = 4.4%
Approx. IBU = 19

2 comments:

Jason said...

Ted...great idea with the rubbermaid. Do you just pour the ice in the cooler and close the lid?

Cheers,
Jason

Ted Danyluk said...

Jason,

The Rubbermaid (5 gal carboy in a 10 gal cooler) works pretty good for holding low temps. I gradually added more ice to bring the temp further down. I had a drilled stopper where the spout was with a pen lodged in it. Had to keep draining icy water (which I simply poured right back into the freezer ice trays), so just pulled out the pen.

Yeah, I just weighed down the styrofoam covering. In the end, I think it got too cold (33-35*F). I'm finding a better lagering temp is around 40 degrees. Anyways.