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 ( 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

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

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

2308 - Munich Lager

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


Jason said...

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


Ted Danyluk said...


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.