So, what’s the point of lager?

Help Support The HomeBrew Forum:

MickDundee

Landlord.
Joined
Jan 27, 2016
Messages
3,201
Reaction score
1,508
As is often the case, I think those who don't like lager just haven't had a good one and unfortunately it's not terribly easy to find a good example, at least in this country.

That being said, lager covers a huge variety of styles and the common notion that lagers are all bland and tasteless isn't true. Bock, Marzen, Oktoberfest, dunkel, and many Baltic porters are all lagers and are packed full of flavour.

I recently brewed a Munich dunkel and it's up there with my favourite brews. Rich toasty, bready malt flavours and sooo drinkable.

Also don't be put off with the long time frame. If you can lager around 0°c for a week or two then it's probably plenty. I was drinking my dunkel within 5 weeks.

Edit to add:
It was a very simple recipe too:

For 20L
Grain Bill
----------
3.0kg Munich I (59%)
2.0kg Munich II (39%)
0.1kg Carafa special II (2%)

Hop Bill
----------
35g Hallertau Mittelfruh @ 60 mins
15g Hallertau Mittelfruh @ 20 mins

Pitch at 10°C with WLP833 - German bock lager
How did your efficiency turn out with Munich as the base malt Steve? I’ve been getting c72% since getting my all in one but my Vienna Lager at the weekend (80% Vienna, 20% dark Munich) only yielded about 65-67% which is what I was getting when I was BIAB. It’s the first time I’ve not used a “conventional” base malt but was of the impression that Vienna had a similar diastatic power to normal base malt.
 

MickDundee

Landlord.
Joined
Jan 27, 2016
Messages
3,201
Reaction score
1,508
Well, I finally started a lager last night. I changed my mind about the recipe several times (even while crushing the grain!) but in the end the final recipe became:

90% Pilsner
10% Vienna
Mash temp 63C (145F)
35g Saaz AA=3.2 60 mins
35g Saaz AA=3.2 10 mins
10g MJ M84 yeast
17 litres in FV, OG= 1050

I think I should get about 23 IBU from this. It’s now sitting in my fermenting cupboard at 11C (52F).
For a first attempt that looks spot on.

Not that I’m an expert, I only brewed my second ever lager at the weekend. My first one (the GH Mexican lager) turned out really well, only criticism is I think I detected a little diacetyl but it worked well with the flavours so might have just been the flaked maize.

The Czech lager I have planned for a few weeks time will look very similar to yours, although I’ll be using either Northern Brewer or Tettnang to bitter with and saaz as the late additions because it’s a bit of a user-upper brew.
 
Last edited:

strange-steve

Quantum Brewer
Joined
Apr 8, 2014
Messages
4,444
Reaction score
3,246
Location
Galle Crater, Mars
How did your efficiency turn out with Munich as the base malt Steve? I’ve been getting c72% since getting my all in one but my Vienna Lager at the weekend (80% Vienna, 20% dark Munich) only yielded about 65-67% which is what I was getting when I was BIAB. It’s the first time I’ve not used a “conventional” base malt but was of the impression that Vienna had a similar diastatic power to normal base malt.
My BHE for that was 70% which I think is a little lower, but my efficiency does seem to vary quite a bit so it's hard to tell. One interesting thing was that the attenuation was very low at 64% even with a step mash.
 

Northern_Brewer

Regular.
Joined
Oct 5, 2019
Messages
375
Reaction score
285
What I really meant is that I’m not a lager drinker and so to fill a hole in my brewing repertoire (there are many so I may be back) I need some guidance on what makes a lager good and how you achieve it.
One question is what's your objective - to make something that's good enough for the Carling drinkers in your life, better than that beer for them, or a better-than-that lager in particular? You've got quite a few options that don't involve going down the full decoction-and-weeks-lagering route. For instance Cream of Three Crops and Centennial Blonde are easy-to-make not-too-characterful ales that are standard recommendations over on HBT for macro lager drinkers.

Commercial macro lager is typically brewed at 15°C (albeit with the help of huge volumes that suppress ester formation, Carling even goes up to 20°C in the later stages of fermentation). Some home-brew lager yeast work surprisingly well at "ale" temperatures of 18°C or even higher - in particular Mangrove Jack M54 California Lager and 34/70, although the latter doesn't flocculate as well as M54. S-189 also seems to work pretty well at "high" temperature, but people seem to have rather mixed feelings about S-23 in general (never mind at warm tempertures).

Try to keep temperature as constant as you can though, it's temperature fluctuations that can hurt more than absolute warmth.

Since 90% of beer sold seems to be Pilsner, then the answer to your question is yes, it is the most representative variant of lager.
Well...international lager generally has 10-20% rice/corn/maltose syrup etc adjuncts that wouldn't be allowed in Germany, and is generally far less bitter than any pilsner, it may have pilsner on the label but that doesn't mean it's a pilsner.

Czech pilsners are typically pilsner/Saaz SMASHes of about 40 IBU - this year Crisp malted a field of Hana barley which is the original Czech heritage variety (the lager equivalent of Chevallier) - Malt Miller had a tonne of it, I don't know if they have any left but it's great. If you're wanting to be purist about your lagers, then Hana is the way to go.

German pils have less bitterness, say 30 IBU, and helles about 20 IBU. German recipes tend to be pilsner with say 5% Munich and (if you're not decocting) 2% melanoidin as a nod to decoction. Obviously they generally use classic German hops - Tettnang, Mittelfruh, Spalt, but actually the soft bitterness of the old Wye variety Brewer’s Gold is valued for helles.

The likes of Carling have even less bitterness, maybe 15 IBU and are brewed at high gravity and then watered down to the target ABV, with the addition of chemicals to improve head retention. See How to make Britain's most popular beer for more details.

Obviously the likes of Vienna lager, dunkel and Baltic porter are perfectly good members of the lager family, but may give the average Carling drinker a heart attack!

And now is the classic time to make Marzen of course...

Forgot to mention these:


They are an absolute "must" resource when making a brew! What I used to do was:
  • Look at what I had available.
  • Go to Brewers Friend and feed the basics in.
  • See what the ABV, IBU etc would be.
  • Refer to the Beer Styles and see what it matched.
  • Go back to Brewers Friend and "tweak" the recipe.
  • Check the the Brewers Friend agreed with the Style Guidelines.
  • Brew the stuff!
This was after I had made a complete balls-up of a brew and made an undrinkable "Barley Wine"! Obviously, it wasn't down to me but I never had an undrinkable brew using this method! athumb..
In general the BA guidelines aren't as bad as the BJCP ones but they both make some real howlers when it comes to beers from outside the US - for instance their barleywine colour guidelines would exclude the biggest-selling UK barleywine, Gold Label.

Just a passing comment on the English language!
'Fob' is a word I haven't seen or heard in a long time. athumb..
My old Dad who worked in a brewery used to use it, and I occasionally do to describe foam but it's not in the English Dictionaries.
I know there is a watch fob, and sometime you fob someone off (or try) , and there's the acronym for free on board, but fob for foam seems to have been lost.
Any commercial brewers out there to confirm its still used.
It's a standard phrase in pubs (particularly when trouble-shooting keg installations when the chiller isn't working or the gas pressure is too high!), I'm surprised it's not in general dictionaries.
 
Last edited:

timtoos

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 23, 2013
Messages
107
Reaction score
4
Just a passing comment on the English language!
'Fob' is a word I haven't seen or heard in a long time. athumb..
My old Dad who worked in a brewery used to use it, and I occasionally do to describe foam but it's not in the English Dictionaries.
I know there is a watch fob, and sometime you fob someone off (or try) , and there's the acronym for free on board, but fob for foam seems to have been lost.
Any commercial brewers out there to confirm its still used.
I worked at a few large breweries in the Yorkshire area (up until 2012 when I stupidly left the industry :(). It was a common term still in use - especially in a packaging environment where pumped beer caused the beer to 'fob' out.
 

Dutto

Dutto
Joined
Jan 13, 2016
Messages
7,206
Reaction score
3,845
Location
East Lincolnshire
:laugh8::laugh8::laugh8:

As my first lager I’d consider anything drinkable as a good outcome, and anything enjoyable as a real result!

My next challenge will be figuring out if it’s any good - .........
Just remember that the key to a decent lager is to let it condition for a looooong time! If it's good it will get better ...

... and if it isn't then you need to try a different brew!
 

darrellm

Landlord.
Supporting Member
Joined
Dec 27, 2011
Messages
2,115
Reaction score
675
Location
Near Malvern
I brewed a Munich Helles back in Feb when I managed to get one room down to 12C, I know I need to leave it 10-12 weeks but I've tried two so far and the second was definitely better than the first. When I've made lagers before they definitely transform around the 10th week.

A good commercial lager I like is Czech Budweiser Budvar, unlike any of the pub-style lagers which have next to no flavour.
 

An Ankoù

Landlord.
Joined
Feb 2, 2019
Messages
3,163
Reaction score
1,721
Location
Brittany, France
Is it ready yet? ;)
But once it has fermented and got a fair way into conditioning, you don't have to keep it cold. I make mine in the winter and store in a well insulated but unheated garage. It still hits thirty in there over the summer months without any detriment to the beer.
 

Hazelwood Brewery

Landlord.
Supporting Member
Joined
Jan 27, 2020
Messages
1,022
Reaction score
773
Location
Kent
But once it has fermented and got a fair way into conditioning, you don't have to keep it cold. I make mine in the winter and store in a well insulated but unheated garage. It still hits thirty in there over the summer months without any detriment to the beer.
I have a fridge in the garage so once I get to that point I can store it at fairly low temperatures indefinitely. Dropping to close to zero will be a problem because I don’t have a spare freezer and temp controller. I have a couple of weeks to source something I guess!
 

Dutto

Dutto
Joined
Jan 13, 2016
Messages
7,206
Reaction score
3,845
Location
East Lincolnshire
I have a fridge in the garage so once I get to that point I can store it at fairly low temperatures indefinitely. Dropping to close to zero will be a problem because I don’t have a spare freezer and temp controller. I have a couple of weeks to source something I guess!
Na!! Don't bother is my advice!

If you check out my Brew Day you will find that I have experimented with lagering at different temperatures and at different lengths of time and (knowing that my taste-buds are probably shot) I couldn't detect any massive changes.

I have surmised that the secret is more in the length of time that the Lager is conditioned than the lowness of the temperature or the length of cold lagering.

At the moment I have a Coopers European Lager kit brewing. Today I have started to Cold Crash it down to 10*C in the fridge for about 10 days then I will:
  • Transfer it to Growlers for carbonation (1gm of sugar per litre) for a few days at 20*C.
  • Condition until summer (whenever that will be) at ambient.
  • Start CO2 carbonation a few days before I intend to start drinking it.
Like most of my brews "Here's hoping!" athumb..
 

Hazelwood Brewery

Landlord.
Supporting Member
Joined
Jan 27, 2020
Messages
1,022
Reaction score
773
Location
Kent
I try to keep it in primary as long as possible, because as soon as it's in the keg I force carb then start sneaking pints here n there! Before you know it I've sneaked the whole keg away haha
While we’re confessing, I’ve just bottled the LAST 12 pints of my latest brown ale (that hasn’t fully conditioned yet) to make room for another brew. 😔🤫
 

phildo79

Member
Joined
Feb 5, 2014
Messages
831
Reaction score
248
Location
N. Ireland
Under that logic, what’s the point in home brewing full stop?
Walk into my specialist offy and pick yourself 6 bottles of imperial stout, NEIPA, DIPA etc. and see how much it costs you. You won't get much change from 40 quid. And that's for about 7 pints worth of beer. How much does it cost to make a kegs worth (33 pints) of the above mentioned beer?

Look at the deals supermarkets have on lager. 20 bottles for a tenner is something I see often. If I could buy 20 bottles of KBS for a tenner, I would and I wouldn't bother making it myself. As it is, 20 bottles of KBS will set you back about £120.
 

MickDundee

Landlord.
Joined
Jan 27, 2016
Messages
3,201
Reaction score
1,508
Walk into my specialist offy and pick yourself 6 bottles of imperial stout, NEIPA, DIPA etc. and see how much it costs you. You won't get much change from 40 quid. And that's for about 7 pints worth of beer. How much does it cost to make a kegs worth (33 pints) of the above mentioned beer?

Look at the deals supermarkets have on lager. 20 bottles for a tenner is something I see often. If I could buy 20 bottles of KBS for a tenner, I would and I wouldn't bother making it myself. As it is, 20 bottles of KBS will set you back about £120.
You’re comparing apples with oranges though.

20 bottles for a tenner is not good lager - it’s usually Carling, Fosters etc. Even the likes of Corona (my guilty pleasure) which are better quality you’d struggle to do better than a quid a bottle. You could make something of a similar strength for about 15p a bottle and it would probably taste better, so it’s still significantly cheaper. In fact I’ve just pulled together a recipe that meets the guidelines of an American light lager - 3kg pilsner malt(£3), 400g sugar (50p), 8g Northern Brewer in the boil (40p), and 2 sachets of dry lager yeast (£3). That’s 17p a pint or 10 bottles for less than £1.70 (assuming 500ml bottles, it would be even cheaper if the deals you refer to are 330ml). Replace the yeast with US-05 or Notty and it goes down to 13p a pint or 10 bottles for under £1.30. If you buy your malt in 25kg bags you’d be even cheaper (11.75p per pint).

I’m pretty sure the OP is wanting to cater for the generic lager drinkers but also something he’d be able to drink the leftovers of himself.

Go to Markies and you are about £3 a bottle for Hacker Pschorr, Paulaner etc. Flensburger is £36 for 12 330ml bottles on Amazon. And those are just the more readily available ones, which is around on a par with supermarket craft beer (Piston head, Brewdog, Beavertown etc) and loads of people try to replicate those beers.
 
Last edited:
2
Top