Cracked Malibu – Lagering

As I mentioned in my previous post, the fermentation schedule for this beer was…

Primary:  3 Weeks @ 10C

Diacetyl Rest:  3 Days @ 19C  (Raises the temperature briefly so the yeast can clean up any remaining diacetyl funkiness in the beer)

Lager:  4 Weeks @ 2C

….

So the Primary and Diacetyl Rest had been completed and it was time to move to the lagering stage.  The first two stages took place in a glass carboy, which is a great way to see what’s taking place during fermentation.  Ale’s are considered ‘top fermenting’ in which the yeast tend to sit on top of the beer, and lagers are considered ‘bottom fermenting’ in which the yeast sit on the bottom of the fermenter to do their work.  This isn’t really true.  During primary fermentation, if you use a glass carboy, you can see the beer churning and mixing vigorously as if its in a blender.  The yeasties are actually swirling around, eating sugar, and spiting out alcohol and co2.  The co2 is a gas that rises out of the liquid and blurbs out the airlock.  Well this motion of co2 rising out of the wort/beer creates this churning affect which is great for keeping the yeast in suspension.  From what I’ve noticed though, lager yeast does pack down on the bottom of the carboy after the vigorous stage and continues to do its work from there.  I could see little co2 bubbles rising up from the bottom of the yeast cake – something that I haven’t see ale yeast do.

Once the primary was over I simply raised the temperature up a bit to do the diacetyl rest.  This rest allows the yeast to work more quickly (yeast work faster with higher temperatures) to finish cleaning up their mess, diacetyl.  It’s an off-flavour that makes the beer taste like corn and cooked vegetables.  I did actually notice a bit of a corn smell to the beer when I started the diacetyl rest, so its a good thing I did this step.

I had an open package of Mount Hood hops sitting in my fridge that I thought that I would use to ‘spice’ things up.  So I extended the diacetyl rest a little bit and added the hops directly to the beer in the primary.  Dry hopping is a great way to add fresh hoppy aroma to a beer.  When I racked the beer over to the keg I could smell the delicious aroma of the hops.  Fantastic.  However, this may be in vein since hop aroma diminished with time.  So after a month long lager I may loose quite a bit of this wonderful aroma.  Meh, oh well..

So instead of just racking this beer to another glass carboy, lagering for a month and then moving it to a keg, I’ve decided to skip a step.  I just racked the beer directly to the keg and stuck it in my beer dispensing fridge.  This way I free up my fermentation chamber for another beer.  This was a bit of a chore though because I first had to bottle all of the Clean the Cupboards Ale first.  So the taps are dry for the next month, but at least I have bottled beer in reserve.

Near the end of the lagering I will add in Gelatin, a fining ingredient, which will latch on to any suspended particle or yeast and drop it right to the bottom of the keg thus clearing the beer further.   I hope to see crystal clear beer in the end.

So here is the hidden detail in all of this.  I actually brewed two lagers, not just one.  The other lager is one that I brewed later in the day with my friend.  He paid for all the stuff so I was able to brew two beers, one for him, one for me.  Not a bad deal.  Both lagers have the exact same recipe and ingredients and yeast (I just made a big starter and split it in two for each beer), but there are differences.  His beer is 5 gallons, 4.5%, and lime juice and sea salt will be added to it before bottling, thus making “Al’s Lime Lager”.  My lager, with the same recipe, ended up being smaller in volume since I only have one 6 gallon carboy and a bunch of 5 gallons.  So it ended up being 4 gallons, 5.5%, and dry hopped with lovely Mount Hood hops.  This all worked out perfectly because I had the space in the fermentation chamber for both of them.

I had a chance to swip a small sample of Al’s Lager to see how it tastes.  I had a small sample of mine and it was pretty light and hoppy, but I was more interested in the other lager because it has not been messed around with.  I included a picture of  the Clean the Cupboards Ale beside Al’s Lager.  Stupid me though!!  I put them both in frosted glasses – I don’t know what I was thinking.  But you can get the sense of the lager being very clear already, from the clear beer in the carboy and it compared to the Clean the Cupboards Ale (which is quite clear itself).  Its going to end up looking like a crystal clear light beer, which is exactly what we are shooting for.

How does it taste?  Well, not carbonated, obviously.  Drinking non-carbed beer is difficult to judge, but I am very pleased with the results.  First off, I don’t detect any diacetyl – no cooked corn or vegetable flavour or aroma.  Its quite light in taste with a fairly dry finish (dryness is enhanced with carbonation and a cold serving temperature) which is perfectly on target.  It has a light grain taste that is mildly sweet.  Sort of like the Nickel Brook Organic Lager, but less of the grainy taste.  So for now I am extremely happy with the results, even though it is a lager.  I might have to make it again if it turns out well and I get tired of Ale’s (which isn’t very likely to happen).

Up next I have planned a Quad that I am dubbing the “Belgian Bomb”.  It will be around 11.5%, 22lbs of grain, candi sugar, and Belgian Ardennes Yeast (yeast strain from La Chouffe).  I will brew this and let it sit for a year before I touch it.  I think I’m compensating for brewing a wimpy light lager.

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One Response

  1. This article, “Cracked Malibu – Lagering Beer For Breakfast” indicates that
    u understand precisely what you’re speaking about! I really definitely agree with your blog. Thanks -Garrett

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