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Beers "on the borderline" between ale and lager

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by Providence, Jan 5, 2013.

  1. Perhaps it's just me, but I find that there are a series of beers that I frequently describe as "on the borderline" between ale and lager. These beers are also my favorites! While I love a good DIPA and a nice BBA stout, I find that it is those more "sessionable" brews that have strong characteristics of both an ale and a lager are my favorites. I am talking about bocks, doppelbocks (not that sessionable I suppose), altbiers, kolsch, cream ales, kristalweizen and California commons.

    My questions to you are:

    1.) What other styles embody characteristics of both ale and lager? Additionally, any recommendations on specific brewers or brews that I should search out?

    2.) What is it about the yeast that gives these beers such qualities. I know the deal with California commons (lager yeast fermented at ale temps), but what about some of the others I listed, why, upon drinking them do I seriously need to think about whether it's an ale or a lager (as opposed to a DIPA which, once it touches my lips, I know is an ale)? Help me understand the science.

    and 3.) Who else searches out and loves these types of beers as I do?

    Thanks for your input!
  2. Kolsch is a top fermented lager. Not an ale as the Germans don't call any of their beers ales , it's a recent American affectation to attach "ale" to any top fermented brew.
    Many of the lighter "Golden Ales" in the UK are designed to attract lager (the macro pale yellow fizzy stuff that is) and are even served at lower temperatures.
    barleywinefiend and Schwantz like this.
  3. Would a robust/baltic porter fall into this category?
  4. Handle

    Handle Savant (345) North Carolina Mar 16, 2009

    Altbiers, like the previously mentioned Kolsch, are brewed with a top-fermenting yeast but lagered.
  5. ESHBG

    ESHBG Aficionado (195) Pennsylvania Jul 30, 2011

    If you have access to Yards Pale Ale you should give that a shot, as it is brewed with Pilsner malts and tastes a little Lager-ish to me.
  6. Interesting, didn't know that. Thanks!
  7. Good question.
  8. Just got back a few days a go from a 2-week trip to Duesseldorf and Koeln. The Koelsch and Altbier styles are both delicate in their own ways -- and the variations on flavor profiles are immense. From the assertively hoppy Paeffgen to the nutty Gaffel to the Chardonnay-winey Frueh to the delicate, peppery Malzmuehle among Koelsches...and from the deeply bitter yet balanced Uerige to the complex, layered Schumacher to the balanced, extremely tasty Schluessel (OMB really nailed this clone with their Copper) among the Alts; again, so many variations on a single theme. IMO, these beers (and towns) warrant months (if not years) of exploration.

    My homebrewing plan for the new year is to explore 4-5 of these variations per style. The most widely available Koelsch yeast, WLP 029, comes from Frueh and imparts that characteristic winey fruitiness (but a cleaner finish than a typical ale because of the long(er) cold-lagering). When used in conjunction with Weyermann pilsner malt, the 029 will prioduce a sweet-ish version that is a real crowd-pleaser. When mashed at a lower temp with, say, Bestmalz or Shill pilsner malt, you get a husk-y grainier, dryer profile with less wine. Add some Caramunich II to a pilsner malt grain bill -- and stick with the 029 -- and you impart the caramel toastiness found in the Alts. Need to experiment quite a bit more here. Looking for more Koelsch/Alt yeasts....

    At any rate, these are fascinating, underappreciated beers, and I, too, have grown to enjoy them immensely. Best of both worlds, if you ask me.
    Uwftke26, acevenom, Schwantz and 3 others like this.
  9. Many of the lighter beers here are brewed with Pilsner malt , good old fashioned Maris Otter and Golden promise varieties have too much flavour for the intended taste profiles.
  10. Handle

    Handle Savant (345) North Carolina Mar 16, 2009

    I'm very jealous of your trip. Any chance you'll be at The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery next week for the release of their Fat Boy Baltic Porter?


  11. Brewing a Kolsch is definitely on my agenda for the spring time. Can't wait. I would love to start brewing lagers, but I don't have the proper refrigeration to pull it off.

    Your trip sounds bad ass. I would love to try any one of those beers you spoke about. They all sound amazing.
  12. Is that on the Saturday? Won't be able to make it, unfortunately. Will be up there the week following, though.

    I have to admit, I was astounded by how successfully Olde Mecklenburg nailed the Schluessel Alt (wish I could get that close to Schlenkerla in my brewing!).

    OP: if you want to try an excellent U.S.-brewed version of a Alt, try and get your hands on some OMB Copper. As for other styles you make like, try and find some Franconian Kellerbiers: fermented with lager yeasts but for shorter periods of time and unfiltered...excellent stuff. Gives it an estery quality, but with a bready maltiness and clean(ish) finish. Be sure to find them fresh, however, as they fall off quickly.
    Uwftke26, Handle and BedetheVenerable like this.
  13. growlerphil

    growlerphil Aspirant (40) Virginia Oct 26, 2011

    California Common is another example of a hybrid lager/ale style beer. It is traditionally brewed with a lager yeast strain, but fermented at higher ale temperatures. The classic, most readily available example of this style is Anchor Steam. Since lagering can be a bit more tricky to pull off for homebrewers, I have heard of many homebrewers using a California Common yeast strain to produce psuedo-lagered versions of Oktoberfests, Bocks, etc.
  14. Cenosillicaphobe

    Cenosillicaphobe Savant (350) Maine Jul 24, 2011

    I have never attempted homebrewing , due to current financial constraints, and other goals taking precedence. I have read quite a bit on the subject, and brewing is certainly in my future. I just had one of them there abstract thoughts, inspired by this thread, and I'm wondering what folks with more knowledge/experience think. How possible/beneficial would it be to do a primary fermentation with an ale yeast, and a secondary with lager, or vice-versa, each with appropriate temperatures and such? Could be interesting, I suppose...though I've ever really been a lagr guy, per se.
  15. growlerphil

    growlerphil Aspirant (40) Virginia Oct 26, 2011

    I think some of the German commercial brewers do that with Weizenbocks. They do a primary with a traditional weizen yeast, producing the banana/clove yeast profile, then cold condition with lager strains. I am almost certain Schneider does this with Aventinus and the Aventinus Eisbock.
  16. Are y'all talking about somehow re-pitching with lager yeast after primary? I don't think this is done. Cold temps are all that is needed to get the yeast to sink to the bottom.
  17. growlerphil

    growlerphil Aspirant (40) Virginia Oct 26, 2011

    If I remember correctly, I think Schneider uses it for bottle conditioning. So theoretically, how they could be doing it is first a primary with ale yeast, then an extended cold conditioning (lagering), which would cause almost all the ale yeast to drop out of suspension. Since there would not be enough yeast left to carbonate the beer in the bottle, they would then add the lager yeast to bottle condition. I don't know for a fact that this is how they do it, but it would seem logical to me.
  18. Cenosillicaphobe

    Cenosillicaphobe Savant (350) Maine Jul 24, 2011

    Aren't certain yeasts more apt to do their little feeding frenzy/alcohol pooping thing at certain temps? I will do this...then re-pitch with Brett in a bathtub in my shed.....

    ?????

    PROFIT!!!
  19. I'll keep my eyes peeled, but I assume it doesn't make it out my way. Maybe I will trade for it. Thanks again!
  20. I am still a rookie at homebrewing (have done 20 batches) but I don't think that is possible. If it is, it'd be damn interesting to try though.
  21. If you need help drinking these explorations and want another opinion... I'm close by!
  22. I thought Jack's Abby is supposed to be doing something similar: brewing with lager yeasts but amping things up with hop profiles typically found in ales. OP, since you are in their area, do you have any comment on JA? I hear tons of praise on here, but remain skeptical myself that they are truly hitting the bready malt profiles characteristic of the best lagers. Would appreciate any insights as to whether or not they fit the "borderline" profile. (If so, would also possibly be interested in a trade for some Olde Meck beers).
  23. rocdoc1

    rocdoc1 Savant (380) New Mexico Jan 13, 2006

    [quote="hoppusmaxximus, post: 801970, member: 611851" How possible/beneficial would it be to do a primary fermentation with an ale yeast, and a secondary with lager, or vice-versa, each with appropriate temperatures and such? Could be interesting, I suppose...though I've ever really been a lagr guy, per se.[/quote]
    After primary fermentation there's very little sugar left to ferment-secondary is just a conditioning period, not really a fermentation.
  24. I have seen them around, but never tried them. I'm not sure, but I feel like their price tag always turns me away. Which of their lineup interests you? I will keep an eye out for them!
  25. how expensive are they in RI?
  26. Jabby Brau and Fire in the Ham, primarily. Heard mixed things about the former, and I can be pretty particular about the latter style ;)
  27. Cenosillicaphobe

    Cenosillicaphobe Savant (350) Maine Jul 24, 2011

    After primary fermentation there's very little sugar left to ferment-secondary is just a conditioning period, not really a fermentation.[/quote]
    I'm generating potentially stupid ideas in my head right now...but they'll be fun...I will need a white coat and I should start letting my hair go crazy...I am willing to break a pallet of eggs to cook just one perfectly.
    Schwantz likes this.
  28. Doppel Bocks and Eisbocks.... Samichlaus, Schneider Aventinus Weizen-Eisbock and EKU 28. Damn, those are HUGE lagers, they drink like Ales..
  29. I take a look at my local bottle shop today.
  30. I don't know honestly. I just figured that if I haven't tried it, it's usually because of the cost, ha ha.

    I am heading to my local bottle shop later today and will check.
  31. I know you're on the wrong coast, but if you ever make it to the Bay Area check out Moonlight's Death and Taxes. It's a lager, technically a schwartzbier, that has amazing roastiness and body resembling a stout but maintains its drinkability. Amazingly good.
    deeblo likes this.
  32. Schwantz

    Schwantz Savant (390) Florida Dec 16, 2012

    I'm generating potentially stupid ideas in my head right now...but they'll be fun...I will need a white coat and I should start letting my hair go crazy...I am willing to break a pallet of eggs to cook just one perfectly.[/quote]


    Sir, I like your style.
  33. patto1ro

    patto1ro Advocate (500) Netherlands Apr 26, 2004

    Robust Porter falls into the made-up-sometime-in-the-1980's category.
  34. patto1ro

    patto1ro Advocate (500) Netherlands Apr 26, 2004

    Wouldn't that be illegal under the Reinheitsgebot? You're only allowed to top-ferment beers with wheat in them in Germany.
  35. careful, not everyone here has your highly tuned sarcasm meters...
  36. "Americans" like the authors of these beer books? ;)

    Prost! [1997] Dornbusch, Horst
    “Chapter 12 – German Ales”

    Classic Bottled Beers of the World, Protz, Roger [1997]
    “Altbier – Literally ‘old beer’, a German ale associated with the city of Dusseldorf."

    The World Guide to Beer, Jackson, Michael [1977]
    Index
    “Ales 15*, 72 (Germany), 127-130 (Belgium)

    Note- By quoting the above, I am in no way accepting the authority or accuracy of some of the above writers :D .
    In Jackson's defense, he primarily broke the two main beer categories into "Top Fermenting" and "Bottom Fermenting" in his books (probably where I learned it), and usually did not fall into using the "Ale/Lager" shorthand.
  37. Well, it is cold(er) fermented w/ lager yeast. Probably yes.
  38. TNGabe

    TNGabe Initiate (0) Tennessee Feb 6, 2012

    Biere de Garde and Belgian Strong Golden are both lagered ale styles. I guess BdG can be brewed with lager yeast, as well.

    Duvel - what fizzy yellow beer should taste like!
  39. Westbrook's 2nd anniversary beer is what they are calling a "baltic stout" - it's a big imperial stout fermented with a German lager yeast.
  40. Totally ignore Dornbusch. http://barclayperkins.blogspot.co.uk/2010/12/horst-dornbuschs-ultimate-almanac.html
    Totally ignore Roger Protz.
    Both these writers, though stylish, aren't noted for accuracy or deep research.I wouldn't buy a road map which either of them had anything to do with.
    Michael Jackson actually stated that he was using the word "Ale" in a loose style for a specific purpose.

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