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Lager brewed while throwing the rules out the window

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by jlpred55, Dec 27, 2012.

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  1. jlpred55

    jlpred55 Initiate (0) Jul 26, 2006 Iowa

    I've recently found out a co-worker, who I have worked with for years, homebrews. He is located in a different office so we only talk business until a recent gathering when the subject came up. He then brought in a few beers (lagers) for me to take home and drink. So, being obligated I drank them and reported back :wink:. I was really blown away by all of them and was suprised that they were so good, given when I talked to him he told me he has no temp control and only brews lagers. So fast forward. He lives in a colder enviroment so his fermentation takes place in the high 50's low 60's all of the time in a celler room off his basement. He said they never get below 55F. He also blew me away with how he treats his yeast. When he first started brewing he had no idea he was supposed to increase cell counts by making starters. So he never did, and only learned later that he needed to. Get this...he still never does. He uses wyeast smack packs and just pitches directly into 1.045-50 worts for the first round then just repitches that yeast for a few generations and dumps it. He told me he gave me 3 of the 5 beers that were brewed with this first pitch and all were diferent yeasts. There was a Helles, Vienna, Dortmunder, German Pils and a red lager creation that was great. Only the Dortmunder and the Pils were repitches. I don't really get how he does it and I need to ask him more questions, like what temp he pitches at etc. He doesn't lager them for any longer than I would given proper pitch rates and everything else being normal. It is pretty crazy how we can all have different processes, good or bad and make some pretty killer brews.

    I'm not planning on doing this but interesting none the less...anyone else does something crazy that works?
  2. hopsandmalt

    hopsandmalt Initiate (0) Dec 14, 2006 Michigan

    Maybe his warmish (for lager yeast) fermentation temperatures are slightly offsetting his underpitching. I would suspect however that if you took a close look at his fermentation/product you would find that his beers take longer to ferment out and don't quite reach the expected terminal gravity on the first yeast generation.
  3. tjensen3618

    tjensen3618 Initiate (0) Mar 23, 2008 California

    I can guarantee you he doesn't pay much attention to it.
    I personally feel a lot of the obsessive science in homebrewing is a bit over the top. I pitch one pack of yeast on all my brews I've ever done and never had a problem, and I ferment at whatever temperature it is in my place.
    My beers always come out how i expect them to, tasting good!
  4. RendoMike

    RendoMike Initiate (0) Sep 6, 2011 United Kingdom (England)

    This is good to know. I've been stressing over temp control on my first batch, even though it probably has never gone above 72 degrees and has pretty consistently been around 64-68 degrees. In addition, I'm brewing a IPA next which states to stay around 64. I just don't have the room or cash to throw around right now.
  5. AlCaponeJunior

    AlCaponeJunior Initiate (0) May 21, 2010 Texas

    I understand that temperature control might be a little over-rated, but mostly people on this thread have been talking temps that are still pretty reasonable. Since I'm in texas now, I sprung for the freezer/johnson controller. Reason of course is temperature control, but it's necessary here in the summer because I can't see keeping a consistent ambient room temperature of 72F or less (remember, the wort will be a few degrees higher). Now I can't say I've fermented anything myself at higher than about 70F, so I don't really know from experience where the real cutoff point is, but I am sure it exists. At some point, temperature control is going to be necessary as the temperature climbs.

    Now again, I can't say from experience (because my last pad had very good AC/Heat, and it was easy to keep my closet at 68-69F, and now I have the freezer/controller). However, I am quite sure that beers will benefit from cooler temperatures over the long run. I have put a lot into this hobby, and the freezer/controller will probably wind up being the most important piece of equipment I have.

    As for the OP, it's very interesting to see what's working for this guy. I don't think I'm going to try and copy it, but obviously yeast is resilient and flexible. Would he get even better results though if he got his brews even cooler?
  6. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,057) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    If you don’t mind asking your co-worker could you find out what yeast strains he has used for brewing lagers at ‘warmer’ temperatures.

    I take it that you did not discern any ‘excess’ esters in the lagers?

  7. samtallica

    samtallica Initiate (108) Jul 22, 2010 North Carolina

    This depends a lot on what yeast you use. The Chico strain is a beast and will give you a pretty clean ferment even when under pitched or kept at higher than optimal temps. Belgian/German Ale strains are also more forgiving since those styles rely on a lot of yeast character. There are other American and British strains that can make your beer a fruity mess if they get too warm or are under pitched though.

    That being said, I'd love to try your beer!
  8. jlpred55

    jlpred55 Initiate (0) Jul 26, 2006 Iowa

    I have an email to him. Im sure he will respond after the holiday
  9. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,057) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Thanks for sending the e-mail!

    So, you had a chance to drink his lagers that were fermented ‘warm’. Did you notice any ‘excess’ esters in those beers?

  10. jlpred55

    jlpred55 Initiate (0) Jul 26, 2006 Iowa

    No, there were none that I could tell. I even had another HB'er taste and he has quite a good palate and some good judging experience. We tasted side by side with my helles and his was clearly better....sad sad day! He is also the one who brought up pitching temp, he guessed he pitches really cold and lets it rise naturally. Somehow eliminating those off flavors...Not sure it would work like that. Perhaps he ferments it colder than he is saying and just doesn't track temps very well.

    Anyway- email is in.
  11. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,304) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    Some lager strains do fairly well at higher temps. 34/70, WY-2124, WLP-830 is said to be one of thase.
  12. mattbk

    mattbk Devotee (467) Dec 12, 2011 New York

    Just brewed a beer using 2042, fermented at 58 for four days, two days diacetyl rest at 64. Tastes great. Pitched a ton of yeast into it though. I've had problems with diacetyl production using 2124 before, even at proper temps and supposed proper pitch rates. I'm curious what strain/strains he is using.
  13. chocosushi

    chocosushi Initiate (0) May 1, 2011 Oklahoma

    Very cool!
    I love hearing of people who throw caution to the whim.
    I have brewed plenty of Ales at non "suggested" temps
    that have all tasted great, some with starters, some with
    rehydrated yeast, some with packs.
    I agree that some of the overzealous brew rules are not for me.
  14. Him

    Him Initiate (0) Dec 29, 2012 Florida

    Sounds like you pretty much have good temps as it is. But you can always make a swamp cooler to make things more stable and safer from temp swings. Cheap, easy, and effective.
    RendoMike likes this.
  15. RendoMike

    RendoMike Initiate (0) Sep 6, 2011 United Kingdom (England)

    Thanks for the info, I will check out a swamp cooler. Probably good for right now, but with no AC here in the summer, some days still get quite warm.
  16. Him

    Him Initiate (0) Dec 29, 2012 Florida

    Thats when you start brewing some hefes and saisons since the yeasts usually like the warmer temps. Its hot as hell pretty much year round down here and between rotating ice packs and replacing the water in the cooler with cold water from the fridge. I manage to keep my temps cool.
  17. jlpred55

    jlpred55 Initiate (0) Jul 26, 2006 Iowa

    Email back. Looks like the 3 strains were 2124, 2278, 2633 but he uses others with apparent success. He provided lots of clarifying information that makes more sense to me now. First pitches are basically small starters, 3 gallon batches. This is still underpitching according to Mr.Malty. He brews 8.5 gallon batches and uses 3 of the batch to do a starter for the next 5.5 gallons and so on. Again, no temp control whatsoever. He has a thermo in this cellar and it is pretty much constant 55F (in winter) and 60 (in summer), so he says. Cools his batches to "around" 45F prior to pitching. He doesn't know what temps in primary do during the height of fermentation, never measured. Admits beers are better "crisper and cleaner" in winter but says they mature much more rapidly in summer. Leaves all beer on yeast for at least 4 weeks for 5.5 gal and for 3 gal batches however long he needs until racking to keg and pitching on cake. Says he drinks the 3 gals fresh, under a week or two. He likes the unflitered somewhat hazy lagers he says. After keg goes into the fridge for carb and lagering, if he has room, if not in the cellar and carbs there. Says taps when needed, usually 3-4 weeks, sometimes longer. No d-rest since temps are higher. He basically just pitches yeast and doesn't do anything with it until he needs to keg it. No gravity checks now- knows about where each finishes and is good with that.

    Nothing really mind boggling here.
  18. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,057) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Jlpred55, thank you for getting back on the topics of yeast strain types and the other information you provided.

    For the three yeast strains listed, the upper recommended temperatures are:

    · 2124: 68°F (in the past Wyeast listed an upper temperature of 54°F for this strain)
    · 2278: 58°F
    · 2263: 58°F

    So for winter time brewing (ambient temperature around 55°F) it appears that he is fermenting in the proper temperature range. It has been my personal experience that lager fermentations are only a few degrees warmer than ambient temperatures. During the summer time (ambient temperature around 60°F) it appears that he is fermenting warmer than recommenced for 2278 & 2263. It makes sense from a conventional wisdom perspective that he observed: “Admits beers are better "crisper and cleaner" in winter ..” I find it interesting that his beers mature more quickly during the summer time; I suppose the yeast activity is quicker at warmer temperatures?

  19. premierpro

    premierpro Aspirant (277) Mar 21, 2009 Michigan

    Last yeay it was too cold in my garage to ferment so I put my Bo-Pils with WLP830 in a corner room in my basement at 60 degrees. The beer was very clean.
  20. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,057) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Interesting input on WLP830. A fermentation temperature of 60°F is higher than the White Labs recommended range of: “Optimum Fermentation Temperature: 50-55°F”.

  21. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,304) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    Jack, many have said they get good results at higher temperatures with that strain, as it stays fairly clean.
  22. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,057) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    And I greatly appreciate premierpro’s input on that as well. It would not surprise me to see that White Labs ‘expands’ their recommended temperature range for WLP830 in the future.

  23. premierpro

    premierpro Aspirant (277) Mar 21, 2009 Michigan

    I am not sure if it was needed but I also did a D-rest with this beer. Take care.
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