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Old 05-08-2014, 10:50 PM   #31
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Except for the different mashing techniques, none of these items require more time on brewday than when brewing ales.
But the mashing steps are hardly trivial in toting up the differences between between lager and ale brewing.

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I assume you are doing multi-step decoctions but good lagers can be made with single infusion mashes.
We could argue that. Good, yes, but excellent? That is a question for debate over beers but some feel that best results require decoction mashing - that just throwing in a handfull of mellanoidin malt doesn't give the same result. It is cetainly a major distinction between ale and lager brewing (tho some ales benefit from it too). And in cases where the mash tun isn't large enough to hold the huge volume of water that would be required for infusion from cold dough-in, beta glucan rest, protein rest, saccharification rest(s), mashout rest and where heat cannot be applied directly there really isn't much choice except decoction. So you would argue you don't need those rests. Others would argue that you do.


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I don't want to discuss infusion vs. decoction mashing here,
But perhaps others do and certainly anyone asking the question 'Are lagers tough to brew' should be told about it. If he reads Brewing Lager Beer he will be and that's really what I recommend. Anyone really interested in brewing lager beer should read that book and make up his own mind or, barring reading the book, visit with an experienced lager brewer or snuggle up to the brewer at a Gordon Biersch (they seem to be everywhere).

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I simply want to point that lagers don't have to require any more time on brewday than ales, unless you don't usually do 90 minute boils.
Forgot to mention the two hour boils plus boils. Good lagers are about mellanoidins and noble hops. It takes heat to get them. That's what the long boils and decoctions are for.

Lagers don't really require any more time than it takes to pour water into the Beer in a Bag kit. The result isn't the best lager, however.

Perhaps the best answer to the question as to whether lagers are tougher to brew is that if you want to experience what a traditional lager is about in all its glory then yes, considerably more effort is required. If you are satisfied with something less (and many of the differences are subtle) then it doesn't have to be.
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Old 05-09-2014, 12:53 AM   #32
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Everyone has the brew in the fermenter. Lager has to be stable to be aged out. Decoction improves stability and quality. It is enzymatically impossible using the English method to produce a beer that Decoction produces. As the other brewer mentioned, Noonan's book is a good primer on producing Lager. There are malting companies producing malt, easily procured, for Decoction method.

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Old 05-09-2014, 04:18 PM   #33
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Even though you have had plenty of responses in here. I just thought I'd let you know that I made my first lager about 3 weeks ago (it is still lagering) after I found a cheap fridge and made a temp controller. I too had concerns about it being more complicated. The "door to lagers" opened for me when I realized that yeast pitching rates, good oxygenation and temp control are the three most important components to making good beer.

When I finally put together my O2 injection setup, my ales went from mediocre to excellent on the first batch. It changed everything for me. The single problem I always struggled with was attenuation. Now, I always end up lower than all my calculations predicted. That's when I decided I was ready to lager.

If you have a good grasp on the above points, you will have no trouble moving to lagers. All the stuff about decoction mashing and meladoinins is something to look forward to when you get good at the simple processes. That's how I see it.

I just tasted my German pils (first lager) before cold crashing it, and I was actually surprised how good it came out, and it hasn't even lagered yet. I can't wait to taste the final product. Getting better at brewing is the best part of brewing.

Hope that helps!

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Old 05-09-2014, 04:30 PM   #34
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The only tough thing about lager brewing is how much longer you have to wait before they are ready to drink

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Old 05-09-2014, 06:11 PM   #35
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Are lagers much more difficult to brew - that depends on what you are doing now. You certainly do need to pay good attention to what you are doing. If you are already doing that with your ales, it will be a smooth change. If you are a little lazy and sloppy, well, lagers are less forgiving. The only equipment you do need is a well regulated fermentation chamber - which is good for ales too!

Making an OK lager is not to difficult. Make a great lager requires some attention and possibly some extra steps. One does not have to be anal retentive about everything in the process though. At certain times yes, but not always. I'm a pretty laid back brewer, and have a pretty streamlined, and relaxed process. Attention to sanitation goes without saying.
I am particular about pitch temp, and never pitch above 50 F. I currently do not use 02. I use a homemade venturi and shake. I also always minimize any kind of foaming. The protein that makes foam, also provides body - in my eye, a very important feature of lagers. I use anti foam agents when I'm shaking after cooling.

Speaking of cooling, I also like to cool the whole wort at once and quickly. I recirculate until all the wort is cool enough and then drain to a carboy.

I'm actually a bit lazy when it comes to yeast. I often reuse yeast as I brew a constant stream of lagers and will simply use approx 1/3 of a yeast cake. When I start a new culture, I pitch two 500 ml starters.

I do not do decoctions, BUT I do use a multistep mash regime with a direct fired mash tun, so I believe I get some melanodins during the process.

I'm lucky that for ~3 months of the year, my basement is at 50F. After that, I have a fermentation chamber that will hold two carboys, and then often will brew a batch on a Sat, and then on Sun. This minimizes the amount of time the chamber is occupied - and maximizes beer output. In the Summer I need the chamber for my ales too. I'll do the two lagers and when they ferment out, I'll do several ales while the lagers, lager. It does take a little more advanced planning. I used to get by without a dedicated lagering fridge. The lagers would just sit in kegs at room temp. (72F max) for a couple months, and then as space opened in the kegerator, I would give them two weeks in there before tapping. I now have a lagering fridge that will hold 4 kegs, but somehow still manage to have lagers sitting at room temp......

This is what works for me. Everyone is different though. Use a process YOU are comfortable with and you will make better beer

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