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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > General Techniques > Lagering in snow?
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Old 03-01-2013, 01:20 AM   #11
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Resurrecting a dead thread here, but I figured I'd let anyone who is interested that I finally got enough snow to try this out.

It's funny, it seems that the combination of my proposing the "lager in snow bank" idea and buying snowshoes guaranteed that the winter of 2012 would bring the lowest snowfall ever. It was nuts, I never had enough snow (maybe 4 inches) to use my snowshoes, didn't use my snowblower after the first week of January, it barely got cold enough in my wine cellar to ferment a lager all winter, and I played my first round of golf on March 12.

This year seemed like the same thing, until "blizzard 2013" hit last week. I happened to have a pilsner fermenting anyway, and I had a spot with enough snow down (maybe 15 inches of snowfall, 36 inches after snowblower piles) to try lagering it in the snow.

I put 3 gallons in a BB, have the airlock filled with vodka so it should stay liquid, put a freezer bag loosely over the airlock and taped in place, then put the whole thing in a large heavyweight black garbage bag, folded over and taped closed. I dug a hole in the snow deep enough that it would have buried my 4 year old (had to have someone finish digging) and now that fermenter is buried treasure.

The 10 day forecast suggests that the snow will stick around for a little bit (daily highs ranging from 30 to 40, overnight lows in the high 20s consistently) with a little more snow maybe tossed in there. So I might get 3 weeks of lagering in there before the fermenter sees the light of day.

I'll be back with a taste test between lagering in the snow and the fridge (the other 2 gallons are lagering in a Mr Beer) in a few weeks. I figure ill see how long lagering in the snow lasts and as long as it is a semi reasonable amount of time (say 3 weeks) I will bottle both halves of the batch at the same time. If this outdoor lagering trick only lasts a few days .... I'll figure it out then.

Pretty jacked up that I was playing golf by mid March last year and am depending on the snow sticking around this year. I prefer last year.

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Old 03-01-2013, 06:16 AM   #12
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Good luck, but I bet that beer is going to freeze.

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Old 03-01-2013, 05:34 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kpr121 View Post
Secondary in a corny keg. That way its all sealed up and basically unbreakable.
I know this is an old post, but there are plenty of cases where a corny has literally ripped apart due to the expanding (freezing) liquid inside.
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Old 03-03-2013, 04:13 AM   #14
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You could track your your lagering temp with a wireless outdoor thermometer. We recently purchased an indoor/outdoor unit at Cabela's for $10.00.

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Old 03-03-2013, 11:52 AM   #15
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I know this is an old post, but there are plenty of cases where a corny has literally ripped apart due to the expanding (freezing) liquid inside.
Understood, but I thought the idea was to not let the beer freeze.... of course better bottles are cheap and cornies aren't as cheap at they were in 2011. Actually cornies used to be less expensive that bbs. Damn I miss those days!

With hindsight, I will say that today I would use a bb.
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Old 03-03-2013, 12:12 PM   #16
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What is going to stop it from freezing?

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Old 03-03-2013, 12:17 PM   #17
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What is going to stop it from freezing?
Did you read all the posts?
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Old 03-04-2013, 06:00 PM   #18
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Snow insulates from below freezing temps as well as keeping it cold.
Snow is an insulator, due to it having so much air in it.

However, snow and ice can and do get below their freezing/melting point, just like any other solid in existence.
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Old 03-04-2013, 06:08 PM   #19
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Ehhhhhhhh, you'll be fine. I say go for it and see what happens. Please post results with pics. I'm highly interested to see how it turns out. Good luck.

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Old 03-27-2013, 08:46 PM   #20
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Well, I figured that with 28 days of lagering in the bank and temperatures expected to warm up a bit here, it was time to dig it up.

The results appear to be an unqualified success.

I never got much more snow after burying the carboy, but all of March was oppressively cold. It hardly ever got into the 40's and we had multiple nights with overnight lows in the single digits and highs in the low 20's. There were about 12-18 inches of snow piled on the carboy at the start and we never got much more, maybe it snowed 3-4 times totaling about an inch all month. The last couple of days it has been in the low 40's but below freezing at night.

The 3 gallon Better Bottle had been wrapped in a heavyweight black contractor bag, folded over and taped closed. I had also put a freezer back loosely over the airlock and taped that in place around the neck.

When I dug the carboy out, there was still 8-12 inches of snow/ice on it and it had shifted about 30 degrees onto its side.

Inside the garbage bag, the exterior of the fermenter was totally clean and dry. The airlock was still in place and still had vodka in it. The beer level had not dropped at all, so there was no evaporation. It appears the fermenter stayed as airtight as it could be.

The lagering was a success -- a lot of yeast had fallen out and it has a very bright, clear color. There was no ice in the beer. The carboy doesn't seem to be structurally compromised at all. I put it in a 5 gallon bucket in my basement while I wait for bottling time, just to be sure. After I got inside I took the cap off and gave it a sniff -- smells great.

So it seems that this method of lagering (assuming it tastes good a month from now) will work just fine as long as you have enough snow. I did this with what I would consider the bare minimum of snow covering the beer and it faced temperatures that got lower than I expected. If you can get 3-4 feet of snow on top of the fermenter it should be able to handle a couple of months out there and the occasional below zero cold snap shouldn't be a problem.

Be sure to have the carboy pressed into a solid base of packed snow to reduce the risk that it could shift and roll over too much. A 5 gallon carboy might be heavy enough to keep this from happening while my 3-gallon floated on the snow a little.

I can't guarantee that no ice ever formed in the beer, but even if it did it wasn't enough to burst the carboy or stick around until I dug it up. But just to be safe (and because glass would be really heavy) I recommend doing this with better bottles.

Final verdict in a month when the beer is ready, but if it works out then I can't wait until next winter to try this again. Hopefully we get snow before the last week of February then!

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