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-   -   Restarting a lager as an ale (http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f163/restarting-lager-ale-347749/)

ianmatth 08-15-2012 04:38 AM

Restarting a lager as an ale
I purchase my supplies from morebeer.com with their free shipping option so it takes a week to get my order from CA. Last year I did a 5 gallon lager that used mainly Pilsner LME, calculated at 1.048 OG and 40 IBU. I cooled it to 70 degrees, vigorously stirred, pitched a single vial of WLP800 Pilsner Lager, put it in the refrigerator at 50 degrees for a week, racked to secondary, slowly lowered to 32 over the next week, and lagered for 12 weeks before bottling with 8 oz of Pilsner LME. It turned out great, but the yeast was shipped during winter so it wasn't exposed to heat during shipping.

Last month I made 5 gallons of wort with 7 pounds of Extra Light LME, calculated at 1.048 OG and 80+ IBU. My intention was to make a light APL with major hop flavor. I cooled my wort to 70 degrees, vigorously stirred, pitched a pack of Wyeast 2007 Pilsen Lager 3 hours after smacking it, put it in the refrigerator at 50 degrees for over a week, then slowly lowered to 32 over the next week. This was my first time using Wyeast and I'm not sure if the pack even swelled after smacking it. I never saw any indication of activity, but I was out a lot, and I had never seen any indication of activity with my previous lager either. After two weeks of lagering I got a hydrometer and measured the gravity at 1.048. It tasted like sugary hop water. Seems the Wyeast 2007 never activated.

I had just received a Wyeast 1272 American Ale II in anticipation of making an IPA, so I decided to try to turn my month old wort into an ale rather than throw it out. I smacked the Wyeast 1272 pack on Friday and by Saturday night it had barely swelled up. The Mrmalty calculator said I needed 168 billions cells for a 1.048 OG beer, and based on the manufacture date of 2 months prior, I needed a 1.65 L starter. I felt the Wyeast 1272 pack was even weaker than the 54% given since it was in shipping for a week, so I decided to do a 2-step starter. I made 1.65 L of 1.040 wort with Pilsner LME, cooled to 70, and pitched the pack into 0.65 L on Saturday night. I measured it at 1.020 72 hours later, so I added the final liter for my full 1.65 L starter and measured the gravity at 1.032. The gravity was still 1.032 8 hours later when I measured it this morning.

I was searching all over to find out about pitching or stepping up yeast starters based on change from 1.040 OG, but the only thing I could find was some information on Wyeast that said the gravity should drop by 50-75%. I'm using the 50% number, hence why I stepped up the starter at 1.020 and plan to pitch the full 1.65 L starter at 1.016. Based on a 75% drop, I would have stepped up at 1.010 to create a 1.65 L starter at 1.028 and would pitch that once it drops to 1.007. Any thoughts on whether it's better to pitch or step up at 50%, 75%, some number in between, or some other gravity entirely.

Finally, I was thinking about doing my IPA on top of the yeast cake for this beer. I'm shooting for an OG of 1.064 and 80 IBUs. I'm even thinking I can do a DIPA with 1.080 OG and 90 IBU on top of the IPA yeast cake, and get 3 generations out of this yeast. However, I'm now trying to make an ale with a highly hopped month old wort that was originally supposed to be a lager, and there is probably some dormant lager yeast in my wort, so I have no idea how this beer will even turn out, much less what kind of yeast cake it will produce, so I'm worried that might not be a good idea. Any thoughts?

ianmatth 08-17-2012 11:16 PM

I was about to pitch my yeast starter on Thursday, but when I took the lid off the bucket I saw a ring of krausen. I measured the gravity at 1.010. It appears the lager yeast just needed to be at room temperature for a few days. I racked it to a 3 gallon Better Bottle and two 1.75 L glass bottles, although there is a far amount of trub in the glass bottles. I also dumped the remaining trub and yeast in another 1.75 L galss bottle and plan to harvest that yeast. I put them in the refrigerator at 50 degrees and will leave them there for a little less than a week before I slowly lower the temperature down to 32 and lager.

I ended up using my yeast starter for the IPA. I'm going to start a separate thread about that.

david_42 08-18-2012 12:44 AM

You are not giving your lager yeast enough time at 50F. Try a month, not a week, before lagering. Just like any ale, do not drop the temperature below the recommended range until you've reached the FG.

davcar74 08-18-2012 01:48 AM

david 42 is right. With lagers, what you are doing at 50ish degrees is fermenting and what you are doing at 34ish (32 is too cold in my opinion - 1 degree of poor calibration in equipment and you start freezing) is lagering which is a phase of cold conditioning that happens after fermentation is already complete. The issue is that lager yeast needs more time to ferment at those 50ish degree temperatures than ale yeasts need in the higher 60's. As david 42 said, at least a month is what's needed... sometimes longer depending upon the OG, the temperature, the yeast and your pitching rate.

The other aspect of lager fermentation that you may want to consider is a diacetyl rest. Lager yeasts and fermentations tend to produce diacetyl in higher quantities than ale yeast and fermentations and, to compound matters, those flavors tend to be both more out of style and more noticable in lagers than ales. So many of us like to actually raise the temperature of the wort during the final 48 hours of the most active phase of fermentation (do a search on this and you'll see a lot of recommendations, but the starting the d rest on the fifth or sixth day in most cases is a good rule of thumb). That helps jolt the yeast into cleaning up most of the diacetyl, which, if not cleaned up, can translate into a buttery/buttescotch flavor that you will not want in your final product. The process then continues by lowering to your 50ish original fermentation temperatire until fermentation is complete. THEN you lower to lagering temperatures to condition and clear the beer. There are other methods advocated by different camps, but they all involve keeping the wort at or near the fermentation temp, not the lager temp, for a much longer perid than a week. They differ primarily on how you get to the ferm. temperature.

The other thing with lagers is both pitch count and oxygen. Vigourous stirring is good, adding oxygen directly to the wort is best. A good middle ground is using the drill-attached stir rods available from a number of online homebrew stores. The other end of the equation - pitch count - is best achieved by making a starter. Poke around here for threads on that. It seemed completely overwhelming to me until I made one...

That leads me back to the issue at hand - your batch. The issue now is that what you essentially did by lowering your temperature as early as you did is you put your lager yeast to sleep. Like us, they woke up from their nap already cranky. Then you raised the temp to ale temps and that's like giving them crack. They may have gone all kinds of wild in your wort and had a giant yeast orgy. When lager yeast ferments at that higher temp range, you have the potential for all kinds of off flavors. The good news? my guess is that you may have gotten lucky by fermenting at lager temps for a week before all of this happend and you lucked into doing an accidental D-rest by raising the temp to ale temps to pitch your ale yeast. Get the wort back down to 52 or so and leave it for a month and then lager it for at least 4-6 weeks. I bet you have decent beer here, but with hints of butter, etc, where you didn't expect them. Chalk it up to a learning experience as you drink each one of your totally drinkable beers. Many of us jumped into our first lager and put a post up like yours. Its a differnet world than ale...but just as rewarding when it starts to click.

helibrewer 08-18-2012 05:29 AM

I would also recommend that you cool that wort down to yeast pitching temperature BEFORE pitching. During the initial 24-48 hours the yeast are increasing in size and getting their metabolic house in order. This involves changes in the cell wall, enzyme production based on the environment, gene expression being turned on. All of this has to happen before any cell division/fermentation can begin. So while they are trying to adjust to the environment, you really don't want to be putting them through a 20 degree temperature shift.

ianmatth 08-19-2012 01:27 AM

Thanks for the information. Since I should have a nice ale ready in 3 weeks, I can be patient with my lager. I'll keep it at 50 for a month, slowly lower to 34, then keep it there for 4-6 weeks. The first time I did a lager it turned out good, but I guess the yeast was fine doing it's thing at 50 degrees that time. I'll see how this one turns out. In the meantime I'm just going to stick with ales as they're easier and ready faster. I also want to work on some IPA and DIPA recipes. One day I'll go head to head with the same recipe for an ale and a lager to see how much I might like one better than the other.

ianmatth 09-27-2012 06:21 AM

I was more focused on my recent IPA and hadn't paid such close attention to this lager, other than pulling out a bit over a gallon when I transferred to secondary. I bottled a bit over a gallon and it ended up being pretty good. At this point I still have 3 gallons that have been sitting at 54 degrees and I am leaving for 10 days so I will not start lowering the temperature until at least October 10th.

ianmatth 10-21-2012 04:02 AM

I finally got the temperature down to 34 degrees today. Not sure how long I'm going to lager it.

ianmatth 11-09-2012 02:33 AM

Due to the power being out for a week, who knows how this will turn out. I think I'm about ready to just dry hop the thing soon. I really wanted this to be ready by early December, so I'm not going to worry about it so much.

shadows69 11-09-2012 07:08 PM

I would have to disagree. 31 or even 29 degrees will not freeze lager. 27 degrees is about where it would start to freeze. Think about what you just made with yeast (produced). I run my lager at 30 - 32 degrees and never a problem. Just my 2 cents.

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