Hi all, I'm new to the homebrew hobby. In fact, my first batch is still in a fermenter, slowly bubbling away in a quiet, dimly lit spot underneath my desk. To make a long story short, I cannibalized my old college fridge yesterday in hopes of brewing a Märzen sometime next week. It is March, after all.
I could just buy a kit from my home brew store, but I want to feel like I'm brewing, and not like I'm having my hand held by an instruction sheet. To that end, I found a Märzen recipe from a home brew book that I'm thinking of tweaking:
7 lbs light plain malt extract
.5 lbs dark amber crystal malt
1/2 cup chocolate malt
1.25 oz Hallertauer hops - bittering
.25 oz Hallertauer hops - aroma
(Obviously, I'm extract brewing as I haven't got all the equipment together to go all grain, and if I spend any more money or accumulate another piece of equipment any time soon my girlfriend might kill me.)
The biggest problem I have with the recipe is the hops. My local store only has Hallertauer in pellets. Will the little hops-pieces mess up the flavor profile during the lagering process? I'm looking for a very malt-forward traditional Oktoberfest, but the closest real hop bud I can get is Saaz.
Also, I've heard a lot of different opinions on fermenting and lagering temps. Is there any consensus on the best methods/temperatures? If not, what's your opinion and why?
Finally, I realize I am aging the beer, but I don't really want to wait until October to crack open this brew. At what point does lagering cease to increase the quality of the final product?
Thanks in advance for any advice!
PS - Can anyone recommend a good temperature control system for my minifridge? At the moment, all I have is an analog freezer/refrigerator thermometer and I'm getting a feel for what temperatures the numbers on my fridge thermostat correspond to.