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Old 02-22-2013, 03:22 AM   #1
Thunder_Chicken
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Default Low Tech / Old School Lager?

I've been reading about brewing lagers and it seems that most people who do it have dedicated lagering freezers, aeration/O2 systems, etc..

But lagers were brewed back in the day without all of this stuff.

I've been taking measurements in my equipment room under my house and it has been at a very stable 46-50F throughout the winter, and we have piles and piles of snow. It's probably too late this year, but is there any particular reason I couldn't take advantage of next winter and ferment a lager in my equipment room for 4-5 weeks and maybe lager it in snow?

The nice thing about this is that equipment room is out of sight and out of mind, so forgetting the primary for a month or so wouldn't be so hard. I'd have to think about the lagering, but melting snow in the early spring is 32F by definition.

Thoughts?


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Old 02-22-2013, 03:35 AM   #2
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No reason you can't do it. I'm in RI and use my basement's ambient winter temps for lager ferments and it works just fine. The beer/yeast doesn't care how you do it as long as the temperature is right. I do use an old fridge for lagering, however, and I would make sure that your snow-packed lagering area remains not just cold but at a stable temp for it to work best.


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Old 02-22-2013, 03:37 AM   #3
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I say go for it. I wish I had a space that kept those temps. My garage swings too much but I pulled it off last fall with a ghetto swamp cooler setup. I have a spare fridge now so no worries for the future.

As far as snow, how would you exactly use it? Pack it around a carboy inside a cooler or something? I'm sure it would work if you are willing to keep up on maintaining fresh snow.

I sometimes wonder how carried away we really need to get as we strive for perfection cause as you stated, lagers have been made without the gadgets we have. Sometimes simplicity(tech wise) is a beautiful thing.
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Old 02-22-2013, 03:52 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by wickman6 View Post
As far as snow, how would you exactly use it? Pack it around a carboy inside a cooler or something? I'm sure it would work if you are willing to keep up on maintaining fresh snow.
This would be the trick, keeping it cold but not quite freezing. I have a big black rubbermaid trash can with a lid and drain holes in the bottom. If it were sunny enough I could fill the trash can with snow, put the lager vessel in that, and the melting snow would hold 32F. The problem would be if we got a long cold snap and everything froze. If I did a 5 gallon batch and put a lot of snow in the trash can it should be able to make it a few days without freezing solid.

I understand that the colder the lager the longer the lager must sit, but that also makes for a cleaner beer.

Alternatively I could rack from primary into 1-gallon carboys and lager them in my refrigerator, but SWMBO won't be happy with 5 gallons of beer hogging her fridge. It would be so much easier if she was a beer drinker.
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Old 02-22-2013, 04:34 AM   #5
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Could you put the Rubbermaid in the equipment room? If its 50 degrees ambient in there, packed with snow and a fermenter and possibly insulated with a blanket or bubble wrap or something it would slow down the melting of the snow. Might keep a while....but I guess then you would have water to deal with when it does melt. Hmmmm.

Would it be too much of a pain to move into the equipment room if you knew you had some cold days ahead?

I don't know your setup, just trying to offer suggestions.
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Old 02-22-2013, 04:46 AM   #6
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If we get a lot of snow it's a right pain in the butt to get to the equipment room (exterior hatch). Last storm was 2' and unless the boiler dies I have no desire to dig my way in, I'll get in in the spring. Which is another consideration - I need to get to the primary when it is ready to be lagered.

But heck, I could leave it in primary for as long as needed without being tempted to fuss or tinker with it. I could put it out around New Year's and think about lagering it around March 1.

Lagering could be tough if we happen to get a dry winter with little snow, which happens every now and again.

Plan B would be to lager it in the fridge, which might really be be the best option if SWMBO doesn't hit me with a frying pan.
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Old 02-22-2013, 05:02 AM   #7
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Plan B isn't too bad, so long as its not cast iron...
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Old 02-22-2013, 05:09 AM   #8
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I read in a wiki that one can let the primary run until attenuation is complete, then you could krausen the beer, bottle prime it at primary temperature, and then drop it to lager temperatures.

If this is the case I could work completely between my equipment room and refrigerator. I could leave the primary out in the equipment room all winter, then krausen/bottle, return to the equipment room for several weeks to carbonate, and then lager in my refrigerator.
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Old 02-22-2013, 04:16 PM   #9
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Plan B isn't too bad, so long as its not cast iron...
We don't yet own cast iron cookware, but if I put two cases of bottles in the fridge for two months, she'll buy some.
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Old 02-22-2013, 04:35 PM   #10
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If you put the fermenter outside for lagering, you need to protect it against temperature variation. Snow itself would help, but it would need to be mostly covered, and then you'd have the worry of freezing.

Putting your fermenter in a cooler or something with more insulation or mass outside could help maintain steady temperatures and reduce the chance of freezing.

If it is only in the 40's in the equipment room, you might be able to lager in there with a bit of ice. At those temps, the ice wouldn't melt too quickly, especially if it is insulated well. If you get a ton of snow and can't get access, sitting longer after the ice melts won't be a big issue.


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