I'm sure that experienced forum members have heard a lot of this before. I've done a lot of reading (including the wiki) about lagering but maybe if I could just lay out a few specific questions I have. If anybody has the time to look at these I'd really appreciate it. I've been shooting off my mouth to my friends about my great homebrews and how I could make some beer for the reunion we have in March. I foolishly asked for requests. Well most of my friends have been Labatt drinkers since way back so I was asked if I could make some kind of Canadian Lager. I decided to take on the challenge despite being less than thrilled about the style. I have the ingredients for the recipe in CJOHB for "CanuckCanuck Lager" but I'm concerned about how to start.
What I'm working with:
I live in Michigan, will be brewing in late December, and I have a garage. No chest freezer or spare fridge. I looked up Son of Fermenter Chiller but I think that it's beyond my current mechanical/electrical abilities. I have either a glass or plastic primary and a glass secondary available. I can monitor the temps in my garage, right now they seem to be about 48 F during the evening.
1. About the "my first lager" method: does this make good-tasting beer? I want to wow people if possible. If I ferment in the low 60s for primary and then try to lager at lower temps (as suggested in Papazian's book) will this make a weird-tasting/not-lagery beer?
2. If I try to ferment at a lower temp, how low is too low? Also, how much would a water bath stabilize the temp if the fermenter was in a cold environment? For example if I got the wort down to 50 and pitched a big starter into it (that was also cooled to 50), do you think if I had it in a water bath it could stay at that temp even if the garage got colder at night?
3. Regardless of how I manage the primary ferment, when it comes time to lager, how important is it to have a stable temp? If I put the secondary in the garage wrapped in foam or something, and the garage never got above 50 but did fluctuate quite a bit (let's say between 35 and 48 for example) would that cause weird flavors or stuck fermentation or anything?
4. Any suggestions on relatively cheap low-mechanical skill required apparatus that might help me out? I have a very small freezer compartment on my fridge so I have some ability to change out ice bottles if a cooler setup would help.
I don't know, reading this over it sounds like I'm asking a lot of questions that would require someone to predict the future. I guess I'll probably just have to brew it and see what happens. If anybody happens to read through this ramble and has any advice I'd love to hear it. If not, thanks anyway! This site has helped me out a lot and each batch keeps getting better!
Primary 2: Air
Bottled & carbing: Nothin
drinking: Poet on Payday Wee Heavy
gone but not forgotten: Wilford (Oatmeal Stout) Samhain Surprise Porter, J's Mirac-Ale (Brown Ale), Altered Beast Ale (German Alt), Chucks Not Ballys Cali Common, S'Wheat (Honey Weizen), NIHs (Numerous Identical Hefes), Wittler Farms Maple Brown, Failed Experimental Yarrow Beer, O'Mega Red (Irish Red)