Making a Pseudo Lager

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What is a Pseudo Lager? For the purposes of this article it will refer to the creation of a lager-like beer with greater flexibility by using an ale yeast. Defining a Pseudo Lager beyond this can get tricky; technically ‘lager’ simply refers to an extended aging of the beer at cooler temperatures, which any beer of any style can be stored and be called a lager. To make matters more confusing, styles such as Kolsch and Altbiers are made with top-fermenting yeast (ale yeast) and then require a period of lagering.
The Kolsch and Altbier styles are representative of the Pseudo Lager method that have fallen under the much larger label umbrella of ‘lager’. The easiest way to create a Pseudo Lager on the homebrew scale would be to follow this tried and true method set up long ago for us. Simply brew your beer, pitch your ale yeast, then after 5-7 days place the fermenter somewhere cold like a garage, basement, outside, or cooler with ice packs for an extended storing period.

So why Pseudo Lager?

Pseudo lagering your ales make even the peskiest flocculaters pour clear pints.
Why not just use a lager yeast at lager temperatures and move on? Well, not everyone has that perfect closet that is always on temperature, or have a cooling belt or glycol-chilled fermenter. Some of us (myself included), are only able to brew to the ambient temperature. For the longest time, I never bothered to brew lagers for fear of off flavors developing at the warmer temperatures. With the idea of Pseudo Lagering, anyone from a novice to an expert can easily (and cheaply!) brew a lager-like beer. I was once told at a homebrew shop that you need a lager yeast and proper temperatures to create a lager, but my goal here is to prove that anyone should be able to create and experiment with Pseudo Lagering.

The Nitty–Gritty

It's important to have primary fermentation just about wrapper up before dropping the temp.
During the first half of lagering, the yeast will continue to slowly consume the residual sugars, however without continued growth. Lagering too soon may stress your yeast as they will be overwhelmed and underpopulated, causing a stalled fermentation and/or off flavors. It is best to watch your fermentation and begin the lager process just after high krausen has dissipated, or shortly thereafter. This will ensure a large enough yeast population with minimal sugars to consume.
During the second half of lagering, the majority of the maturation process takes place. During this time, the yeast cell membranes begin to degrade; this releases keto acids, amino acids, nucleotides, inorganic phosphates and glycerol. These compounds combine within the beer to help create a fullness and enhances the flavor and foam. Lagering time can be from one day to eight weeks, although four weeks is a typical turn around. A caveat comes along with this, leaving it for too long (maybe it got forgotten in the back corner of the basement) may cause autolyzing (yeast death), and off flavor development.
From my own experimentation I have found that two weeks allows for an excellent maturation process, a quick turn around, and no issues from off flavors. 2.5 weeks was all it took to turn this ale using US-05 yeast (Note: WLP810 and Danstar Nottingham ferment well at temperatures between most lager and ale yeasts) into a smooth and tasty lager with no need for filtering or fining. It would be a good idea to taste test every few days the longer the lagering period takes place.
If top-fermenting ale yeast can create a lager, then is there any real difference between them? Yes, the yeast. A bottom-fermenting lager yeast has the ability to consume most of, if not all, maltotriose (a type of sugar made up of three glucose molecules that, like malto-dextrin, contributes to the body of a beer), while ale yeast can only consume a little, if any. In this sense a lager yeast does a better job of ‘cleaning up’ the fermentable sugars and creating a slightly drier beer. In theory using an ale yeast to pseudo lager will allow the beer to develop a robust body (more unfermentable sugars) and enhanced flavors (of course theory and reality do differ sometimes).
A Mr. Beer LBK fits nicely in a mash cooler with a few ice packs
The idea of working outside the box is everywhere in brewing; Black IPAs, Red IPAs White Stouts, etc. etc. The idea of creating a Pseudo Lager is part of that. It is a great way to experiment with your next batch: why not try lagering your oatmeal stout? Or your next DIPA? Even a extended cold conditioning period (roughly 4 weeks) in bottles can do great things for you. The use of a Pseudo Lager method fits perfectly for anyone who is brewing on a tight budget, space, time, or just looking to try something new.
Congratulations on the article.Could you clarify what the fermentation temperature for a pseudo lager? I mean, without stressing the ale strain.
That depends on your particular strain. Many ale yeasts are in the 63-70 range, so you'll want most if not all of the ferment to be in your yeast's range. After alcoholic fermentation is done (around a week), you'd drop the temp to a colder range.
I have done a few "lager" types with an ale yeast simply because I don't have the ability to cool the fermenter down to get into the lager ranges.
I have been using Wyeast 1007 German Ale for them and they have come out pretty good. Did a clone for Victory Prima Pils that everyone loved. It might not have the bite and the crispness that it would have if it was done properly with a lager yeast and fermented cold, but it fits the bill. Have also done the last 2 yrs a Hacker Pschorr Oktoberfest clone with the same yeast, and it has turned out spectacular.
Now that we have Wyeast 2112 California Lager that can ferment at a higher temp (14-20C), I might give it a try next time, problem is in order to have an oktoberfest ready for October, pretty much have to do it in the summer when it is the hottest, so a little harder to get it down below 20C, but the house stays pretty cool, and everything is covered with a blanket for the most part.
Could always put it in the basement on the concrete floor I suppose.
Unfortunately there is an awful lot of inaccurate and just plain wrong information in this article.
To each their own of course but this idea that a pseudo-lager happens as a result of lagering (prolonged cold storage) is absolute nonsense. An oatmeal stout that is lagered will not taste like a lager, nor will an IPA.
There are of course ways to make lager-like beers with ale yeast. My view is that this article does not describe how to do that predictably.
Excellent write up. I currently don't have the set up for brewing a true lager, and I've often wondered how I could get more of a lager like character out of my brews. This article certainly gives me some ideas to try with my next batch of brew.
I'm in agreement with Gavin C. Perhaps "Cold Conditioned Ale" would be more appropriate. "Pseudo Lager" is just poser talk! :)
Yeah, I think this article would have been more successful if it were titled, "Reasons you might want to consider cold conditioning your next ale, and how to do it."
'Pseudo' means "a false representation of", which the author has done in describing his process for "lagering" in which he actually described cold-conditioning an ale, not brewing/fermenting a lager. Two different beers, yeasts, processes. So, in that sense, even though a notch off in describing a true lager process, he did as best he could to describe "cold conditioning" an ale, but without calling it that. At the outset, it reminded me of brewing a Cali Common which is a hybrid of both lager and ale process and ingredients, and ends up neither. That said, I do find the references to "lagering" a stout or an IPA misleading inasmuch as it impossible to "lager" either of those styles without creating something totally different.
To me, a pseudo lager is a lager recipe with an ale yeast. I do a maibock that uses 1007. Even then it still ferments on the low side. It's range is 55-68 F. I try to keep it around 58-60.
I agree with some others. This is just cold conditioning after fermentation is probably already done. I'd guess you get close to the same result transferring to a refridgerated keg.
I've made some fantastic lager beers with cry havoc. It is by definition a lager yeast but it tolerates my basement @ 68F remarkably well!
I love the yeast. I do a lawnmower and build a big yeast cake and pitch an Octoberfest on it. Crushes both.
That'd be my approach. PROST!
This is an interesting topic in general. I'd recommend looking at the "Quick Lager" method, California Commons ("Steam beer"), the recent post at Brulosophy about using W34/70 at high temperatures, etc.
It is quite clear you can make lager like beers with ale yeasts or even ales with lager yeasts within limits. However, a Kolsch stylistically has 2x the hops of a Munich Helles with practically the same grain bill and similar hops. To get a lagered (in the traditional brewing sense) Munich Helles to taste like a Kolsch is very easy. To make a Kolsch (ale yeast) taste as good as a Munich Helles (accurate to that style with 1/2 the IBUs) is more difficult, if not impossible.
Also, IMHO, as good as the "quick lager" method is, the same Lager two months later definitely tastes better to me, but I am no expert.
The reality of this is maybe for our uses (but not a competition entry, etc.) brewing a Kolsch instead of a Munich Helles or even a American Pilsner is maybe much more worth not expending the extra effort. This really should be the point of the article.
I'm no expert but I don't think this holds water.
By the rationale of this method after my keg has been in the fridge for 4 weeks I have a "pseudo" lager. Yeah, my beer is much clearer after that much cold crashing, but it isn't any different than it would be if I held it cold that long before kegging it
Not to mention it won't have the clean crisp characteristics of an actual lager no matter how long you keep it cold. I've never said to myself "man, this sure turned into a nice lager" after weeks of refrigeration.
I think the difference is the author mentions that you begin lagering after or just before the primary is finished, while maturation is still occurring. When cold crashing, you wait until the process is completely finished, and you're just looking to flocculate more.
This is my two cents. It's also a "fake" lager after all.
The author leaves out an important detail. If you are fermenting at ambient temperature, how the heck do you cold condition (pseudo lager). The concept is interesting, but where is the execution?
The weak point of the article, imho, is that it fails to ask the following question: If you have the ability to cold condition (esp. in bulk), why not simply do a lager?
Temperatures are critical in every step of the brewing process, as can be read in several articles on here, and it is hard to imagine that buying a used fridge and an external thermostat for cheap is beyond home brewers - I, for one, put it off for years, because I was satisfied with the quality of my brews. It was a mistake. Temp control for the fermentation should be the primary investment for every home brewer, even before upgrading to full grain gear - but yeah, I didn't believe it either. It doesn't have to be the glycol-chilled conical, mind you, a simple fridge with external thermostat is all you need (maybe a light bulb for heating if you want to do a saison in winter). So temp control (and with it the ability to lager) is within the reach of almost every home brewer. Which reverts me to my initial question.
When cell membranes "weaken" to the point that the cell is spilling out nucleic acids, that cell is dead. So what you describe as occurring during lagering, and what you call "autolysis" later in the same paragraph, are the same thing. Also, there are 2 lineages of lager yeast. One, represented by 34/70, can utilize maltotriose. The other, represented by Saaz/Carlsberg strains, cannot.
The weak point of the article, imho, is that it fails to ask the following question: If you have the ability to cold condition (esp. in bulk), why not simply do a lager?
Because the temp ranges are different.

Fermentation temp for a lager is 50-55 degrees F. Nobody normally has a refrigerator or a kegerator, etc set to operate at 53 degrees. You could do it with an external controller, but if you shared a fridge with some stored food or bottled beer or your extra hops or you wanted to use your kegerator with beers on tap then thats not cold enough.

Cold crash temps occur at 40 degrees or below and everybody has that without buying a dedicated lager fridge. We’re already running two fridges and a kegerator. Let’s just say my wife would be really unhappy if I bought a fourth fridge just to use for making lagers. So I can cold crash and store cold for a bit in the one extra slot in my kegerator (normally set at about 35) but I cannot set the kegerator to 53 while I have beer on tap.
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I know the article recommends 1056. I have done a couple with 1056. It makes a clean beer but I’ve found 1056 doesn’t drop real clear even after some cold aging. Wyeast even says - “this strain normally requires filtration for bright beers.” I have found 1099 works better. Wyeast says for 1099 it is very clean at lower temps and it is a high flocculator that makes bright beers without filtration. I am very happy with the plagers I’ve made with 1099.
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That said, I do find the references to "lagering" a stout or an IPA misleading inasmuch as it impossible to "lager" either of those styles without creating something totally different.
Many times, Baltic Porter is done as a lager. Most Irish Reds in America are lagers. So it’s not “impossible”
Unfortunately there is an awful lot of inaccurate and just plain wrong information in this article.
To each their own of course but this idea that a pseudo-lager happens as a result of lagering (prolonged cold storage) is absolute nonsense.
The German word “lager” simply means “to store”. So a beer that is cold stored is by definition “lagered”.
To say a stout will not taste like a lager is comparing apples and grapefruits. Of course Guiness doesn’t taste like Budweiser. They are totally different beers with totally different recipes. Lager is a process. It’s not a style. There are numerous styles that are lagers.