That Unique Flavor That is "Lager"

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mew

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I find that many people on message boards such as these, and in general conversation, often describe lager yeasts as neutral - like an ale yeast with fewer esters, phenols, etc. Many have attempted to recreate lagers by fermenting ale yeasts in the high 50s (F), something I'll admit I've never done.

But to me, a lager has a unique character that is no less flavorful than an ale. It is a sulfury, smooth yeast character that is absolutely great (and goes great with apricots, I might add).

So I want to know whether it's just me, or does lager yeast impart a unique, flavorful character in much the same way that an ale yeast would?
 

menschmaschine

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I think it depends on the lager yeast. Some are "cleaner" than others. Some produce more sulfur, diacetyl, esters, etc. than others. It also depends heavily on fermentation temps from pitch to finish. I've mostly brewed lagers with admittedly underpitched WLP830. Pitching temps were sometimes a little warm (mid to upper 50s°F), but I've now taken to only pitching cold.

I recently brewed a German Pils with Saflager W34/70 (same strain as WLP830) at 2 packs per ~5 gallons. I pitched it cold (~50°F). The resulting beer is extremely clean with a grainy maltiness that seems more intense than my batches with WLP830. My point is that I have found that when clean lager yeasts are pitched cold and at the correct pitch rate, they can result in a beer that seems void of yeast character... but in a pleasant way... like you're drinking a field of barley.

I'm not saying you're wrong though. In a way I think you're right. Lager yeasts can have a character all their own. In their case, a lack of character is character enough.

But when comparing to "clean" ale yeasts, there's nothing like a true lager yeast fermented at the right pitch-rate and with good temperature control.
 

McKBrew

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I'd say yes that most lagers have a unique crispness/flavor that only lagers have. I haven't done a true homebrewed lager, but hand me a commericial lager blindfolded and I'll likely be able to tell you it is a lager.
 

Joos

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+1 on the temps.Brew a cali common and those esters will come out:mug:
 
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mew

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I guess what made me think of this was a German Pils I had the other day. Pils malt leant a grainy character, there was some definite hop spicyness, but the yeast character, while the most difficult flavor to describe, pulled it all together and made for a fantastic beer. I need to brew that.
 

Kass_Brauhaus

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Sure, I oversimplified. Anyway, the bottom line is that yes, lager yeast imparts its own flavor! It isn't the lack of an ale flavor.
 

ewbish

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+1 on the temps.Brew a cali common and those esters will come out:mug:

Yep.....spot on.

Pick your favorite lager recipe and yeast..........and ferment it at 65 degrees. You'll get a whole different beer.

The cooler your temps, the less pronounced the esters IMHO. Goes for both Ales and Lagers. A hefe fermented at 58 degrees has an entirely different personality than one done at 75 degrees, just as a pils fermented at 60 degrees, and allowed to age in the secondary at the same temp will have a different personality than one fermented colder, and allowed to lager in the 30's or low 40's.
 

BigEd

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So I want to know whether it's just me, or does lager yeast impart a unique, flavorful character in much the same way that an ale yeast would?
Rather than anything imparted by the yeast itself I would say that a lager yeast for the most part gets out of the way and lets the basic flavors of the malt and hops be the star of the show. That's not to say that there are not distinctive characteristics of certain lager yeasts and that malt and hops are not prominent in most ales but, in general, a lager yeast is fairly neutral, does not produce the esters of ale yeasts and perhaps most important metabolizes some sugars that ale yeasts leave in the beer. The lack of esters and residual sugars describes the general clean character of a good lager beer. :mug:
 

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