My attempt at making Lager

Attempt one was simple followed the instructions which were same as every other beer I had made clearly not real Lager so second attempt was to try making beer at lower temperatures which also needed the correct yeast so bought a Young’s Lager yeast for the job.

On first mixing it was a little on the hot side around 18ºC so added yeast and left in garage with ambient temperature of 10ºC to cool. However after 6 days no sign of activity so decided to heat up again very slowly as did not want to damage the yeast, so used a 18W hotplate and body warmer plus coat raising the temperature around one degree every three hours. It took around 30 hours to reach 18ºC at this point I read a warning about once the krausen starts to form how if really a Lager yeast it can really go daft at higher temperatures, so 10pm heater turned off. In two hours it only dropped 0.8ºC clearly well wrapped up, and from other beers even if not a Lager yeast it should still work down to around 16ºC since I don’t want to remove insulation I have not inspected the beer only indication is the air lock which has slowly increased so at peak temperature of 18ºC was producing a bubble every 30 seconds at peak with other beers around 5 seconds a bubble. However two hours latter at 17.2ºC rate had dropped to 50 seconds per bubble which makes me think it’s not real Lager yeast.

Once it starts to ferment this it’s self should produce heat, so watching remote temperature gauge for any signs of temperature rising again as fermentation kicks off. Nine hours later and temperature dropped to 14.6ºC with one bubble every 60 seconds so running. However if bubbles are an indication as to how long it will take then 12 times longer makes it at least 12 weeks in the fermentor by that time ambient temperature will I hope have risen so may not be possible to Lager it. Temperature dropped to 11.2ºC with one bubble every 35 seconds so running Sunday morning 9 days after starting so it would seem it needed the extra temperature to get started. On returning to inspect the temperature had dropped to ambient in garage of around 10ºC and the activity seemed to have completely stalled inspection showed bubbles and yeast on top of brew but hydrometer reading was still 1.050 the same as at start 11 days earlier although with temperature compensation it would have shown a little gain clearly at the 7.2ºC to 12.7ºC (45 - 55ºF) recommended this brew was not going to ferment at a rate which would see it complete when summer arrived with higher ambient temperatures. Heating pad was switched on again and at 13ºC it was working fine at one bubble every 10 seconds in air lock.

Reading instructions I believe the time to move into second fermentor is when the specific gravity drops to 1.017 which corresponds to ¾ of the way to the terminal gravity. 18th February 2014, 17 days from start, s.g. 1.020 transferred for secondary fermentation into 6 demijohns, and returned to garage with no extra heat. Hope is the weather will mean a gradually warming of garage and it will lager now just waiting game. 15th March 2014 the two demijohns on the cabinet were brought inside to warm up a little to ensure finished fermenting before bottling. As soon as disturbed they started to bubble again through the air lock. Amber coloured liquid is clear. On the bottom of the demijohn there is, what seems to be, a hard layer of yeast. Demijohns were covered with a jacket to stop light and to reduce the rate of temperature change. Hydrometer reading was disappointing at 1.014 far higher than expected so returned to garage and given more time. Garage is sitting at 12ºC so well within the required range. 21st March 2014 tested again 1.014 i.e. no change.

It was found that simple temperature correction is not enough since at lower temperatures more gas is retained in the beer so one demijohn (the bottom one as likely the least complete) was brought inside to allow the temperature to rise to see if there was any change in the hydrometer reading once allowed to warm up and also and large change in activity. Also a table of results was started on this page. Some information was taken from other records to fill in gaps where possible.

Warming up to 19ºC and cooling over night to 18ºC activity increased dramatically then reduced again leading me to believe most due to retained gas within the brew rather than rapid fermenting although some fermentation was clearly taking place. The s.g. reading dropped just one point 1.015 to 1.014 although once cooled again likely it will then show more of a drop. However looking for a reading of around 1.008 before ready it is to bottle, clearly well from that reading. The demijohn was from the floor so was likely the coolest of the 6 but well within the lager range.

Brew Record
Date Ambuent
1st Feb 10ºC 18ºC 1.05 Start
11th Feb 10ºC 1.05
18th Feb 10ºC 1.02 Transfer
15th March 12ºC 16ºC 1.014
21st March 12ºC 12ºC 1.014
25th March 12ºC 11ºC 1.015 Bottom Demijohn of lager
25th March 12ºC 14.8ºC 1.015
26th March 16ºC 18ºC 1.014 Morning cooling
3rd April 14ºC 13ºC 1.011 On chair
19th April 8.8ºC 14ºC 1.008 Left top
28th May 12.3ºC 18ºC 1.001 Left top

At the end of March the temperature in the garage started to rise and reached 18ºC at points since caused by sun on garage door and demijohns at back of garage likely the beer did not rise that much in temperature but activity has increased in the demijohns not enough to cause clouding of the beer it is still a clear amber liquid and fermenting from bottom. Colder weather is forecast so beer is remaining undisturbed at present. 3rd April garage sitting at 13.1ºC measured between demijohns on chair s.g. 1.011 and garage temperature dial at 15ºC. On the 18th April garage still sitting at 12.5ºC using back light it could be seen bubbles rising has not altered so did not disturb to measure s.g. however next day did check reading 1.008 I would expect a reading of 1.005 at finish. Took one demijohn and transfer contents into clean demijohn and used the yeast to start a Geordie Scottish Export. Intend to transfer into shed once started and brew at lower temperature so as not to clutter up kitchen.

On the 28th May I decided to re-test and was rather surprised at the result 1.001 not quite showing same as plain water. This was even more surprising since I had used the yeast with Geordie Scottish Export and had ended up bottling at an s.g. of 1.010 a very small sample was a little on the sharp/bitter side but it really did have a taste making the one which was not lagered a little on the insipid in comparison however once bottled this may change. Clearly ready to bottle however disturbed slightly while carrying and testing so leaving to settle before bottling.

28th November 2014 the third attempt at Lager brewing. First two attempts were mixed they were reasonable with first, but second was a complete failure mainly down to temperature. Using low temperature simply did not work. I had decided not to try again, but end of November 2014 local shop only had Geordie Lager on the shelf. So I tried it again, but this time with better temperature control. At start the brew temperature was too high so left in fridge in garage with fridge door open. After a few hours the sensor under a sponge recorded 22.7ºC and the stick on strip showed 18ºC, but at 10 p.m. I was not waiting any longer, plus likely the yeast would take 24 hours to multiply, and the temperature controller was set at 18ºC. The idea was to raise the temperature in stages, so by the time complete it would be at around 24ºC. With 2kg of sugar it would likely take 2 weeks before ready to bottle so 0.5ºC rise every 2 days should mean after 14 days sitting at 21.5ºC.

Next day temperature still at 19.7ºC and it was not until 36 hours the temperature controller started to work. The airlock was static and no sign of the krausen developing. Monday around 2 p.m. there was a sign of krausen and the temperature was at 18.7ºC when the temperature controller was set at 18.5ºC the ambient temperature outside at 8.5ºC and in garage at 15ºC the controller had been re-set to 18.5ºC it would seem 18ºC was too low. Until controller is regulating again temperature will remain at 18.5ºC.  Once it starts to be risen then 0.5ºC per day until somewhere near 24ºC seems about right.

Transferred 5 Dec to clean fermentor bottled on the 14 Dec looks cloudy.