Thursday, 10 May 2012

Brewing a Standard American Lager

There's a lot of arguments in beer-related forums on the internet about what exactly separates a "beer geek" from a "beer snob". In my opinion, a beer geek is simply someone who is really into beer (homebrewing not necessarily included), while a beer snob is usually a beer geek that looks down on others based on what they're drinking - usually a macro, fizzy yellow beer.

Those fizzy, yellow beers actually do have their place. If I've just mowed my lawn, a cold, light beer can be really refreshing. Would I generally prefer a more flavorful beer, such as a Blonde Ale, Czech Pilsner, or Dortmunder Export? Usually, yes. Are these American Lagers beers that I want to drink all of the time? Definitely not. But I have nothing against enjoying an equivalent to a Budweiser during the right occasion, and when you get right down to it, American Lagers are still what the majority of people drink.

Somewhere under all this is a mashtun
So, I decided to actually try brewing one of these beers, for three reasons:
1) Summer is approaching fast.
2) A lot of my family members aren't into craft beer too much, so I thought I could donate most of this batch to the summer cottage.
3) American Lagers are generally thought to be one of the trickier styles to homebrew. It sounds kind of laughable at first, because the recipes usually aren't complex at all, but when you think about it, it makes sense. They're supposed to be quite clean, easy-drinking beers, that don't have a lot of ingredients to hide behind. Flaws would be easily detectable (a little DMS or green apple is ok). Plus, they're lagers, so you have the complications of lager yeast/fermentation thrown in as well.

According to the BJCP guidelines, there are three types of American Lagers (under the Light Lager category): Lite (e.g. Bud Light), Standard (e.g. Budweiser), and Premium American Lager (e.g. Red Stripe). All normally use an adjunct (usually flaked rice or corn) in the grist to provide a grainy/corn-like sweetness, and to lighten the body, with more barley/less adjunct being used from Lite to Premium. Also, bitterness and ABV% increase slightly, as do aroma and taste complexity as a result.

I decided to split the difference and brew a Standard American Lager, using the very basic recipe from Brewing Classic Styles. This was my first time using flaked corn in a beer, which made up about 18% of the grist, with the remaining being Canadian 2-row. The mash temperature is pretty low at 149 F, and BCS recommended a long mash of 90 minutes, due to the time needed to convert the flaked corn. I went with a bit lower time of 70 minutes, since I also planned on doing a mash-out. A small addition of Hallertau at 60 minutes provides a scant 12 IBUs of bitterness. That's the recipe... simple. As for the yeast, I ordered the Wyeast 2007 Pilsen Lager that BCS recommended, which apparently is based on the Budweiser strain (according to the yeast chart on Wyeast describes it as being a mild and neutral strain, with minimal sulfur and diacetyl production, which is great for this type of "naked" beer.

I'll probably lager the beer for about 4 weeks when primary fermentation is complete, and should have it bottled and carbonated in time for early July... a perfect time to have this type of beer on hand - even if I still do prefer more flavorful, complex beers!

Recipe targets: (5.5 gallons, 83% efficiency): OG 1.046, FG 1.008, IBU 12, SRM 3, ABV 4.85%

Grains & Other:
3.09 kg Canadian 2-row
682 g Flaked corn

Hallertau - 28 g (3.4% AA) @ 60 min

1/2 tsp yeast nutrient @ 15 min
1/2 tab Irish Moss @ 5 min

Yeast: Wyeast 2007 Pilsen Lager (PD Apr.10/12, with a 2 L and then 1.25 L starter)

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; mash water treated with 2 g of Gypsum, 2 g CaCl2

- Brewed May 7th, 2012, by myself. 70-minute mash with 12.45 L of strike water, mashed in at 149.5 F. Mashed out with 6.25 L of boiling water to 163 F. Sparged with ~4.5 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of 7.25 gallons in the kettle. 90-minute boil. Chilled to 60 F with immersion chiller. OG 1.048. Poured/filtered into Better Bottle. Placed BB in fermentation chamber with temp set to 45 F. Pitched yeast at ~50 F hours later, aerated by shaking for several minutes before and after. Placed back in ferm. chamber with temp set at 50 F.

- 9/5/12 - Visible activity in airlock, bubbling about 3-4 times per 10 seconds.

- 10/5/12 - Same activity in AM, so increased temp to 53 F. By evening, bubbling 5-6 times per 10 seconds.

- 13/5/12 - Activity starting to slow a bit, so I took the fermenter out of the chamber and left it at room temperature for a diacetyl rest... temp raised up to 66 F by next day. Placed back in the fermenter 16/5/12 and decreased temp back to 50 F gradually over a day or two.

- 3/6/12 - Racked beer into secondary, 5-gallon fermenter, and decreased temp in fermentation chamber by 1 F every 12 hours or so, aiming for a final lagering temp of about 38 F.

- 25/6/12 - FG a bit high at 1.012, but still just within range for the style.

- 26/6/12 - Bottled with 151 g table sugar, aiming for 3 vol CO2 for 5 gallons, with max temp of 66 F reached.

- 22/7/12 - Tasting notes...


  1. Dude, we must be operating in parallel universes or something, I just finished lagering this one!
    Going to be great for the hot summer months (If it lasts that long)


    1. Ha, must be! I checked the FG yesterday and it's only down to 1.012... not sure if it'll drop much beyond that or not.

      Do you have a freezer or fridge for lagering?