Lagering is nothing more than COLD STORAGE. Many breweries lager their beers to obtain a more clear final brew. This brew may be a pale ale or a pilsner, when it is stored cold, you are lagering.
Lager Yeasts do react differently than ale yeasts. This is partly because of the type of yeast it is and also because of the temperature in which you ferment. While most ale yeast go dormant at cool temperature(45?F - 60?F), lager yeast will slowly ferment. The cool temperatures also settle the lager yeast (flocculate) to the bottom of your fermenter giving lager yeast the bottom fermenting term.
Fermenting a lager will require more attention to detail than their ale counterparts. Yeast starters are a must! Adding oxygen and some type of yeast nutrient will also help with your new brewing style. Below you will find a BASIC outline for lager brewing. It will seem tedious, but your time will be rewarded!
- Build a yeast starter. Haven’t done one? Check out our How to Make a Yeast Starter page. Keep your yeast starter temps between 60?F and 75?F and go large, you need the yeast!
- Pitch your yeast in the 60?F - 65?F range. When fermentation starts, drop to the recommended temperature of the yeast you are using, this may be as low as 45?F.
- Fermentation should take 2 weeks. After fermentation you will want to raise your temperature as close to 62?F as possible. This is called a diactyl rest. The increase in temperature will achieve a few things. First, it will assure fermentation is complete. Next, it will drive off any remaining CO2 that might cause “off flavors”. Finally, it will allow the yeast to absorb the diacetyl produced by fermentation.
- After two or three days at(or near) 62?F you will need to rack your beer into a carboy. It is now time to lager. Slowly lower your temperature about 5?F a day until you hit 35?F. You can go colder, but watch your temperatures closely. Lagering has begun! Lager for a minimum of six weeks and don’t be shy. It is not uncommon to lager a doppelbock for up to a year!
The lagering process is where you make your beer cleaner and clearer. It is every bit as important as aging a mead or a barley wine. The cold temperatures will drop any remaining yeast sediment creating a brilliant looking beer. I love the “You made this?” look when serving my latest batch of dortmunder or pils. “How are your beers so clear?” I’ll say with a grin...no secret, lager it!
Want way more details about lagering. Check out our 3 Chapter Lager Content; from what is a lager, to advanced tips.
Check out the lager recipe kits at Adventures in Homebrewing.
Recent Question About Lagering:
First, let me start by saying that your "How to Make Lager" page has been very helpful for me and I thank you very much for sharing your methods. My question involves step 4 on your list where, after racking into a glass carboy, you bring the temperature slowly down to as close to 35 degrees as possible. I am brewing "The Sun Has Left Us on Time" Steam Beer from Charlie Papazian's book The Joy of Homebrewing Vol. 3. In the description it says that it is a beer traditionally made with lager yeasts and brewed at ale temperatures. I used American lager yeast that fermented best at 48-58 degrees and fermented (primary) at about 50-54 degrees. The recipe then says to "lager" the beer at 50 degrees for 3 weeks. This obviously differs from your method and I am wondering the pros and cons of lagering it at a colder temperature or for a longer period of time. If you could give me your input I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks!
If you lager in the 50*F range you will take a chance of chill haze when you get your beers cold enough to drink. Lagering for at least two weeks at 35*F will ensure you do not get chill haze. Outside of this, the colder temps will make a slightly more crisp character to the beer than lagering at warmer temperatures. For a steam beer, that may not be a concern.