Brewery comes to the cold garage
Long have I wanted to homebrew a lager beer, and this winter finally presented an opportunity. True to the minimal (erm, lazy) setup of the St. Clair brewing kitchen, only a few extra things were needed:
- Cold temperatures
- Space in the garage
Lager takes more time and lower temperatures than ale to brew. Instead of fermenting your beer at around 70ºF, you’ll ferment your lagers no higher than 55ºF, the lower the better. Once fermentation is complete, you’ll then rack the beer to another bucket or carboy, and cold-condition, or lager, the beer as cold as possible for at least 4 weeks. Many lager brewers try to lager their beer towards freezing. I’m nowhere near that diligent, so settled for whatever the ambient temperature was in my garage in February onwards, which was an average of 45ºF.
In February, I began brewing a dark lager. Admittedly, December would have been better for the brewing, with January-February for lagering. That didn’t happen, so I rolled with a primary fermentation time of February-March, lagering time of March-April, bottled May 1, and am now starting to roll out the finished bottled lager.
I gotta say, it’s growing on me. My first bottle of Bockish I thought was on the sweet side, but it may have just needed more time in the bottle. Later bottles have some malty sweetness — the result of tipping a bit too much extract into the brew (whoopsy!) — but they are smooth, crisp and refreshing. They’ll be especially tasty come summer, should Western Oregon decide to have a summer this year.
A note on the name
The name “Bockish” comes from a wee mistake on the brew. The recipe calls for 3.2 lbs. light dried malt extract. I had a 4-lb. bag. You can see where this is going. Instead of measuring out what I needed, I upended the whole bag into the brew pot, and realized my mistake about the time the last grains of DME tumbled into the wort.
Ooops. Not to worry, though; the extra DME just bumped up my gravity and would mean more malty character. When relaying all this to Jim at Eugene’s Home Fermenter Center, he replied, “Well, it’s practically a bock. It’s bockish!”
Bockish. Perfect for the name of my bockish dark lager, with its tidge too much DME. (Thanks for the name inspiration, Jim!) So…
The recipe: Bockish Dark Lager Homebrew
Source/Based off Qingdao Dark Lager. Papazian, Charlie, Microbrewed Adventures: A Lupulin-Filled Journey to the Heart and Flavor of the World’s Craft Beers. p. 367-369. Collins, HarperCollins Publishers, 2005.
- Brew Date: Sun., Feb. 16, 2011
- Initial Gravity Reading (O.G.): 1.064
- Secondary Fermentation Date: Sun., Mar. 20, 2011
- Bottling Date: Sun., May 1, 2011
- Final Gravity Reading (F.G.): 1.017
- Alcohol: 4.7%
- Open Date: May 21, 2011
Bottling Counts: 42
- 22 oz.: 4
- Flip-top: 8
- 12 oz.: 30
Approximate Target Values (per original recipe, may vary due to alterations)
- Target Original Gravity: 1.056 (14 B)
- Approx. Final Gravity: 1.014 (3.5 B)
- IBU: Approx. 27
- Approx. Color: 21 SRM (42 EBC)
- Alcohol: % by Volume: 5.5%
All ingredients from Home Fermenter Center, Eugene, OR
- 4 lbs. light DME
- 2.5 lbs. pilsener malt
- 1 lb. flaked corn
- 12 oz. crystal malt
- 8 oz. German black Caraffe malt
- @60 minute boil, 1-1/4 oz. Mt. Hood hops 6% alpha (7.5 HBU/210 MBU)
- @20 minute boil, 3/4 oz. Mt. Hood hops 6% alpha (4 HBU/125 MBU)
- @10 minute 1/2 tsp. Irish moss
- 2007 Pilsen Lager Yeast, Wyeast
- @ bottling: 1-1/4c. dried malt extract
Brewing & Fermentation
Place crushed grains in 5 quarts of 172ºF water. Stir well. Temperature should stabilize to 155ºF. Steep for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, raise temperature to 167ºF. Strain out and sparge with ~2 quarts hot water. Bring to a boil, while adding malt extract and 60-minute hops.
Clean/sanitize carboy and other equipment during this time. Add 1 gallon cold water to sanitized carboy. At 20 minute mark, add 20-minute hops. At 10 minute mark, add Irish moss.
Remove from heat and cool wort to 90-100ºF.
Strain wort into carboy, sparging through hops. Add cold water until total amount of liquid in carboy is 5 gallons. Shake to aerate. Take a sample for initial gravity reading.
Pitch yeast at around 60ºF. Cap carboy and set in cool place where temperature can stabilize about 50ºF (we put ours in the garage, wrapped in towels to prevent light strike.
After 4-5 weeks primary fermentation, bring temperature up for 3 day diacetyl rest. After diacetyl rest, rack to secondary fermenter and return to garage for lagering period.
Lager 1-3 weeks. Bottle with DME solution. Age one month.
2/16/11, Was supposed to use only 3.2 lbs. of 4 lb. DME bag, but spaced and added the whole thing! Bumped up my OG a decent bit, but not worrying about it. Had also increased the hops and black caraffe malt; I think it’ll balance out.
2/18/11, Primary fermentation getting underway. The lager yeast is defo slower acting that ale yeasts. It takes some getting used to, to not immediately hear that beer heartbeat.
2/19-20/11, Fermentation well underway now. Yeast picking up activity. Temperature steadily dropped from 60º to 50º, and is holding well at 50º. Garage was good choice; beer is well wrapped in towels to prevent light strike. Brewing this in December or January would have been optimal, especially once it’s time for lagering period, as temperatures will most likely be warmer. No big.
2/27/11, Sulphur smell! Glad I’d read Palmer’s section on lagering, otherwise I might not have known that the sulphur smell is normal with lager yeasts. I probably would’ve thought I’d ruined the batch, had I not known. Stinks, but it’s a good sign.
3/3/11, Sulphur smell gone; fermentation slower but still going.
3/16/11, Replaced blowoff hose with airlock. Brought beer into house so it could go near pellet stove. This will raise ambient temp for a few days diacetyl rest.
3/19/11, Lager has done great. Looks good. Before we leave for our Vegas trip, will rack to secondary and put beer back in garage for lager rest. Now to ponder names… New Moon?
5/1/11, Bottle Day! Great coffee-brown color. Clean lager flavor. May be some unprocessed sugar remaining, but still, a tasty beer.
5/29/11 Getting good feedback on the beer’s smoothness. At first (on May 21) I thought it may be too sweet, maybe some unfermented sugar, but the beer’s been growing on me. I’m really liking its smoothness and drinkability.