Mexican-Inspired Pilsner

Eight days ago we brewed our first lager, and to be honest, it had us fairly scared.

This is the lightest beer we have ever planned, which meant that there wasn’t anything to hide behind if we were to make any mistakes (especially ones that cause off flavors). The lagering process was also a contested topic, because we struggle between whether we should have aimed for the quickest (can potentially cause undesirable flavors) or best tasting (slightly slower) procedure. The recommended quantity of yeast was massively larger than anything we’ve done ever! So how has everything turned out so far? Hit the “Continue reading >>” button for the details.

To begin, the beers we’ve felt that we’ve had the most success with have usually had lots of flavor (either hoppy or roasty) that we were able to hide behind. This brew session kept us sober out of fear of potential critical mistakes. We not only had one of the best sessions with our current equipment setup, but we also were able to solve some of the issues we have been running into when it comes to how much wort we need to collect pre-boil. We’ve been collecting too much out of the mashtun, that started us out with too large of a volume that didn’t have enough time to boil off (without running into over hop bittering). The solution to try next time is to follow sparge volumes most precisely, bring the collected wort to a boil, and THEN add (or subtract via boil off) any additional fluid volume to hit the desired starting boil volume.

Next off was the debate over whether we should be patient or try an expedited fermenting process. When we start brewing bulk batches that we will be making money from, we definitely don’t want to waste time that doesn’t actually help the beer taste any better. Time is money, but we absolutely won’t sacrifice taste with corner cutting activities. There are places online that have suggested that if low temperature fermentation is taken to 50% attenuation, then bumping up the temperature so that the yeast finish off the fermentation faster WILL NOT result in a beer tasting any different. That process could save a week or two depending on how quickly your beer was expected to ferment. However, we also talked to “Cap’n” at the local home brewing shop, and he adamantly recommended to not put the yeast into any state that they aren’t intended to be in, or else we would be getting fruity flavors (not what you’d want in a light beer). We ultimately decided to do it proper the first time so that we have a baseline for this particular recipe, and then later, experiment on altering the process.

Let’s end with the yeast, and boy are they the winners of this round of brewing. It started off with the home brew shop having only four White Labs vials of yeast. We were looking to get two vials per keg that we were planning on filling, which left us two vials short. So the Space City Brewing Downtown Yeast Lab got to work a week before the brew on getting the four vials of yeast built up to a sizable starter. For those not familiar with a starter, it is giving the yeast a pre-brew appetizer so that it is multiplies and is super hungry for the sweet wort that you are pitching it on. Interested in some pictures and videos of this process? … stay tuned for a play by play guide on the starter that was made for this beer. In short, we were able to run almost 6 liters of starter wort through the yeast, and it paid off in spades. We pitched it into four kegs that we filled (all with about one gallon of headspace), right after the 3rd time of hitting high krausen. The result after a week of fermenting at 50 degrees Fahrenheit was 70% attenuation. To calculate a rough attenuation, you divided the current gravity units by the original gravity units (if current gravity is 1.020 & OG is 1.040 … 20/40 = 0.50 or 50% attenuated). Since this yeast has an attenuation range of 70-78%, it is likely almost done, and we’ll be checking it every couple days to see if it has stopped. At that point we are looking at less than a month till it is carbonated and ready to drink!

And that’s about that. Be sure to check out the hop garden progress HERE, and also keep an eye out for a guide on how we got our starter going for this lager.

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