Märzen lager/ale experiment (all-grain)

What happens if you take the easy route when making a lager? Screw all the temperature control and extended periods of aging; it’s summer, I’m thirsty, and I want to make something delicious in 2-3 weeks, not months.  I’m all about experimenting.  I wanted to see what would happen if I took my first all-grain Marzen and prepared it like an ale – fermented at room temp for 7 days.

I like lagers.  One of the first beers I took a liking to was Yuengling Lager and I still enjoy it today every so often, especially when it’s on sale at my local liquor store.  As I’ve written before, though, brewing lagers isn’t exactly quick and easy.  It takes time and precision, and for that reason, homebrewing them is generally not favored because, usually, our equipment and brewing resources aren’t fully up to snuff (temperature controls and adequate fridge space), and we just wanna make something quick and refreshing to drink!

The only thing I changed up was the yeast – I used WYeast 2007 Pilsen Lager because, after asking the cashier at the homebrew store, he recommended it even at higher temperatures over the Munich lager strain.

BEGIN BEER-NERD STUFF // Strike water: 14.5 qt, 168F, mash 75 min. Added ~1 gal boiling water at 60 min. Sparge w/ 15 qt water @ 170F in two batches. Collect about 7 gal wort, pre-boil gravity = 1.042. After 90 min boil, gravity = 1.053.  Pitched a 1.5 qt starter of the yeast. Cost to brew: $26 // END BEER-NERD STUFF

After literally 2 days, this beer had gone from going nuts in the primary fermentor, to bubbling once every 1.5 – 2 minutes. In disbelief that it was done, I let it sit 2 more days then racked to the secondary.  The gravity read 1.013, so it was done alright.  I gave it two more days in the secondary to let the final bit of yeast settle out, then kegged.

THE VERDICT:

This beer came out… decent.  A lot of the same malt flavors are there (duh, it was the same recipe), but they’re sort of hidden by some other indescribable flavors.  It’s not nearly as “crisp” as before, and, well, it kinda just tastes like an ale, which is a hard flavor to describe.  Some people say ales are more “fruity” than lagers, but I’m not getting any fruitiness.  I wouldn’t say it has “off” flavors either. It’s interesting though – it tastes better at this point in time (one week after brewing) than the previous lager’d beer tasted at the same age.  The real “lager-ness” of the previous Marzen didn’t really come out until about a month after lager-ing it, after which it became really delicious and refreshing.  But right now, this one’s not bad. I feel as though the recipe could use a little more beef to it – it’s got the right amount of body, but needs some darker, roastier flavors. I’m thinking some Victory Malt, and maybe even a small helping of Chocolate malt for color and complexity.

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2 Comments

Filed under Lager, Maerzen

2 responses to “Märzen lager/ale experiment (all-grain)

  1. Aaron

    Nice post. I built a fridge controller last night and while I was planning on controlling my ale fermentation temps with it, i realized I could try and tackle Marzen. HOWEVER, my Dad is harvesting grapes in a couple months, so I was going to try and slam through a Marzen Lager (ha ha, we’ll see) and I was worried about the conditioning time. I think after reading your article it would be OK, but not as crisp as it should be. I guess that’s why Marzen is made in March and aged all Summer…I may still proceed with it anyway, or try and run a bier de garde type product, however, that yeast strain is currently a bit difficult to find. Decisions, Decisions.

    • Yeah, lagers are tough. I always wind up drinking about a quarter of the keg before it’s truly lager’d and conditioned, just because I’m impatient. I really would like to build out a smaller separate temp-controlled fridge area so I don’t have to use up space in my kegerator. How’d you go about making yours? Did you use any online references?

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