Oktoberclassic: Upcoming “Mock”tober Brew Session and Common Questions On Brewing Lagers

  • “MOCK”toberclassic

First off…since its early October, I am getting a LATE jump on the Oktoberclassic:(my yearly oktoberfest recipe). So, to combat this I have decided to try my hand at my own “Mock”toberclassic.  Keeping with the theme of the cream ale yeast from the last entry, (I just recovered a slurry from my red rye ale), I will use it to cleanly ferment my Marzen bier recipe. I won’t have enough time, nor do I have the space for another lager at this point, so using my favorite German lager yeast the very awesome WLP833. I have referenced this yeast many times in the past: https://beaconhillsbrewhouse.wordpress.com/2011/12/30/munich-dunkel-and-the-fearsome-833/ Unfortunately the 833 is not an option at this time. HOWEVER…my solution to this problem with using the cream ale yeast is to utilize both the lager and the ale strain in the cream ale yeast blend. I am counting on the lager yeast to keep it pretty clean and of course I am hoping that the ale strain with add some “fruity” flavors that are sometimes associated with WLP833. My plan is to ferment at a slightly higher temp during primary. The fearsome WLP833 has been described as “fruity” lager that accentuates the malt character in a given brew. That is what I hope to accomplish with this weekend’s brew session. Of course I will report back with results! 

  • A modified version of Oktoberclassic

As of now I am going with a slightly modified Oktoberclassic recipe. It’s still very steeped in the trifecta of base malts, (dark German munich, German pils, and vienna) , but slightly modified. I completely equaled out the amount of all three base malts and just added a handful of caramunich…I’m not sure why! (I originally added the caramunich for a little extra color to get that usual “orange” color. I guess it’s just an OCD thing!)

The old recipe also had Hallertauer as the bitter addition, but I have switched to Magnum. My belief is that it doesn’t matter in the end which hops you use to bitter with, it’s the alpha and beta acids that are the most important. The entire flavor is boiled away, especially when this recipe calls for a 90 min boil! Although you with find other brewers that will completely disagree, my challenge to you would be to brew two of the same beers, bitter one with magnum, and bitter the other with a lower alpha acid aroma hop, both to the same IBU’s, and tell me which one is brewed with which! To nail this point home, back in 2009 I brewed a Dopplebock that won me 3rd best of show and best of category…brewed with magnum for bittering and it was the only hop addition. But, I know what you are going to say…it’s a dopplebock..a malty style, not to mention its usually a HUGE beer at the same time! All of this is true…but the point is that even the judges couldn’t tell. So now Magnum is my go to bittering hop. Save the low alpha “aroma” hops for the aroma! Although the magnums I have this time have an AWESOME aroma going on! Once I cracked the lid on the bin of magnums in the local homebrew store, it practically hit you in the face!

Anyway… the new recipe goes like this:

3.5# weyermann pilsner

3.5# weyermann Vienna

3.5# weyermann dark Munich

approx. 4-6 oz of  weyermann caramunich ( I told you…just a handful!)

WLP Cream Ale Blend

.60 oz Magnum 14.5% AA 

A starter is made and its bubbling. I forgot to mention, this will be a decoction mash as well. I feel much of the great flavors of the style come from the kettle caramelization you get from a boiling mash and a long 90 boil. The cream ale yeast is keeping it clean much the same way WLP 830 or saflager 34/70 might. Of course I will be missing the key component – the WLP833 and its distinctive way of enhancing the maltiness of good German lagers, but I’m sure it will be a good brew regardless.

Update:

  • Diacetyl Rest Just In Time For an Ale!

I brewed this one last Friday night with no issues. During the lag phase, I still had a lager just finishing up its primary and I was ramping up the fermentation chamber temps to the diacetyl rest. This rest is something I have always done with my lagers and is supposed to be at ale temps. Lucky for me, the “Mock”toberclassic will be fermented at ale temps. The lag phase was just about 64 degrees F and primary began by Sunday morning. During the week, I ramped up the low ale temperatures to about 68 F to finish off the primary. All that is left is to finish out the primary and let the yeast “clean up” after itself and then begin the lager phase.

Ayinger Oktoberfest…the best German Oktoberfest you find in the USA.

  • Common Lagering Questions

I get a lot of the same questions about lagers, but the most common is: “how long should you lager it?” The answer (as it always is) is taste! Lager just means to store..cold. There is no given formula for how long to hold any beer at any temp! I have read somewhere that for every degree of plato or every two degrees of gravity, that you should cold lager the beer for an extra day. Maybe that is a good rule of thumb, but that is all it should be considered, it is not set in stone and not to mention…confusing!  In the end, it’s not about how long you lager, it’s just about how long you lager to your tastes. I see no reason not to start drinking your lager after a longer primary and straight to the bottles or kegs. The secondary or cold storage(in the keg if you wish) is for mellowing the flavor and that’s it! Oktoberfest is traditionally stored for a few months, but styles like dopplebock need a long lagering to mellow the high ABV that tend to have a “warming” flavor.

Another question I get is about the diacetyl rest. When should you start the diacetyl rest? My answer for my beers are always to start ramping up the fermentation temps a few degrees a day,  just after peak krausen. By the way all, (or most) of the esters produced in fermentation is in the very first stages of primary. That is why I ALWAYS pitch the lager yeast into cold wort (50 degrees F +/-). I never pitch the starter into warm wort, and then cool. After your peak time of fermentation (which is usually a couple of days), start edging the temp up until you reach low to mid 60’s F. That is where you rest the beer for maximum diacetyl absorption. If you have ever tasted diacetyl, in high amounts it is completely UNDRINKABLE. The description is correct…it taste like popcorn butter. Some low levels are acceptable in English and Irish styles, but absolutely no place in lagers in my opinion. When you reach the final diacetyl rest temp which should be in the low to mid 60’s, the beer should finish fermentation pretty fast. Some brewers may not agree with me about this step, but this is what works for me so this is the method that I use for all of my lagers.

There really is no mystery behind lagers. Just remember that temp control is absolutely necessary when brewing these types of beers. Add in some patience and you can make a great true lager. I plan to update this article with a follow up tasting entry on the “Mock”toberclassic. Until next time! Remember…. in the end, it wants to become beer…just be patient!

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