From the HBD Archive
Subject: Re: Lager, Wyeast
Date: 1992-03-04 17:43:00 GMT

Jack writes:
> I would like to hear from anyone who can describe the difference between a
> lager and an ale, in terms of the taste.

Ales are inherently fruity and lagers are not fruity. The lower fermentation
temperatures cause the yeast to produce less of the esters which give beer a
fruity aroma and flavor. Another flavor component that is acceptable in small
amounts in ale and not in lager is diacetyl -- a butterscotch flavor (try
Samuel Smith's Old Brewery Pale Ale or Newcastle Brown Ale for a taste of
high-diacetyl ales). (You can try Orval or St. Louis Gueuze as an example of
very fruity ales.)

> I am thinking in terms of everything else being equal, just what are the
> effects of cold, long-term lagering on the taste of a beer.

According to David Miller in his book Continental Pilsener, there are three
major reasons for lagering: "clarification, carbonation and flavor maturation,"
but adds that the last of these "can be largely eliminated by modern
fermentation techniques," which he describes. He is not very specific,
however, regarding this "flavor maturation." One aspect that is clearly
part of what he calls "flavor maturation" is the reduction of diacetyl.
Part of the "modern fermentation techniques" he describes involve methods
to reduce the diacetyl that is normally produced by the yeast earlier in
the ferment and then reduced by the yeast during lagering. A reduction in
the creation of diacetyl lessens the time needed to reduce it.

Why not filter in stead of lagering to clarify? Well, Miller addresses this
also. Filtering will not only remove the yeast, but also proteins which are
essential to the head retention, body and flavor of the finished beer.
As you well know, American industrial beers don't have any head retention
and little or no body, so filtering is simply part of the process of making
beer of the American industrial style.

> If one made a batch of beer and lagered half in cold and used ale yeast at
> ale temperatures on the other half, what would one expect to taste that makes
> it all worth while?

In my own personal brewing, I don't think it's worth while, but I *like* the
fruity flavors of ales. I will be brewing lagers this summer in my fridge
just to see if can brew a lager, but not because they are one of my favorite

> Breweries spend zillions to lager so I presume there must be a reason but as
> most of what they make, isn't worthy of the name beer, I can't help but
> wonder why they bother.

As noted by Miller, modern fermentation techniques can reduce the need to
lager as long, and filtering also reduces the need to lager, so modern
breweries don't need to expend gobs of money to make lager.

> As I keep looking for ways of improving my beer, I don't want to overlook
> anything but this just seems like lunacy, (sort of like using liquid yeast).

If you've tried liquid yeast and it hasn't improved your beer from dry yeast,
then you've got sanitation problems. Switching to Wyeast improved my beer
a quantum leap -- no longer was it unmistakably "home brewed"... in a
double-blind test against commercial English Ales it held it's own.

> >Every day I give the relief valve a pull and get about a 3 second blast of
> CO2. The gravity, however does not seem to be changing. The beer tastes OK.
> Why is it not fermenting out?
> I suspect you have unwitingly exploded the myth of "Wyeast purity". Sounds
> like they cheated on the old family recipe and slipped you a bit of Red Star.

I think you are directing the blame in the wrong place -- I've never had a
problem with bacterial infection when I've used Wyeast and a recent batch
made with M&F dry yeast did. If there's a bacterial infection, I blame
environment (dusty basement, etc.) or technique (sanitizing the racking tube
and then putting it on top of the drier, etc.). This brings up a point I
haven't noticed in HBD: I transfer from kettle to primary and primary to
secondary in my laundry room -- I make it a point to NOT USE THE DRIER
kicked up is sure to find it's way into the beer.

> Champaign bottles are ideal for beer for two.
> You can use plastic champaign corks or crown caps on most of them.

Specifically, american beer (and soda) crown caps work on american
"champagne" (sparkling wine, actually) bottles. This brings up another
point I'd like to ask everyone about -- do you know where I can get a
capper and caps to fit Lindeman's bottles (they are a bit bigger than
the american crown cap)?


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