It's time once again for me to get ready to leave the country for a few months and in preparation for my absence I want to have forty gallons of lagers in kegs by December 1st. to begin aging. They will stay in cold storage during the cool California winter months. My plan is to return to enjoy a Schwarzbier, Dunkel, Bock and Doppelbock when I return for the spring season in April.
This meant that I needed to create some yeast starters that would get the beer fermented in a reasonable amount of time so I can keg and get them aging by December 1st. (departure date). I'm using White Labs WLP830 and WLP833 lager yeast for this years beers. Each vial is stepped up two times to achieve what I believe will be about 200 billion cells per pitch. This I will use for the Schwarzbier and the Dunkel. Lower cell counts than what Mr. Malty probably recommends but I've had good success with this pitch rate in the past. Once those two beers are fermented I will pitch the yeast cake from each into the two bigger beers, the bock and the Doppelbock.
Brewing lager's in the strict sense of the word is difficult and requires refrigeration and temperature controls for the fermentation that I don't have at this time. Additionally, slowly lowering the beer temperature after fermentation a couple degrees every day until the beer is at the freezing point and later ramping the temperature back up before lowering it again is not something I even want to mess with. So, I will be going about this as I've done before and have every confidence that the results will be good.
First, there are two schools of thought about the beginning fermentation temperatures. One is to begin warm (70f.) for a short period of time allowing the yeast to develop a large colony, then lower the temperature down for the fermentation period. The other idea is to ferment at lager temperatures from the beginning until fermentation is complete and this is the method I will use. Because I can't cool the beer in the fermentor I have to get the wort down to lager temperatures to begin with by chilling with a plate chiller and with the support of my post immersion chiller that I've written about in the past. You can see it here, or watch a fuzzy video of it here. Since I am writing this after the fact, I can tell you that I got the wort down to 54f.
Secondly, I'm relying on the cool temps. in my storage unit to maintain that temperature for the duration of the ferment which I expect will be about ten days. Again, having looked at the fermentors today I can say that this temp. has only gained two points to 56f. In my book this is still an acceptable lager temperature. Judging by the thick krausen it looks as though the pitch was enough for this beer gravity.
Finally, I'll be using recipes from Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmers 'Brewing Classic Styles' book to brew these beers. Of course they will be modified to suit my needs and accommodate the ingredients I have on hand so I can use them up before departing. Don't tell Jamil.