Thursday, April 18, 2013

Standard Lager In Mexico

It's hard to ferment a lager at the proper temperatures here in San Miguel. Although I'm able to chill the wort down into the low to mid 50's f. with a plate chiller and post (ice bath) chiller, without a cold room or jacketed fermentor I'm helpless against the impact of the ambient temperature during the fermentation period.

I considered this problem and decided to go ahead anyway and brew a version of my previously successful Pabst Blue Ribbon clone. My original recipe that I brewed while back in California is made up of 75% 2-row, 3% Munich malt and 22% Minute Rice and I generally followed the same recipe and lager yeast with one fairly large exception. In this case I used short grain white rice that I pre-cooked and then mixed in with the mash rather than going the easy course by using Minute rice. I also substituted a small percentage of crystal #20 for the Munich malt I used in the original.

I decided that my best approach for brewing this beer down here was to brew in the middle of January when the daytime temperature was in the low 80's f. but the nighttime temperatures got down into the 40's and 50's and the fermentation chamber was a constant 60f. Secondly, by starting with a low pitching temperature to begin with I could at least minimize the active fermentation temperature rise. I allowed for a full two week fermentation and during the height of active fermentation the temperature rose to 65f. before settling back down to the ambient 60f.

Unfortunately, a negative result from this warm ferment was an abundance of acetaldehyde. The positive result was an attenuation of close to 80% allowing for a very dry beer which is what I wanted but I was still concerned that all was lost because of the taste.

Long story short, this beer was initially undrinkable because of the high level of green apple flavor from the acetaldehyde by-product of the high fermentation temperature. I set the four cases of beer aside hoping that time would heal this wound. These beers sat at room temperature (65f.) for the last three months. I cracked one open the other day to see what was happening with them and was happily surprised to find that the green apple was gone. I was shocked when I tasted a seemingly new beer that is crisp, dry, clean and very enjoyable.



It's nice to know that brewing a lager with non-standard procedures along with a little time and patience can result is a beer that makes you question the conventional wisdom and strict rules that suggest lager brewing isn't for everyone.
 

 
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