As I looked back at all the beers I’ve made since I started in May last year (11 prior to this batch) they have all been ales.  Most of that has to do with the fact that I like ales.  An almost equal portion, however, has to do with the fact that making a lager requires some specific temperature control capabilities.  Specifically, the ability to ferment at 50 degrees and below.  That all changed this past weekend.

I’ve made small investments over time and so when I got my freezer off of craig’s list I went with simple single gauge regulator and CO2 tank along with one keg.  I put all of that in the freezer (along with my temperature controller) and called it a day.  Subsequently I have added a second regulator which allows for two different pressures (serving and carbonating), a second faucet and more kegs.  All of this culminated with moving my CO2 tank from the inside of my keezer to the outside of the keezer. 

It wasn’t really all that expensive an operation – it did require some modifications to my existing setup though.  I purchased a simple 3-way distributor which allows me to hook up a single CO2 line to the inlet and have three lines running off of it to three separate kegs.  With that in place I was able to move my CO2 tank out of the freezer and mount it to the side of it (attached to my wooden collar of course).  I drilled two 9/16” holes (same as the OD of the tubing) to pass a hose from each of the regulators through.  One is connected to the distributor and the other is connected to a gas pin lock disconnect. 

By moving the CO2 and the gauges off of the compressor hump I freed up space that fits a 6 gallon carboy quite nicely.  I now have a temperature controlled location for making a lager.  Now, I don’t plan on making a lot of lagers as they aren’t my favorite style, but I thought I should at least give it a try.  That said, I opted to give a Munich Helles a shot.

A Munich Helles is a malt-accentuated lager that is not overly sweet, but rather focuses on the malt flavor with underlying hop bitterness in a supporting role.  It is sort of like a Pilsner, but is a little maltier.

  BJCP Guidelines Scoville Munich Helles
IBUs 16-22 16
SRM 3-5 4.6
OG 1.045-1.051 1.050
FG 1.008-1.012 1.010 Est.
ABV 4.7-5.4% 5.21% Est.

 

I’m on the lower end of the IBUs, but I’m not a huge hop-head either.  I’m thinking this should work out nicely.  One of my biggest concerns was/is the fermentation.  After some reading and accounting for my setup I decided that I would pitch the yeast at the normal 65 degrees or so that I pitch at and then put the carboy in the keezer.  This seems to have worked out ok.  I don’t have a huge amount of airlock activity, but it is there.  It took about 18 hours for the wort to equalize to the 50 degree temperature of the keezer.  I plan to leave it at 50 for about 3 weeks.  I’ll then remove it from the keezer and leave in the basement and let it rise to 65 for a day or two until activity subsides.  Then I’ll transfer it to another carboy and put it back in the keezer and drop the temp to about 40 degrees.  I’ll leave it there for another 2 weeks and then move it to the keg for carbonation.

Should be ready just in time for March Madness!

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