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Brews & Views Bulletin Board Service * Brews and Views Archive 2009 * Archive through August 24, 2009 * To lager or not to lager < Previous Next >

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Scott Morales
Username: Smutty

Post Number: 154
Registered: 09-2005
Posted From:
Posted on Sunday, August 09, 2009 - 07:35 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I got a buddy into brewing. He's single, no kids, makes a good living. So once he got into brewing he went all in. He's only made a few xtract batches, he's now on his third or maybe fourth AG batch. Last I spoke he asked about lagers. I told him I've done a few, usually when my basement is cooler during the winter months (New England winters) but I've never "officially" lagered by controlling temps during the "lagering" -- whatever my basement was, that's what it was. So now he's looking into getting a few freezers, one for primary, one for lagering. So I thought I'd see if I can get some ideas from you all. Does anyone lager? If so what do you guys use for primary and lagering? Are freezers the way to go or is there something else? Any unorthodox ideas/approaches?


Bill Pierce
Username: Billpierce

Post Number: 10578
Registered: 01-2002
Posted From:
Posted on Sunday, August 09, 2009 - 11:29 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

You can lager as you do, in the winter when your basement is the proper temperature, but it's a lot easier and more predictable to use a spare refrigerator or freezer where the temperature can be controlled. You can get away with lagering in an old fridge without any external temperature control, but you may as well go all the way ($50-$60 more) and buy a temperature controller. An added benefit is also being able to control the temperature for fermentation, a real plus in the summer when it can get too warm.

Old fridges are usually cheap on craigslist or kijiji, although some are not so energy efficient. I found a pair of them for $75 total and even talked the owner, who had dabbled with homebrewing but was being transferred West, into hauling them over to my place in the back of his pickup. The bigger one failed after a little less than two years; Paul Muth, a regular on the board here, was kind enough to talk me through fixing it for the cost of about $40 in parts.

Bob Wall
Senior Member
Username: Brewdudebob

Post Number: 2738
Registered: 11-2004
Posted From:
Posted on Monday, August 10, 2009 - 02:05 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

I like to lager just about everything I brew. I have three fridges. One dedicated to fermenting (glass-door display cooler with a digital controller), one that I use for lagering (very Brady avacado green 1970's fridge) and a two tower True brand kegerator.

My Green fridge is a classic Freezer on top fridge that was my first beer fridge. I used it for everything. Over time, I got the kegerator, then the glass door cooler.

Typically, I will ferment in the glass door cooler in my Blichmann conical. If I am not pressed for space I will also lager in the conical too. Just this week, I wanted to brew again, and I had a 3 week old Altbier in the conical, so I racked it over to two carboys, and I now have them in my kegerator lagering. My Green fridge is full of other stuff at the moment, and I had room in my kegerator for 2 carboys. I will rack from the carboys to kegs in another week or two after the yeast and sediments settle out.

michael atkins
Advanced Member
Username: Mga

Post Number: 727
Registered: 11-2003
Posted From:
Posted on Monday, August 10, 2009 - 02:43 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Scott - I love lagers. They are now my favorite beers, especially the lighter styles such as Pils and Helles, and CAP's, and I brew a lager almost every brew session. I have finally become good enough at it to qualify three lager beers, for the first round at Nationals this year with a German Pilsner - 1st, a Baltic Porter - 2nd and a CAP - 3rd.

I use a Hairer wine cooler for primary fermentation, and an older refrigerator for lagering and dispensing. The refrigerator is much prettier than Bill's or Bob's "avocado", it's a striking "harvest gold".

I also have a Hairer beer dispenser, and another old refrigerator in the garage that I rotate kegs into and about.

As for my brewing lager styles I pay really close attention to the primary fermentation temperatures, but I will admit I do not get too carried away with maintaining exact temperature control for the storage or lagering part of the process.

Senior Member
Username: Chumley

Post Number: 5920
Registered: 02-2003
Posted From:
Posted on Monday, August 10, 2009 - 03:25 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Here is my ghetto way for us northern climate brewers....

I brew lagers in my basement here in Montana from about mid December to mid April, as that is when the cellar temperature is about 46-52F - perfect primary temperatures. I also have an old fridge with temperature controller that is set year round at 33F - I can fit 3 kegs in it, which is what I use to lager after the primary.

After the kegs have lagered for 6-8 weeks, I jumper-cable the lager beer to a clean keg to get it off the yeast cake, and then either drink it or store it in the cellar. After a spring of intense keg disassemblage, cleaning, and sanitizing, I seem to have licked a small infection problem I was having, and the lagered beer is staying great stored in the cellar throughout the summer - my Helles Bock still tastes great, even though it was brewed in March. The pilsners, though....those kegs usually disappear fast after the temperature gets above 90F.

Scott Morales
Username: Smutty

Post Number: 155
Registered: 09-2005
Posted From:
Posted on Monday, August 10, 2009 - 04:41 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

Great thanks everyone. Sounds like the multi-fridge/freezer approach is the way to go.

Vance Barnes
Senior Member
Username: Vancebarnes

Post Number: 3769
Registered: 03-2003
Posted From:
Posted on Tuesday, August 11, 2009 - 05:09 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP    Ban Poster IP (Moderator/Admin only)

A data point that nobody mentioned is that chest freezers are not designed to work at warmer temps and that can cause problems. The most noticable is condensation that can lead to rust if not controlled. The second is they tend to die premaurely when operated at warmer temps than freezing. And then there's the issue of having to lift carboys and kegs in and out of the freezer.

Fridges are much easier to use. Usually have to take out the plastic drawers in the bottom and build a wood (plywood) shelf that will support the weight. You have to do that because there is a sloped part in the back bottom of the fridge where the compressor is in the back. Not enough floorspace with the sloped part if you don't do a shelf just above where the slope meets the back wall.