Tag Archives: lager

What is a Lager?


Beer happens to be the oldest recorded recipe known to man, and over thousands of years, it has been transformed into so many categories and given so many different labels that they are almost impossible to keep track of. I mean seriously – beer, lager, ale, stout – beer is beer, who cares what it’s called? Hoptometrists do, which is the reason for this first-of-many feature, “What is a Lager?”

Truth is, all beers are essentially either lagers or ales. Everything else is just a specific brewing style of one of these two types of beer. Three main factors distinguish these two forms of beer: yeast, time and temperature with yeast being the most significant difference.

Lager yeasts like lower fermentation temperatures (typically 46 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit). Lager yeasts produce less fruity esters than ale yeasts, but can produce more sulfur compounds during primary fermentation. Many first time lager brewers are astonished by the rotten egg smell coming from their fermentors, sometimes letting it convince them that the batch is infected and causing them to dump it. Don’t do it! Fortunately, these compounds continue to vent during the conditioning (lagering) phase and the chemical precursors of other odious compounds are gradually eaten up by the yeast. A previously rank smelling beer that is properly lagered will be sulfur-free and delicious at bottling time.

The lower fermentation temperature decreases the rate at which the yeast works, and lengthens fermentation times. The primary fermentation phase for ales is often 2 – 5 days, but 1 – 3 weeks is normal for a lager, depending on the malts used, the yeast strain, and the temperature at which conditioning occurs.

Lagers produced worldwide are usually either light or dark, and vary greatly in flavor, color, and composition. However, because lager yeasts ferment more aggressively, they leave behind less residual sweetness. This results in a clean beer with lighter aroma and flavor. They are also typically higher in alcohol content and served at cooler temperatures than their ale counterparts.


Recipe: A Winter Lager

winter lagerIngredients:

6.6 lbs. Briess wheat malt extract syrup

1.5 lbs. crystal malt (60° Lovibond)

1 lb. wheat malt

1.5 lbs. Munich malt (20° Lovibond)

1 teaspoon Irish moss

1 oz. Curacáo orange peel (bitter orange peel)

0.5 oz. ginger root (freshly grated)

0.5 tsp. cinnamon (powdered)

9.5 AAU East Kent Goldings (2 oz. of 4.75% alpha acid)

4.5 AAU Tettnanger (1 oz. of 4.5% alpha acid)

4.7 AAU Hallertau Hersbrucker (1 oz. of 4.7% alpha acid)

3/4 cup corn sugar to prime

German Lager yeast (White Labs WLP830) or Bavarian Lager yeast (Wyeast 2206)

Step by Step:

Steep the grains in 2.5 gallons of water at 150º F for 30 minutes. Strain out the grains, add the wheat malt syrup and return to a boil. When the wort begins boiling, add East Kent Golding hops, Irish moss, and boil for 60 minutes. Add spices for the last 15 minutes of the boil.

Add Tettnanger and Hallertau hops for the last 2 minutes of the boil. Remove from heat and cool wort in ice bath or with wort chiller. Transfer to fermentation vessel (glass carboy). Add enough cold water to the wort to bring the volume up to 5.5 gallons. Pitch yeast and ferment at 50º to 55º F for 3 to 4 weeks. Prime, then bottle or keg. You should lager this beer for about 4 weeks prior to serving.