Brewing Lager in Summer

Along with the warm weather summer brings, comes the desire to drink refreshing, crisp, clean lager beer.  Unfortunately, summer is the worst time to brew any type of beer, let alone lager.

After the boil is complete, the wort is cooled to fermentation temperatures before pitching the yeast.  For an ale, this is typically around 65-70F.  For a lager, around 50F.  Ground water temps in Virginia reach 70F in the summer, and its difficult to cool the wort into ale temps without adding a pre-chiller into your system, impossible to cool to lager temps.

But, if you fail to set your brewing schedule months in advance to have plenty of lager ready for the summer like I do, there are a few ways around it.  I decided to brew a German Festbier and a Vienna Lager in July and August, and although it did run me an extra $9 for 40 lbs of ice for each 5 gallon batch, I was able to run a fairly smooth brewday each time, keeping the total brewday under 5 hours.

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Unrelated to brewing in summer, I decided to try something new, when I realized that the 5 gallon nylon paint strainers I use for a hop bag would fit around the kettle.  I realized as soon as the wort began to boil that this wasn’t going to work.  the bag just rose to the top of the wort when it began to boil, the hops would just float right on top.  So it went back onto the hop spider I had made.  I’ve mostly gone away from using the hop spider since discovering the whirlpool technique, but because of the two phase chilling process I was using for the lager, I used the hop bag. I’ll get to my way around that as well.

Method 1.  This is what I did for both the Festbier and the Vienna Lager.  Using a pre chiller immersion coil chiller, I ran the ground water through a bucket of ice water before sending it to the plate chiller.  I recirculated the wort back into the kettle so that I could use the least amount of cooling water up front. So I had the wort pump open at full speed recirculating through the plate chiller and back into the kettle, and ran the ice cold water slowly through the plate chiller (Don’t use your hand to test how hot the water is coming out of the plate chiller, its about 200F, I know from experience).  Once the wort in the kettle reached 120F, I disconnected the wort outflow of the plate chiller from the kettle and ran it into a fermenter at 50-60F.  I had the fermenter in an ice bucket to keep if cool, since it was 85F outside.  I used a hop bag because typically when I whirlpool, the plate chiller is not in line.  The hops would clog it up pretty quickly. Method 2 takes the hop bag away.  This method worked pretty good as far as a can tell, the Festbier began fermenting at 50F in <12 hours with 3 packs of Saflager S-23 and tastes pretty clean after 3 weeks of primary and one week of lagering.  I’ll give it a couple more weeks to clarify though.

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Method 2.  Probably next time I brew a lager in August (if ever, but I say this every year), I’ll modify my method a little bit.  I like being able to whirlpool because it really gets the hops in a nice cone for transfer, but I think you get a lot more out of the hops with them freely swimming around in the kettle.  Even with a 5 gallon hop bag, I think you’re not getting a good extraction from them, as they always seem to be in a big clump.  I then find myself obsessively agitating the bag to get them to come in better contact with the wort.  So, what I plan on doing is setting up my normal whirlpool, with the plate chiller not in the circuit, and using the immersion chiller as it was originally designed, to chill the wort down to 120F or so while whirlpooling.  This method is commonly used by homebrewers without a plate chiller, and the whirlpool effect also helps to move the wort around and chill it faster.  But it will only get you so far with ground water at 70F+.  The next step would be to take the immersion chiller out, drop it in a bucket of ice water, hook it up to the plate chiller, and transfer into the fermenter.

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It helps to have an assistant brewer agitating the prechiller apparatus.

Keep an eye out for Random Row Brewing Co. updates, we are close to finalizing a location! and like us on Facebook and Instagram to stay in the loop!

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Published in: on August 11, 2015 at 9:17 PM  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] Unrelated to brewing in summer, I decided to try something new, when I realized that the 5 gallon nylon paint strainers …read more […]


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