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Ale vs Lager

I recently made a recipe that I figured was going to be better as a lager than an ale, but since I’m impatient and needed the ale yeast, I fermented it as an ale. After tasting it, my suspicions were confirmed. The half that I made with US-05 at 64F (closer to lager) came out much better than the half with 1272 (much fruitier) at the same temp.

In this case, the malt foward grainbill and low hop rate gave me my hint. How do you determine whether to make something a lager vs an ale? Is it strictly malty vs fruity, hoppy vs not, or is there more to the equation that I’m missing? I’d like to take another shot at this recipe, but I’m wondering if I’m wasting my time if I make it as an ale again.

If you’re interested:

84% American Two-row Pale
7% CaraVienne
5% Caramunich III
5% Golden Naked Oats

60 mins 1.25oz First Gold
10 mins 1.0oz Kent Golding

10.5 gals
OG - 1.060
FG - 1.010
IBU ~ 20

1/2 US-05
1/2 Wyeast 1272

I’m curious also, as I’m thinking about “pushing” a lager more into very low ale temperatures by using Safale’s dry lager yeast.

I don’t think a lot of people do what you are- choosing to use lager yeast but ferment it closer to an ale- most people I see brewing choose the yeast recommended for that style and brew it.

Since lager yeast is usually fermented VERY VERY cold (48-58) vs Ales (58-72), it is a very different type of brewing operation. Do you usually brew lagers? BYO has a pretty good chart of yeast strains:
BYO yeast Strains

The more I talk to experienced brewers, I’m finding they pitch on the cold end of the spectrum for the yeast and later perhaps move it up slightly a couple degrees- but still fermenting on the cold end of the spectrum.

The exceptions I’ve seen are beers where you really want to push out a lot of the esthers- hefeweizens, etc.

I’m not sure what you mean by this. Both of the strains I used were ale yeast, fermented at ale temps. The US-05 is “cleaner” and less fruity that 1272, and therefore closer approximates a lager. I could have chosen to ferment down at 58F, but I wanted to see how the beer would turn out at normal ale temps. The fermentation process and recommended procedures are something I understand very well.

Maybe my question is confusing. What I’m wondering is: what guides your decision to use an ale or lager yeast when not brewing to a specific style? The closest this beer comes to a style, as far as I can figure, is an underhopped ESB with the wrong yeast, haha.

I do lagers as often, or more often, than ales. Yeast strain is my driving force, followed by grain/hops.

Personally, I prefer malty vs hoppy, but there are gobs of both ales and lagers that meet my needs.

cheers.

Are you saying what you have on hand is what you use? What makes you decide to make the beer a lager rather than an ale?

Are you saying what you have on hand is what you use? What makes you decide to make the beer a lager rather than an ale?[/quote]

No, not what’s on hand exactly. But I do think yeast has a significantly great impact on the final product then does grain bill or hops addition.

I haven’t given it much thought before, but I think I just perfer the clean smooth crisp finish associated with a lager and that comes from the yeast, not the grain or hop IMO. Over the past several years, i’ve always had both available at the same time so I could switch back and forth. And like many, I have my few favorites.

WY 2206 is probably my favorite yeast and I do have it in the fridge always. I’ve made several bocks and schwarzbeirs with it and have just made Ken’s home run red lager with it too. Also, I’m a big stout/porter fan. So I thought, why not combine the two. I’ve used 2206 with a dry stout grain bill/hop bill and it too turned out great. Again, much smoother, cleaner, crisper than the identical dry stout.

Not sure if that helps.

cheers

I decide what type of beer I want to make before I make the grain bill. If it’s an ale, I make an ale. If a lager, then I make a lager. To me, it’s just that simple. I don’t make up a recipe then decide afterwards what type of yeast to use. I may decide what specific type of yeast to use meaning (1025, 1272, etc) after the grain bill is made, but I know before I make my recipe that I’m trying to brew a specific type of beer and will be using either an ale or lager yeast.

Having said that, I’ve been thinking of making a pale ale or IPA grain bill and hop schedule but fermenting with a lager yeast like California Lager 2112. Just because it sounds interesting.

Interesting discussion.
It is, however, definitely possible to achieve the “crisp” characteristics of a true lager beer using an ale yeast, even though the two yeasts have different ways of metabolizing the sugars present in the malt.

I’ll agree that lager brewing can be all about the yeast…but it is certainly not a universal truth. The right ale yeast at the right temperature, using the right grain bill, and all followed by the lagering phase itself can deliver a beer that would be accepted by even the most discerning palates as a “lager” beer.

And in the end, it’s what you taste in the glass that matters.
(If it looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, it’s a duck!)
:mrgreen:

For me what makes me brew an ale verses a lager is ambient temperature. I recently found out I can lager beer this time of yeear so Im going to start making lagers during winter for consumption aroud summer, and brewing ales in spring that I can drink in summer and some stronger ones of both for winter. SO MUCH BEER!!!

You should watch the most recent brewing TV episode. They make an ale and ferment it more near lager temp with an ale yeast, and then they make another batch, a lager, and ferment that with a lager yeast closer to ale temps. If I understood it correctly.

This.

I understand what you are saying here, but you decide either ale or lager then come up with a grain bill. What would the differences be? Say I want a clean, smooth, crisp finishing India Pale Lager or a nice, fruity Pilsn-ale. There are probably reasons that these aren’t common beers. That reason is probably because those ingredients (grains and hops) don’t work well with lager and ale yeasts, respectively.

Soooo, when coming up with recipes (read - grainbill and hop schedule), what do you aim for in a lager vs an ale? I made a recipe that I feel would be better as a lager; I just can’t put my finger on why I, intuitively, think that.

I’m probably not making a lick of sense. The question is bugging me a bit though.

Since I posted before I’ve been thinking about this and I think my answer would center around drinkability. My lagers tend to be simpler - sometimes much simpler - recipes than my ales. The emphasis is on simplicity and cleanliness rather than intense or unique flavors. Generally one or two malts, one or two hop additions, etc. Definitely more of a malt-forward balance overall. Lager yeast (or at least W206, which is almost all I use) tends to accentuate that without leaving behind any strong flavors of its own.

On the other hand, there’s just something magical about the way the esters from an ale strain play with hops. I don’t think you could brew a hoppy lager that would be quite as good as the same beer done with an ale yeast.

[quote=“a10t2”]I don’t think you could brew a hoppy lager that would be quite as good as the same beer done with an ale yeast.[/quote]I tried this a couple years ago, brewed my standard APA recipe but fermented it with an American lager strain at proper temperature. While it was a drinkable, it lacked the mouthfeel and the bitterness was sharp.

I think different yeasts go with different hops. I would probably not use EKG in a lager. Your malt bill looks ok if you would use Saaz, or a German hop. I tend to brew traditional styles though. You might like to be more creative. I have friends that brew great beer and they never brew the same beer twice. I just don’t know that I would like to drink 5 gallons of their beer.

If you don’t like the fruitiness of ale, then you should brew lager if you have the temperature control. If you don’t have temperature control, then you can try some low fruit ale yeasts at cold temps. Try a Kolsch or German ale yeast. WLP 515 Antwerp yeast is a bit fruity, but has a dry crisp finish.

Your higher gravity is also going to produce more esters. If you brewed this to a 1.045-1.050, it may come out cleaner.

Are you saying what you have on hand is what you use? What makes you decide to make the beer a lager rather than an ale?[/quote]

No, not what’s on hand exactly. But I do think yeast has a significantly great impact on the final product then does grain bill or hops addition.

I haven’t given it much thought before, but I think I just perfer the clean smooth crisp finish associated with a lager and that comes from the yeast, not the grain or hop IMO. Over the past several years, i’ve always had both available at the same time so I could switch back and forth. And like many, I have my few favorites.

WY 2206 is probably my favorite yeast and I do have it in the fridge always. I’ve made several bocks and schwarzbeirs with it and have just made Ken’s home run red lager with it too. Also, I’m a big stout/porter fan. So I thought, why not combine the two. I’ve used 2206 with a dry stout grain bill/hop bill and it too turned out great. Again, much smoother, cleaner, crisper than the identical dry stout.

Not sure if that helps.

cheers[/quote]

I am interested in your dry stout that you mentioned above. What temp did you ferment at since you were using a lager yeast? Would you mind sharing the recipe?

I understand what you are saying here, but you decide either ale or lager then come up with a grain bill. What would the differences be? Say I want a clean, smooth, crisp finishing India Pale Lager or a nice, fruity Pilsn-ale. There are probably reasons that these aren’t common beers. That reason is probably because those ingredients (grains and hops) don’t work well with lager and ale yeasts, respectively.

Soooo, when coming up with recipes (read - grainbill and hop schedule), what do you aim for in a lager vs an ale? I made a recipe that I feel would be better as a lager; I just can’t put my finger on why I, intuitively, think that.

I’m probably not making a lick of sense. The question is bugging me a bit though.[/quote]

This conversation is a little confusing because you say you want a India Pale Lager, but there is not such beer that I know of. It’s a contradictory statement. Lagers are dry and crisp (in general). They can have big hop flavor but generally not. And India Pale Ale is sweeter and hoppier. There needs to be somewhat of a balance there. I guess you could brew a beer using Pilsner and maybe Vienna, use a lot of noble hops and ferment with a lager yeast, but it would just be a hoppy lager. An India Pale is an Ale. Not a lager. And I’m not sure what fruity pilsn-ale is.

Hey, I’m all for experimenting and coming up with new things. I’m brewing a continually hopped imperial pils this weekend. Next weekend I plan on brewing something called Hoppenweizen (hoppy wheat beer). And I’m interested in brewing an American Pale Ale recipe I make all the time but switching to a clean crisp lager yeast just to see what it tastes like. But you need to have some sort of goal and balance in a recipe. Not just “pilsn-ale”. Using a lager yeast to give you the “pilsn” will make it more of a lager is fermented properly and less like an ale. And using an ale yeast and fermenting properly with a pilsner grain bill will still give you an ale.

[quote=“blizzardofoz63”]I recently made a recipe that I figured was going to be better as a lager than an ale, but since I’m impatient and needed the ale yeast, I fermented it as an ale. After tasting it, my suspicions were confirmed. The half that I made with US-05 at 64F (closer to lager) came out much better than the half with 1272 (much fruitier) at the same temp.

In this case, the malt foward grainbill and low hop rate gave me my hint. How do you determine whether to make something a lager vs an ale? Is it strictly malty vs fruity, hoppy vs not, or is there more to the equation that I’m missing? I’d like to take another shot at this recipe, but I’m wondering if I’m wasting my time if I make it as an ale again.

If you’re interested:

84% American Two-row Pale
7% CaraVienne
5% Caramunich III
5% Golden Naked Oats

60 mins 1.25oz First Gold
10 mins 1.0oz Kent Golding

10.5 gals
OG - 1.060
FG - 1.010
IBU ~ 20

1/2 US-05
1/2 Wyeast 1272[/quote]

To me, this appears to be a basic American or English Brown Ale. If going american I would use American hops, but there’s nothing wrong with English hops. If going English, I’d switch to an English yeast and maybe Marris Otter instead of American 2row. If you wanted to make a lager, I’d use Pils malt instead of 2Row. Cut down the crystal malts a little, drop the oaks and switch to a lager yeast. But yes, to me, that recipe appears to be more like an American or English Ale (maybe Brown Ale) rather than a lager. That’s not to say you couldn’t switch out the 1272 yeast for a lager yeast and make a good beer with that recipe.

[quote]

I am interested in your dry stout that you mentioned above. What temp did you ferment at since you were using a lager yeast? Would you mind sharing the recipe?[/quote]

Sure. :wink:

Using grain for an Irish style stout and Wyeast 2206, Bavarian Lager Yeast.
5.5 lbs American 2-row
5.0 lbs Marris Otter 2 row
0.5 lb Roasted Barley
0.5 lb British Black Patent
0.5 lb Caramunich
total: 12 lbs

Wyeast 2206 in 3L starter pitched at 52F

Hops: 1oz Hallertauer at 60.

Mash: 153F for 90 minutes
1.5 qts/lb
75 min boil

my dates:
brewed 6.26.09
pitched 6.29.09 at 52F
primary activity began 6.30.09: 48-52F
D-rest 8.24.09-8.26.09 at high 60s
Lagering began 8.26.09: 33-36F
Bottled: 12.20.09
Sampled 01/03/2010.

my numbers:
OG: 1.062
Efficiency: (Gallons x gravitypts) / (TTL grain wt. x 37) =
(5.25 x 62) / (12 x 37 ) =
( 325.5/ 444 =.733108 = 73%

FG: 1.020
ABV: 5.4%

cheers.

Haha, sorry about that. I’m just trying to make a point by making up fictitious beer types. Hoppy, bitter, american style (hops wise), lager or a pilsner grainbill and hop regiment with an ale yeast is what I was referring to.

I think that fits about as well as my underhopped ESB example. This beer clocked in at only 7 SRM, hardly a brown, haha. I like your points though. I could certainly tweek this recipe to get a more desireable product. What I’m really interested in is definining those tweeks. For example, you mention replacing the 2-row with pils malt if I were to change it to a lager. Why exactly?

These are great points as well, and I’ve been toying with these changes too. As everyone can probably tell from my recipe, I do like to experiment occasionally. I, more often than not, end up with something I’m more than happy to drink 5 gals of.

[quote=“a10t2”]Since I posted before I’ve been thinking about this and I think my answer would center around drinkability. My lagers tend to be simpler - sometimes much simpler - recipes than my ales. The emphasis is on simplicity and cleanliness rather than intense or unique flavors. Generally one or two malts, one or two hop additions, etc. Definitely more of a malt-forward balance overall. Lager yeast (or at least W206, which is almost all I use) tends to accentuate that without leaving behind any strong flavors of its own.

On the other hand, there’s just something magical about the way the esters from an ale strain play with hops. I don’t think you could brew a hoppy lager that would be quite as good as the same beer done with an ale yeast.[/quote]

These are great examples of the kind of thing I am after. Defining characteristics of attributes that work great with one type of beer (say ales) and not with the other (lagers). I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m learning a lot just by tossing these ideas around.

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