I have only made one lager in the past, an Octoberfest that I made in August. It turned out well. So I am preparing to make my 2nd and 3rd lagers ever and made initial starters Friday night. I smacked the yeast pack and there was very modest swelling in a couple hours it seemed. I poured into a one and two liter wort starter, respectively, and shook well to aerate and let sit overnight. Next morning both looked flat, so I shook good and placed one on a stir plate since I was going out of town for about 36 hours. When I shook, there was very little foam, which is what I get with an ale starter.
Arrive back last night and the one on the stir plate was chugging away with no evidence of foam or krausen at all. The just looked real flat with just a think layer of clearer liquid at the top. I swapped which one was on the stir plate and shook the one that had been stirred, expecting to get foam or some evidence of activity. Almost nothing. An ale starter would have nearly foamed out of the flask at this point.
I realize lager yeast ferments from the bottom, but is this normal? It seems unlikely that both yeast packs were “dead” They were packaged in late August.