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Long time Beer drinker, 1st time Brewer

Just looking for some advice on what types of beer extract flavors might come close to some of my favorite “big” brands. I want to go into this with a good plan and hopefully if the result of the 1st brew is succesful, then I will have something I know I am going to enjoy from the start. Here are a couple of my favs>

Sam Adams Winter Lager
Amber Bock

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Those are both (I think) lagers. I assume you are starting off with Ale kits? a bit easier to ferment for newbies (and/or requires less equipment)

if so, you will have at least a small challenge only because you are looking at ales vs lagers. having said that, I think you might be able to fine ale kits that at least come close in style to those.

Have you ordered/recieved a Northern Brewer catelog or looked through some of the kits? I say that only because once you start reading through them you might see something that strikes your fancy as well in the description or comments.

In regards to the winter lager - is that more like a holiday style with clove and cinimmon etc? if so you may be able to find something similar to that here:

http://www.northernbrewer.com/shop/brew ... rains.html

I agree with Fullhouse; You’re going to want to start out brewing ales as opposed to lagers. A much shallower learning curve.

Also., go to Northern Brewers site and take a look through their extract kits. Here’s the link:

http://www.northernbrewer.com/shop/brew ... tract-kits

Now I’ve never done a Northern Brewer extract beer but I’m sure that they’re just as simple as the one I started out with. And extract beers are, without a doubt, the best way to start out at the hobby/obsession.

Based on those beers, I would look at Waldo Lake Amber, Brickwarmer Holiday, and maybe Caribou Slobber, though thats on the hoppier side as opposed to the brands you mention, which are more malt-focused beers. You may also like the Honey Brown.

In all honesty, I would bet that brewing the beers will expand your palette of what you like, so in that vein, I would definitely recommend Waldo Lake and/or Caribou Slobber. I didn’t like hoppy beers until I started brewing.

Welcome to the hobby! You won’t regret making this step. Let us know how it goes and if you have any questions-

I have to disagree with the others that suggest more ales before lagers…there’s no reason to not jump into Lagers immediately. The difference has to do with the temperature range of fermentation and secondary (lagering). With ales, it is easier to control the temperature range as most ferment near room temperature. Whereas, Lagers need low 50s (garage/basement temps this time of year) for fermenting, and 30s for secondary, versus room temperatures.

If you can keep them in the low 50s for fermentation and then in the 30s for “lagering”, then by all means do a lager. This is the best time of year for attempting it.

Brewing lagers is not any more difficult than brewing ales. Like brewing ales, there’s a process which included patience and discipline and it needs to be followed for the best results. We, as a community, have got to stop scaring new brewers with tales of woe regarding brewing lagers, brewing all grain, and what not.

The earth is not flat, masturbation will not cause you to go blind, and brewing is not rocket science. Rant over.

:cheers:

Not only is there a bit more to learn to brew lagers but you’ll need more equipment than most beginners have on hand.

NB’s ‘Irish Draught’ is a great honey brown ale that might give you a similar flavor profile in that it’s pretty malt forward with very low IBUs. I really enjoy it. The Lake Waldo Amber is one of my all time favorites as well. I don’t think you can go wrong with that one.

For a simple first time brew I’d recommend either the irish red ale or Innkeeper kit from NB. They’re simple to make so they’ll allow you to focus on your process, ie things like sanitization, getting a good clean boil, fermentation temperatures. I think you’ll find enough to challenge you the first few times out without trying to add lagering. They’re also both very good beers and good staples to keep in your rotation.

Enjoy!

[quote=“StormyBrew”]I have to disagree with the others that suggest more ales before lagers…there’s no reason to not jump into Lagers immediately. The difference has to do with the temperature range of fermentation and secondary (lagering). With ales, it is easier to control the temperature range as most ferment near room temperature. Whereas, Lagers need low 50s (garage/basement temps this time of year) for fermenting, and 30s for secondary, versus room temperatures.

If you can keep them in the low 50s for fermentation and then in the 30s for “lagering”, then by all means do a lager. This is the best time of year for attempting it.

Brewing lagers is not any more difficult than brewing ales. Like brewing ales, there’s a process which included patience and discipline and it needs to be followed for the best results. We, as a community, have got to stop scaring new brewers with tales of woe regarding brewing lagers, brewing all grain, and what not.

The earth is not flat, masturbation will not cause you to go blind, and brewing is not rocket science. Rant over.

:cheers: [/quote]

I don’t think it’s a matter of being more difficult, but a matter of having the proper equipment. You need to be able to make a large starter or buy several packs of yeast… maybe 3 or more. Which at $8+ each is just crazy. Then you need to be able to hold the temp at or around 50F for several weeks followed by several months of lagering in the mid 30’s. Then there’s the possibility of having to perform a d-rest. This all takes extra equipment (except maybe the d-rest) which generally a new brewer won’t have and maybe shouldn’t purchase until he or she is sure they want to continue with the hobby.

I don’t think anyone is trying to scare him off. Just trying offer practical solutions for a new brewer.

Having said that, if you’re comfortable making a large starter, fermenting cold for a few weeks while maintaining a steady temp, then have the ability to lager at a steady temp for few months, by all means give it a shot. There’s something about making a real clean, crisp lager that’s just so rewarding, IMO. But if not, see the above suggestions.

[quote=“dannyboy58”]Not only is there a bit more to learn to brew lagers but you’ll need more equipment than most beginners have on hand.

Enjoy![/quote]

Boo! No extra equipment is needed and if someone told you there was, they told you half truths.

Unless you count a second bucket but even that’s not required and very few new brewers only have one bucket. Almost every home brewer gets a second bucket almost immediately after they brew their first batch of ale and well before they drink their first bottle. Plus, you can leave your lager on the yeast cake for months and have no ill effects.

Also, you don’t have to make a starter. I and many others have brewed a number of low gravity lagers with one pack of yeast (I have two lagering (OG 1.055) and one in primary now) that fermented out fully as expected. Plus, as Dobe said, you can buy a second pack of yeast ($4-5/pack for SAFLager 3470, for example at my LHBS) if you want to make a high gravity lager or just because you’re afraid of the lager boogy-man. As far as equipment if you choose to make a starter, any gallon jug is fine to hold your starter. The yeast doesn’t care so long as it is sanitized. You don’t need a stir plate, you don’t need a flask, you don’t need mad-scientist-glasses.

Hell, if you’re going to make a high gravity ale, you need to make a starter or buy more yeast…it’s part of the process. But so is controlling the temperature for your ale.

The truth is, there is a process for making lagers and it is not difficult nor does it require extra equipment. It is slightly different and it requires additional patience but the process is not different enough to believe you have to build experience. To be honest, I have no idea what this ale-unique-experience could possibly be that it must be mastered before jumping to lagers. You will need to be able to read the instructions but that requires only a first grade education. If that’s a problem, then find a first-grader (do they count as equipment?) to read them to you.

Bottom line: follow the process and you’ll brew a great lager just like brewing a great ale. Don’t follow the process and you’ll make crappy ale and crappy lager. Over the past 7 years I’ve been brewing, easily 60-70% of my brews have been lagers. I just like them better. I don’t have any extra “lager” equipment. But I do have a process.

Yes, experience counts and my brews are better now than 7 yrs ago. But it’s because I have more BREWING EXPERIENCE, not because of Ale-brewing experience.

:cheers:

So let me get this straight, you lager your beers in the 30’s with no extra equipment? Please share your magic methods of temperature control.

[quote=“StormyBrew”][quote=“dannyboy58”]Not only is there a bit more to learn to brew lagers but you’ll need more equipment than most beginners have on hand.

Enjoy![/quote]

Boo! No extra equipment is needed and if someone told you there was, they told you half truths.

[/quote]

How about a fermentation fridge to keep fermentation at 50F for 2-3 weeks? Then again to lager at 35F for months? I’d say that’s an important part of making a lager, no?

No magic. Same method that has been used for centuries. This time of year, ambient in basements and garages are plenty cold for lagering in some areas. Even here in Dallas. Plus, using the same methods for cooling ales (swamp-cooler plus ice jugs) you can keep your fermentation in the 30s for 1-3 months and that’s plenty for most lagers. I do it every winter.

Granted, 6-months of lagering won’t happen here in dallas without a spare fridge or putting a beer fridge into lagering duty. When I do one in the summer, I move stuff from my beer fridge out so I have room for one bucket. In my mind, a beer fridge is not extra equipment. But, yes, for some it is, so ya got me on that. :wink:

If lack of beer fridge is stopping someone from making a lager, well, then they are again being told half-truths.

:cheers:

How do you know where the OP is from? You can’t possibly know what ambient temps are where he lives, in his basement, in his garage. He may not even have a basement for that matter. Not to mention 1/2 the country has been in a deep freeze for the last week. If I had a carboy in a garage in these conditions where I live, it would have frozen.

I understand your point… but this is based on where YOU live and conditions in YOUR basement. These don’t hold true for a very large part of this country right now. It’s been between 0F and 10F the last few days where I am. It will be 62F this Saturday. These are not conditions for making a lager, ale, or any beer for that matter.

Again, I understand your point, but it pertains to where you live and your conditions. We don’t all live in Texas.

[quote=“StormyBrew”]

If lack of beer fridge is stopping someone from making a lager, well, then they are again being told half-truths.

:cheers: [/quote]

How bout a lack of beer fridge (and yeast propagation, and ferment temp control) stopping them from making a good lager? :mrgreen:

How often are you swapping out those ice jugs? I’m not saying its not possible. I believe it is, but the extra work and attention that is involved is by no means easy. Ales are much easier and really only require temperature control for the first week or so.

If someone told me I would have to swap out ice jugs of a homemade swamp cooler every 6 hours or so for 1-3 months to start brewing, I honestly would never have started. I’m not trying to convince the OP to NOT brew lagers, but the simple fact is, ales are easier and more attainable with less effort.

Not to further belabor this thread-jack, but I also think its important to note that lager styles have a lot less to hide behind than ales, which, to someone new to the PROCESS, can expose weaknesses and/or inexperience in, you guessed it, the PROCESS of brewing. .

Ferment a little warm, let your temp fluctuate, underpitch yeast, boil with the lid on, etc. all these things can create some esters/phenols/off flavors that are easy to hide (and are often enjoyable) in a hop-bomb IPA or even an APA, however, you throw one or two of those into a Bo Pils with 99% pilsner malt and 1% melanoidin, your process flaws are going to be under a microscope to anyone drinking it. Lagers are about clean, clean clean process and fermentation. You show me a lager that has won a comp being fermented in a swamp cooler and lagered in a garage and I will be quiet.

To the OP, ignore all this noise in this thread until you have 3-4 brews under your belt. Pick up one of the (ALE!!!) kits mentioned, clean and sanitize everything after the boil, follow the instructions, and you will have awesome beer that you made. And you will be hooked on this hobby. Condolences to your W/G/dog/cat/kimono dragon. Oh and buy a $0.79 spray bottle for sanitizer.

My first beer was a Brewer’s Best kit that made an “Imperial Blonde”. It probably had a million flaws I could pick up on today. But at the time, it. was. awesome. And it expanded my ‘go-to’ beer styles that I would buy by leaps and bounds.

Welcome to the hobby (and the endless espousing of one’s own methods, and limitless internet chatter that goes along with it)!

I swapjugs every 12 hours.

My point is that the process for Lagers is the same as for Ales. There is no benefit of spending weeks, months, years brewing ales before brewing lagers. It seems that whenever any new brewer asks advice about brewing lagers (like this thread), they’re always met with boogie-man warnings…you need experience…you need equipment…you need whatever, else the world is coming to an end.

Rather, the better answer is: ok, be prepared to control your temperature and here’s how or be prepared to use more yeast an here’s how. Not, brew more ales and come back later when you’ve earned your ale-badge because the lager process is difficult, scary, or what ever.

Same is true for all grain. Go to AG forum and you’ll find the same beware-the-boogie man responses…you need more experience…you need more equipment (ok, that one is true.) Again, the better response is build/buy a tun. Every one of us that does AG knows that the actual process of mashing is very simple yet every noob is met with…brew more ales and come back when you have your ale merit badge.

These boogie-man/it’s too difficult for a noob responses do nothing to help the community or the noob.

:cheers:

See I think it’s the opposite. I think it helps new brewers out. Otherwise they would get overwhelmed. I think every new brewer should brew an ale according to the directions included in the kit. Everyone here has done it. And you spotted all those mistakes you made. And you still made beer. Then you came to sites online and you started hearing people talking about things like “temperature control” and “yeast pitching rates” and you said to yourself “yeah I want to make BETTER beer. I’m gonna focus on temperature control first” and you do, and you make better beer. And you get hooked on finding the next best thing to improve your beer quality.

If someone were to make a lager as their first beer, I can’t promise this, but chances are pretty good it would taste like crap. Unless they spent months doing research on these methods before they even bought their kit. An ale is much more forgiving. Because you know a new brewer WILL make mistakes. It’s inevitable.

I can only speak for myself but if brewing lagers were the ONLY way to make beer, I never would have started this hobby in the first place plain and simple.

Interesting discussion here, but there really isn’t any need to get so worked up over it. I happen to agree with several posters who are on opposite sides of this issue.
StormyBrew is right that the process of brewing lagers is basically identical to brewing ales except that you need to work in a different temperature range (and need more starting yeast). Depending on where you live, that may or may not require additional equipment. I used to live in an old poorly insulated house where I could always find a spot that was perfect for fermenting an ale, and the basement was perfect for fermenting lagers in the winter. If you don’t have such a situation, then yes you need more equipment.
Pietro is also spot-on to point out that small flaws in process show up more easily in lagers than they do in most ales, which makes the odds of being very happy with your first brews lower if you go strait to making lagers.
I’m a pretty big advocate of taking things slow and building up your skills, then adding new ones as you master the basics. So my advice to the OP would be to start with a light, easy drinking extract ale kit, then see what you want to do next.

[quote=“mattnaik”][quote=“StormyBrew”]

These boogie-man/it’s too difficult for a noob responses do nothing to help the community or the noob.

[/quote]

An ale is much more forgiving. Because you know a new brewer WILL make mistakes. It’s inevitable.

I can only speak for myself but if brewing lagers were the ONLY way to make beer, I never would have started this hobby in the first place plain and simple.[/quote]

And what new brewer wants to wait months to find out they made a mistake? It is hard enough to convince them not to bottle an ale as soon as there is not activity in the airlock!

[quote=“mattnaik”][quote=“StormyBrew”]

These boogie-man/it’s too difficult for a noob responses do nothing to help the community or the noob.

[/quote]

I think it helps new brewers out. Otherwise they would get overwhelmed.
[/quote]

This is exactly my point. It is not overwhelming unless one fails to follow the process. Every mistake we make, and post here in our brew dialogs, always has the same solution correctly pointed out by someone else…and that solution is always something along the lines of…“well, you didn’t do this or that” where “this or that” is not following some step of the process such as not pitching yeast above a recommended range, or not controlling runaway temperaturs, or bottling/xfering to secondary because then don’t see bubbles at day 4 or whatever. And it’s never been because it is complicated but rather it’s because the brewer was impatient, or failed to read the instructions, or failed to get instructions, or failed to follow the instructions.

All the experience in the world will not overcome a tendency to take short cuts. I would suggest bad ale brewers are also bad lager brewers and it doesn’t matter how many batches they have under their belt. Take NB’s step-by-step instructions. They are very specific and do not require a college education in chemistry to understand. They are designed for the person that has NEVER brewed before. If read and followed, you make good beer. But people don’t do that…they skip steps or ignore steps and then wonder why their results don’t turn out.

If a noob actually follows the instructions on the first batch it will result in good, if not great, beer: ale or lager. Else, we should be telling every noob to go back to brewing coffee before they begin brewing ales because they need the experience. boo!

:cheers:

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