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My first lager is a bust %$@!

OK I got a all grain Oktoberfest lager as a birthday gift last week and as luck would have it I just drained the last keg in my keezer, so I got a great place to ferment and lager. Brewed on Saturday and put the wort in the keezer to bring the temp down to about 60 to pitch. I was carrying the yeast (German Lager Yeast WPL830) around in my pocket for a few hours and fell asleep on the couch. I woke up at 1:00 a.m. and went to pitch the yeast…well two things were wrong…the temp had gotten down to about 55º but I figured I’d pitch it anyway when I unscrewed the cap I expected the yeast to spew everywhere since it had been in my pocket the whole time and I had not been cracking the lid to relieve the pressure. Well to my surprise nothing happened. As of typing this post it’s still not fermenting and the temp is up to 65º so I do believe I had a bad vial of yeast. I don’t have any lager yeast in the fridge and won’t be able to get any till at least Wednesday. My question is what, if anything, can I do to save this batch of beer?

Lagers require more attention and care than ales.

You really abused your yeast. Warming them up in your pocket then giving them the ice bucket challenge by pitching them into cold wort.

The fact is that lagers take a long time to show signs of fermentation. Give it at least 72 hours and keep the temperature in the range of the yeast, don’t warm it up to try and get fermentation going faster.

If after 72 hours no signs of fermentation have occurred then you may consider pitching another vial of yeast.

When brewing lagers, it’s especially important to pitch a healthy starter, so pitching two vials of yeast to begin with may have been the safer bet.

I agree. You might be ok. Your yeast is probably not happy. You always want to make a starter for lagers and always pitch at or below your fermenting temp. Give it some time, but don’t warm it up as you’re just inviting off flavors by doing that.

In addition to the good advice above, I would ask why are you letting the wort climb to 65F? Proper lager fermentation temperatures are around 50F.

Cool it back down and get yourself a couple packs of dry lager yeast (34/70 or S-189) as soon as you can. Rehydrate those and pitch them in. The already pitched yeast might wake up and start fermenting for you, but with just one tube and no starter - not to mention the abuse it got - it is likely not healthy enough to let the beer finish as dry as it should.

Thanks guys for the replies. There seems to be a lot of conflicting information regarding pitching temps for this particular lager. The vial of yeast says to pitch at 70-75º The guy at my home brew store (Brewmasters Warehouse) said to pitch at 60º then drop the temp by 2 degrees a day until you get to 50º and you all are telling me something a bit different. I guess I wasn’t concerned about letting the wort get to 65º based on the instructions on the yeast vial. This is my first attempt at a lager so there is much I don’t know. So I started the cooler back up and set it at 60º is that cool enough or should I be cooler? Since it hasn’t started fermenting yet.

For what it’s worth the OG was right at about 1.059 and the wort looked, smelled and tasted good. I have yet to ruin a batch of beer or even brew a bad tasting batch…but there’s always a first time :slight_smile:

My experience with lagers has been that pitching them at high temps and cooling them often leads to fruity, estery flavors in the finished product, especially if you’re starting in the mid 60s to 70s and taking several days to bring them to lager fermenting temps. My advice would be to cool your wort down to at least 55 degrees and preferably down around 52 degrees or so before pitching. I pitch my lager yeasts at 48-50 degrees nowadays and don’t have a problem with them starting.

All of this^^^^. When I started making lagers, I followed the same advice as the OP. After several disappointing batches, I went wiht procedure outlined above. Night and day difference.

Thanks Denny and everyone for all the valuable advice. So to recap:

  1. Make a starter.
  2. Cool wort to 50º
  3. Pitch starter at the same temp as wort.
  4. Be patient since it takes a bit longer with lager yeast to start.

I ordered some more lager yeast. Hopefully will be here Wednesday at the latest. It’s only been 35 hours since I pitched so I will wait until Wednesday before repitching assuming it hasn’t started fermenting by then.

[quote=“Scalded Dog”]Thanks Denny and everyone for all the valuable advice. So to recap:

  1. Make a starter.
  2. Cool wort to 50º
  3. Pitch starter at the same temp as wort.
  4. Be patient since it takes a bit longer with lager yeast to start.

I ordered some more lager yeast. Hopefully will be here Wednesday at the latest. It’s only been 35 hours since I pitched so I will wait until Wednesday before repitching assuming it hasn’t started fermenting by then.[/quote]

Between 2 and 3 should be “decant spent wort from starter”. Other than that, you got it.

Yup. When I ordered the extra yeast this morning the HB store guy says the same thing about decanting the wort and just pitching active yeast. He also told me that based on the fact I never did a starter that it would be a good idea to hydrate that lager yeast (Saflager W-34/70) and pitch it even if fermentation starts.

Do you think that’s advisable? His reasoning was even though they are different strains of yeast it’s better to do that then just let it go as is.

[quote=“Scalded Dog”]Yup. When I ordered the extra yeast this morning the HB store guy says the same thing about decanting the wort and just pitching active yeast. He also told me that based on the fact I never did a starter that it would be a good idea to hydrate that lager yeast (Saflager W-34/70) and pitch it even if fermentation starts.

Do you think that’s advisable? His reasoning was even though they are different strains of yeast it’s better to do that then just let it go as is.[/quote]

Since you didn’t make a starter with the liquid yeast, I do think you need to get some more yeast in there. At least one, maybe 2, packs of 34/70 would be good.

Well I checked this morning and it’s finally fermenting. I will still pitch that new yeast as soon as I can. I’ll resurrect this thread around Mid-December when I tap the keg to let you all know how it tastes. Thanks again for all the great advice.

Well I finally tapped that keg of lager (Octoberfest) and it’s barely drinkable my kids think it’s actually bad (infected) but I’m pretty sure it’s not. Has a slight sour taste. There was a gallon of trub when I racked to secondary…this was by far the worst beer I have ever brewed. I’m sticking to ales for now since they have all been good. After being on tap for almost two weeks it does seem to have mellowed a bit, it’s drinkable and as good as some mediocre commercial beers, but I won’t be brewing any more lager for a while.

They are trickier, but if you can make good ales, and you have temp control (even a simple setup), you can make good lagers.

Yeast management/fermentation temp management are ABSOLUTELY critical though. In my opinion, both for ales and lagers.

use it as a learning experience and brew on. and don’t fall asleep with yeast in your pocket.

[quote=“Pietro”]They are trickier, but if you can make good ales, and you have temp control (even a simple setup), you can make good lagers.

Yeast management/fermentation temp management are ABSOLUTELY critical though. In my opinion, both for ales and lagers.

use it as a learning experience and brew on. and don’t fall asleep with yeast in your pocket.[/quote]
I would agree with Pietro, don’t get discouraged. Good lagers are worth working for. The key to making great lagers is the same as making great ales: proper yeast handling. That’s just a bit easier to do with ales. I would guess that the reason your Octoberfest came out sub-par was you pitched too little yeast that was in poor condition, and it was unduly stressed as a result. The dry yeast that you added afterwards came too late to be effective.

Try again, and follow the five step list for how to manage your yeast. It will amaze you how good it can be.

Thanks for the words of encouragement. Yes I will try again some time. My only issue is that my keezer is only big enough to hold one keg while I’m lagering. I wished now I’d done a larger keezer. That beer isn’t actually as bad as I said and seems to be a bit better now than when first tapped. It’s actually better than some of the commercial Octoberfests. I actually had a Sam Adams the other day that was bad…as in like really old…just tasted funky.

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