twinkling, I felt like a goof, the carboy wasn't broken, the beer would
probably pull through.
I returned to the shed, after hurrying 'round, gathering cleaning supplies,
towels, whatever could be found. I'd changed my clothes, having come
home from work, I knew if I stained them, my wife would go berserk. I was
loaded with paper towels, I knew just what to do, I had iodophor-ed water
and a heating pad too.
The carboy, how it twinkled! I knew to be wary, the bottom wasn't frozen
but the ice on top was scary! That bastard refridge, it had laid me low,
trying to kill my beer under a layer of snow. I cleaned off the top and
washed off the sides, picked up a block of ice and threw it outside. I couldn't
find the airlock, it was under the shelf, and I laughed when I saw it, in spite
The work of a half hour out there in the shed, soon gave me to know, I had
nothing to dread. The heating pad was working, the ice fell back in, I re-
sanitized the airlock, I knew where it had been. Not an Eisbock, but a Vienna
I chose, it was the end of the crisis of the lager that froze.
I sprang to my feet, to my wife gave a whistle, and we went off to bed under
the down comforter to wrestle. But the 'fridge heard me exclaim as I walked
out of sight, "Try that again, you bastard, and you'll be recycled all right!"
Should I Add More Yeast?
When your lager freezes, chances are the yeast has been impaired. If you are
towards the beginning of the lagering cycle, then there may not be enough yeast
activity after it thaws to properly complete the attenuation and condition the beer.
You should probably add new yeast. If you are at the end of the lagering cycle, and
were planning on priming and bottle conditioning it, then you should probably add
more yeast also. If you are planning on kegging it and force carbonating (like I
was), then you don’t have to worry about it. I say “probably” because some yeast
will survive. Even if the beer freezes completely for a short time, typically 20% of
cells will remain active. The questions are: 20% of how many, and just how active?
Therefore, you should probably add new yeast.
The yeast you add to the fermenter should be of the same strain as the original
yeast. If you are using yeast from a ready-to-pitch package, then that quantity is
probably sufficient and you can pour it right in and swirl it around to mix it evenly.
Because you are not trying to conduct a primary fermentation and are not
concerned about a fast start, you do not need to build up the count any further, nor
do you need to acclimate it to the lagering temperature first. The yeast will
acclimate over several days and finish the fermentation cycle.
If your yeast came from a small smack-pack or slant, then you may want to build
up the cell count by pitching to a starter wort first. And you may want to conduct
that starter at your primary fermentation temperature to help the yeast acclimate
to the lagering cycle. As noted above, these steps are probably not necessary, but
it never hurts to stack the odds in your favor. You can either pitch the starter at full
krausen or wait for it to ferment out before adding it. The small amount of primary
fermentation byproducts that you add to the beer by pitching at full krausen will
not affect the flavor significantly
10.7 Maintaining Lager Temperature
Temperature controllers are very handy for use with a spare refrigerator to
maintain a constant brewing temperature. They work by plugging into the wall
outlet and plugging the fridge into it. A temperature probe is run inside the fridge
and it governs the on/off cycling of the compressor to maintain a narrow
temperature range. Here in Southern California, I use it to maintain 65°F in the
summertime for brewing ales. Check your local homebrew supply shop or some of
the larger mail order suppliers for one of the newer controllers. Some controllers
will also operate a separate heating circuit (usually in conjunction with a heat lamp)
for cold weather brewing conditions.
Meanwhile, my frozen Vienna lagered for 6 weeks at 34°F. I placed blocks of ice
next to the carboy instead of relying on the refrigerator for temperature control. In
fact, insulated Ice Boxes are a good way to control temperature for lagering.
Because of the alcohol present, the beer actually freezes at several degrees below
normal. Depending on the time of year and your ambient temperature, an insulated
box is a very convenient way to lager. If it freezes, just warm it back up, swirl up
the fermenter to rouse the yeast and let it continue lagering. My frozen lager went
on to take first place in two separate contests in the Vienna/Oktoberfest category.
See the next chapter, Priming and Bottling, for information on how the bottling and
carbonating of lager beers can differ from ale beers.
Brewing American Lager Beer
A lot of people want to know how to brew their favorite American light lager beer,
like Bud, Miller, or Coors. First thing I will tell you is that it is difficult to do. Why?
Because these beers are brewed using all-grain methods that incorporate rice or
corn (maize) as about 30% of the fermentables. The rice or corn must be cooked to
fully solubilize the starch and then added to the mash so that the enzymes can
convert the starches to fermentable sugars. See Chapters 12—What is Malted
Grain, and 14—How the Mash Works, for more info.
Second, there is no room in the light body of these beers for any off-flavors to
hide—off-flavors stand out. Your sanitation, yeast handling, and fermentation
control must be rigorous for this type of beer to turn out right. The professional
brewers at Bud, Miller, and Coors are very good at what they do—turning out a
light beer, decade after decade, that tastes exactly the same. Though come to think
of it, bottled water companies do that too...
Lastly, as an extract brewer, you can really only do rice-type lagers. Rice extract is
available in both syrup and powder form, and will produce a decent Heineken or
Budweiser clone. Corn syrup and corn sugar have had their corn character stripped
away and will not produce a good extract based corn-type lager like Miller or Coors.
To brew this type of beer, refer to the recipe in Chapter 19—Some of My Favorite
Beer Styles and Recipes, for the Classic American Pilsner recipe, “Your Father’s
Mustache,” and reduce the OG and IBUs to the guidelines below. The methods
described in the “YFM” recipe can be used to brew a typical American lager using
flaked corn or corn grits.
Typical American Lager Style Guidelines
Color: 2-8 SRM
Commercial Example: Budweiser
Typical American Lager Beer
3.5 lbs. of pale DME
1.5 lbs. of dry rice solids (powder)
BG for 3 Gallons 1.070
OG for 5 Gallons 1.042
1 oz of Tettnanger (5%) Boil for 60 minutes
1&Mac218;2 oz of Tettnanger (5%) Boil for 10 minutes
Total IBUs = 17
American Lager Yeast
2 weeks at 50°F in primary fermenter. Rack and lager at 40°F for 4 weeks.
Prime, and store bottles at room temperature.
Noonen, G., New Brewing Lager Beer, Brewers Publications, Boulder Colorado, 1996
Chapter 11 - Priming and Bottling
What You Need
In this chapter we will focus on getting your hard won beer into a bottle and ready
for drinking. To bottle your beer, you will need: clean bottles, bottle caps, a bottle
capper and (I heartily recommend) a bottling bucket. You will also need some sugar
to use for priming - that extra bit of fermentable sugar that is added to the beer at
bottling time to provide the carbonation.
Many homebrewers get their bottles used from restaurants and bars, or buy them
new from homebrew shops. Every once in a while you will hear about a guy whose
dad or uncle has given him a couple cases of empty swing-top Grolsch™ bottles. He
may ask you if he can use them for brewing or something... If this happens, just
look him straight in the eye and tell him, "No, those can be quite dangerous, let me
dispose of them for you." Be sure to keep a straight face and do your best to sound
grim. If you don't think you are up to it, give me a call and I will take care of it.
Swing top bottles are great; grab any you can. New rubber gaskets for the stoppers
can be purchased at most homebrew shops.
11.1 When to Bottle
Ales are usually ready to bottle in 2-3 weeks when fermentation has completely
finished. There should be few, if any, bubbles coming through the airlock. Although
2-3 weeks may seem like a long time to wait, the flavor won't improve by bottling
any earlier. Some books recommend bottling after the bubbling stops or in about 1
week; this is usually bad advice. It is not uncommon for fermentation to stop after
3-4 days and begin again a few days later due to a temperature change. If the beer
is bottled before fermentation is complete, the beer will become over-carbonated
and the pressure may exceed the bottle strength. Exploding bottles are a disaster
(and messy to boot
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11.2 Bottle Cleaning
As discussed in Chapter 2, used bottles need to be cleaned thoroughly before
sanitizing. The first time a bottle is used it should be soaked in a cleaning solution
(like bleach water), and scrubbed inside and out with a nylon bottle brush. A heavy
duty cleaning is needed to ensure that there are no deposits in which bacteria or
mold spores can hide. This helps the sanitizing solution reach all areas; you can be
assured of sanitized bottles. If you are diligent in rinsing your bottles promptly and
thoroughly after each use with your homebrew, only the sanitizing treatment will be
necessary before each use in the future. By maintaining clean equipment you will
save yourself a lot of work.
Note: Clean after use, Sanitize before use.
After the bottles have been cleaned with a brush, soak them in sanitizing solution
or use the dishwasher with the heat cycle on to sanitize them. If you use bleach
solution to sanitize, allow the bottles to drain upside down on a rack, or rinse them
with boiled water. Do not rinse them out with tap water unless it has been boiled
first. Rinsing with unboiled tap water is a number one cause of spoiled batches.
Also sanitize the priming container, siphon unit, stirring spoon, and bottle caps. But
don't boil or bake the bottle caps, as this may ruin the gaskets
11.3 What Sugar Should I Prime With?
You can prime your beer with any fermentable that you want. Any sugar: white
cane sugar, brown sugar, honey, molasses, even maple syrup can be used for
priming. The darker sugars can contribute a subtle aftertaste (sometimes desired)
and are more appropriate for heavier, darker beers. Simple sugars, like corn or
cane sugar, are used most often though many brewers use dry malt extract too.
Ounce for ounce, cane sugar generates a bit more carbon dioxide than corn sugar,
and both pure sugars carbonate more than malt extract, so you will need to take
that into account. Honey is difficult to prime with because there is no standard for
concentration. The gravity of honey is different jar to jar. To use honey, you will
need to dilute it and measure its gravity with a hydrometer. For all sugars in
general, you want to add 2-3 gravity points per gallon of beer to prime.
Be aware that malt extract will generate break material when boiled, and that the
fermentation of malt extract for priming purposes will often generate a
krausen/protein ring around the waterline in the bottle, just like it does in your
fermenter. Simple sugars don't have this cosmetic problem and the small amount
used for priming will not affect the flavor of the beer
11.4 Priming Solutions
The best way to prime your beer is to mix your priming sugar into the whole batch
prior to bottling. This ensures that all the bottles will be carbonated the same.
Some books recommend adding 1 tsp. of sugar directly to the bottle for priming.
This is not a good idea because it is time consuming and imprecise. Bottles may
carbonate unevenly and explode. Plus there is a greater risk of infection because
the sugar has not been boiled. The exception to these rules is to use PrimeTabs'.
(More on this product in a minute.)
Here's how to make and add priming solutions:
1. Boil 3/4 cup of corn sugar (4 oz by weight), or 2/3 cup of white sugar, or 1 and
1/4 cup dry malt extract in 2 cups of water and let it cool. Use the nomograph in
Figure 65 to determine a more precise amount of priming sugar if you wish. You
can add the priming solution in either of two ways, depending on your equipment; I
prefer the first (2a).
2a. If you have a bottling bucket (see Figure 66) gently pour the priming solution
into it. Using a sanitized siphon, transfer the beer into the sanitized bottling bucket.
Place the outlet beneath the surface of the priming solution. Do not allow the beer
to splash because you don't want to add oxygen to your beer at this point. Keep
the intake end of the racking tube an inch off the bottom of the fermenter to leave
the yeast and sediment behind.
2b. If you don't have a bottling bucket, open the fermenter and gently pour the
priming solution into the beer. Stir the beer gently with a sanitized spoon, trying to
mix it in evenly while being careful not to stir up the sediment too much. Wait a
half hour for the sediment to settle back down and to allow more diffusion of the
priming solution to take place. Use a bottle filler attachment with the siphon to
make the filling easier.
Figure 65- Nomograph for determining more precise amounts of priming sugar. To
use the nomograph, draw a line from the temperature of your beer through the
Volumes of CO2 that you want, to the scale for sugar. The intersection of your line
and the sugar scale gives the weight of either corn or cane sugar in ounces to be
added to five gallons of beer to achieve the desired carbonation level. Here is a list
of typical volumes of CO2 for various beer styles:
British ales 1.5-2.0
Porter, Stout 1.7-2.3
Belgian ales 1.9-2.4
American ales 2.2-2.7
European lagers 2.2-2.7
Belgian Lambic 2.4-2.8
American wheat 2.7-3.3
German wheat 3.3-4.5
11.5 Using PrimeTabs
PrimeTabs (manufactured by Venezia & Company) are high quality, sanitized
tablets of corn sugar that you can add directly to your bottles. There is no mixing or
boiling required. The tablets are sized such that you can adjust the level of
carbonation in your bottles depending on the style and your tastes. For a low
carbonation level, typical of a British draught ale, use 2 PrimeTabs per 12 oz.
bottle. Use 3 for a more average carbonation level and use 4-5 for a higher
carbonation level like that of American lagers. PrimeTabs are sold in packages of
250 tablets, suitable for priming an entire 5 gallon batch. By using PrimeTabs, you
can eliminate one siphoning step (from the fermenter to the bottling bucket) and
reduce the risk of oxidation
11.6 Bottle Filling
The next step is filling the bottles. Place the fill tube of the bottling bucket or bottle
filler at the bottom of the bottle. Fill slowly at first to prevent gurgling and keep the
fill tube below the waterline to prevent aeration. Fill to about 3/4 inch from the top
of the bottles. Place a sanitized cap on the bottle and cap. Many people will place
the caps on the bottles and then wait to cap several at the same time. After
capping, inspect every bottle to make sure the cap is secure.
Figure 66 - Bottling using a bottling bucket
Figure 67 - Bottling using a racking cane with bottle filler.
Age the capped bottles at room temperature for two weeks, out of the light. Aging
up to two months can improve the flavor considerably, but one week will often do
the job of carbonation for the impatient, it depends on the type and viability of the
11.7 Priming and Bottling Lager Beer
Ninety five percent of the time there is no difference between priming for lager beer
and priming ale. But once in a while you will need to add fresh yeast for priming
and carbonation purposes. This is most common when the beer is given a long cold
lagering for more than two months. If the beer is very clear at bottling time, then
the majority of the yeast may have settled out and there may not be enough left to
carbonate the beer in the bottle. Prepare some fresh yeast of the same strain and
mix it with the priming solution when you rack the beer to the bottling bucket. You
will not need as much as you originally pitched to the wort, only about 1/4 - 1/2
cup of slurry for 5 gallons.
Since the yeast is being added for carbonation during the storage phase of the
beer, there are a couple of differences in procedure from that used to ferment the
original wort. Grow the yeast at the temperature you will be carbonating and
storing the beer at (usually room temperature) instead of the original pitching
temperature. This will produce more esters than the yeast normally would, but the
percentage of sugar that is being fermented for carbonation at this stage is so small
that the added difference in taste is unnoticeable. The reason for doing it this way
is to avoid thermally shocking the yeast and to speed up the carbonation time. It is
not necessary to store the beer cold after lagering. The beer can be stored at room
temperature without affecting the taste of the beer
Two common questions are, "How long will a homebrewed beer keep?" and "Will it
spoil?" The answer is that homebrewed beer has a fairly long storage life.
Depending on the style and original gravity, the beer will keep for more than a
year. I occasionally come across a year-old six pack of pale ale that I had forgotten
about and it tastes great! Of course, there are other cases when that year-old six
pack has gotten very oxidized in that time, tasting of cardboard or cooking sherry.
It really depends on how careful you were with the bottling - Quality in, Quality out.
When cooled prior to serving, some batches will exhibit chill haze. It is caused by
proteins left over from those taken out by the cold break. The proteins responsible
for chill haze need to be thermally shocked into precipitating out of the wort. Slow
cooling will not affect them. When a beer is chilled for drinking, these proteins
partially precipitate forming a haze. As the beer warms up, the proteins re-dissolve.
Chill haze is usually regarded as a cosmetic problem. You cannot taste it. However,
chill haze indicates that there is an appreciable level of cold-break-type protein in
the beer, which has been linked to long-term stability problems. Hazy beer tends to
become stale sooner than non-hazy beer.
Finally, it is important to keep the beer out of direct sunlight, especially if you use
clear or green bottles. Exposure to sunlight or fluorescent light will cause beer to
develop a skunky character. It is the result of a photo-chemical reaction with hop
compounds and sulfur compounds. Contrary to popular belief, this is not a
character that Heineken, Grolsch, and Molson strive for in their beer. It is simply a
result of poor handling by retailers, and storing them under fluorescent lighting.
Other beers like Miller High Life™ don't boil hops with the wort but instead use a
specially processed hop extract for bittering which lacks the compounds that cause
skunking (and flavor). Brown bottles are best unless you make a point of keeping
your beer in the dark.
11.9 Drinking Your First Homebrew
One final item that nobody ever remembers to tell new brewers until it's too late is:
"Don't drink the yeast layer on the bottom of the bottle." People will say, "My first
homebrew was pretty good, but that last swallow was terrible!" or "His homebrew
really gave me gas" or "It must have been spoiled, I had to go to the bathroom
right away after I drank it." Welcome to the laxative effects of live yeast!
When you pour your beer from the bottle, pour it slowly so you don't disturb the
yeast layer. With a little practice, you will be able to pour out all but the last
quarter inch of beer. The yeast layer can really harbor a lot of bitter flavors. It's
where the word "Dregs" came from. I remember one time my homebrew club was
at a popular watering hole for a Belgian beer tasting. The proprietor prided himself
on being a connoisseur of all the different beers he sold there. But our entire club
just cringed when he poured for us. The whole evening was a battle for the bottle
so we could pour our own. Chimay
Grande Reserve, Orval, Duvel; all were poured
glugging from the bottle, the last glass-worth inevitably being swirled to get all the
yeast from the bottom. It was a real crime. At least I know what their yeast strains
taste like now...
Figure 68 - Keep the Yeast Layer in the Bottle! Pour it slowly to avoid disturbing the
yeast layer on the bottom. With practice you will leave no more than a quarter inch
of beer behind in the bottle.
Miller, D., The Complete Handbook of Home Brewing, Storey Publishing, Pownal,
Noonen, G., New Brewing Lager Beer, Brewers Publications, Boulder Colorado,
Draper, D., personal communication, February, 1996.
Fix, G., Fix, L., An Analysis of Brewing Techniques
, Brewers Publications, Boulder
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