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Spring Lager Binge

March 12, 2014

For some reason, I got to thinking about Maibocks recently and how it’s about to be in season.  That got me to thinking about the timeline I’d have to follow in order to get one ready by May and how that timeline would have to involve brewing a small lager.  Munich Helles fit the bill last time, and I don’t see why it can’t this time, too.  This, in turn, led me to think about the follow-on brew from the Maibock and how a Doppelbock works really well for that (can be higher gravity and darker).  Finally, thinking through the whole process, I got the motivation for a spring lager brewing binge where I brew first a small Munich Helles – enough to create enough yeast for 5 gallons of a good gravity Maibock – followed by a Maibock, and finishing with a big (both in gravity and volume) Doppelbock for storing long-term.

High Level Overview:

  1. Brew 3 – 5 gallon Munich Helles (enough to be able to pitch a Maibock on the cake – need ~500 billion cells)
  2. Brew 5 gallon Maibock
  3. Brew ~10 gallon Doppelbock (enough to put as much of the Maibock yeast to work as reasonably possible)

Given the 4 – 6 week turnaround time of lagers, I am hopeful this won’t tax my motivation too much, since I only need to brew once a month or less to make it happen.  In the end, the yeast will be pretty tired, so I might just call it good and let them out to pasture (down the kitchen sink).

More detailed process:

  1. Create starter for Munich Helles (1.6 L with stir plate per yeastcalculator.com)
  2. Brew enough Munich Helles such that the resulting yeast cake is about what is needed for a healthy Maibock – yeastcalculator.com indicates 16 L to get 528 billion cells (no stir plate)
  3. Allow Munich Helles wort to chill overnight at 32 – 35 degrees (not so cold as to take forever to get back up to fermenting temperature – ~48 F – but cold enough to get a good separation of the trub).  This is important to keep the yeast as clean as possible so I don’t have to worry about the contamination risk of or loss involved with washing yeast and can instead pitch directly on the cake for subsequent brews.
  4. Siphon portion of wort onto decanted, cooled starter.  Warm up starter to fermentation temperature in the keezer while on the stir plate to get the yeast in suspension
  5. Siphon remaining wort into second fermenter, taking care to leave trub behind (may be good to over-brew so I don’t have to push it to get the right amount of wort out).
  6. Return wort, now in new fermenter, to keezer set for fermentation temperature
  7. When at or near fermentation temperature, pitch yeast and oxygenate
  8. Ferment Munich Helles to completion
  9. Crash at 32 – 35 night prior to brewing Maibock
  10. Keg Munich Helles sometime during Maibock brew day (the closer to the time when the Maibock is ready to be pitched, the better), leaving yeast cake behind and in the keezer
  11. Repeat steps 2 through 9 for Maibock (except no adjustment should be necessary in Step 2 – Munich Helles was calibrated for 5-gallon Maibock, no starter steps necessary, and the second fermenter will be the one that Munich Helles fermented in)
  12. Repeat steps 2 through 9 for Doppelbock, perhaps brewing 10 gallons and splitting the Maibock yeast cake across two fermenters (need to think how that can be reasonably accomplished).  NOTE:  yeastcalculator assumes apparently fixed gravity of starter => won’t be accurate to estimate how much yeast will be created while brewing big (~1.070) Maibock (can use Mr. Malty to see how much of a slurry I would need for a given Doppelbock recipe and estimate?).
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