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Pseudo-Science and the Case for Pseudo-Lagers

Pseudo-Science and the Case for Pseudo-Lagers

We’ve been brewing with Jeff for years, so when he came in with a cooler full of lagered beer, tasting cups and a proposal for a triangle test, we were definitely intrigued!  What are we in for?  He wouldn’t tell us anything other than his beer was just out of primary fermentation and he wanted to see if we could pick the odd one out of the bunch.

Check out his experiment with lager style beer and brewing with kveik and see if these fun kveik ferments are right for you!

By Jeff Snyder

In the use of BrewChatter’s all grain Chupacabra Bock Recipe kit, I stumbled into an accidental experiment. I will be the first to say that this was not an exacting double blinded experiment with perfect controls meeting the high standards of the scientific method.

If you have seen and read the well designed exBeeriments, this is not one of those. However, in the end, it left me wondering if using a true lager yeast is the best for me.

Hold my beer, here is what happened.

I have a Brewzilla 5 gallon all grain brewing system and I am finding that my conversion efficiencies, as measured by my refractometer, are hitting high numbers. When I compare the target original gravity (OG) in the recipe (1.070) and my readings, I am often over the OG.

In this case, my target volume boiling was just under 6 gallons and my gravity was at 1.081. Is my measurement off and is that even possible? I recalibrated the refractometer with the same result. I was confronted with a brew day decision to brew an even stronger beer or add water volume late in the boil to hit my target gravity.

Since this was my first run at a true lager and a fairly strong beer anyway, I opted to add water. I had already started a fairly robust 2 liter starter of Imperial Yeast’s Harvest 23 hours in advance and didn’t want to push the limits of yeast.

With a quick brew day search, I could not find the yeast’s alcohol tolerance upper limit. Also, I felt that I wanted a beer that I could have more than one without having to be put to bed. I added almost a gallon of water using a brewers friend calculator to hit 1.070.

I filled my fermenter with just over 5.5 gallons of cool (50 F) wort and had some extra wort left over. I am not one to waste a chance to create more alcohol, so I quickly sanitized a one-gallon jug and put just under a gallon of extra wort in the jug.


A dollop of Imperial Loki for a small batch fermentation


From a previous batch, I had harvested some of the yeast cake from a Kveik batch of Imperial Loki (Voss Kveik) that was sitting in a mason jar in the fridge. I scooped a dollop of the Loki harvested yeast, dropped it in the one-gallon jar and shook it up some.

I put it in my room temperature fermentation chamber. (Our extra bathroom with a tile shower). It’s an interior room and it was February, so it was around 65F – 68F - not the high temperatures that you can get to with this strain. It does stay consistently in that range. Fermentation started within hours and was done in a day or two.

I bottled the Loki batch in 2 weeks in .75 liter swing top bottles using 2 carbonation drops.

Brewjacket lager brewing temperature control

For the Harvest yeast batch, I used my BrewJacket Immersion pro and placed it in my cold garage. I know that BrewJacket says “up to 35 above or below ambient” temperature achievement, but I can’t get that range.

Plus, the closer the ambient and the target range, the less it works, so my 50F garage was a good place. I also found that it works better if I stuff the “jacket” with extra insulation recycled from a few hello fresh boxes. It started fermenting within a day and seemed to be done in about a week.

I left it at the 52 F for three weeks. I did raise the temperature to 65 F for 6 days. I’m not sure that it needed this temp bump, but my research seemed to indicate it might and a diacetyl rest wouldn’t likely hurt. I cold crashed it for 3 days. I bottled the harvest batch using 5 ounces of dextrose in bottles (I know that is too much, but I like my beer carbonation up).

exbeeriment triangle test

So that long walk gets us to the science of sorts. I saw an opportunity and I wanted to see if there is a perceptible difference in the two batches. I set up several triangle trials of randomized three beers in opaque cups (2 of one batch and 1 of the other) and wanted to see if my participants could pick the odd beer out.

I tried it on my family, my friends, and at BrewChatter on a Friday afternoon. Thank you for your indulgence RJ and Josh. Of the 12 people that took part in the trial, 3 correctly picked the correct beer that was different from the other two beers on the tray. BTW, two of the correct guesses were Josh and RJ and they clearly are professionals.

I did not explain to participants until after they tasted and guessed that there was a different yeast used. I just asked them to tell me the different beer and what they thought was perceptually different.

Most people took some time, and it was not immediately clear that was a huge difference. When I tried the blinded test, I had a hard time telling even though I knew the variable.

Also, the Loki carbonated more, I knew that, and I still had a hard time. Interestingly, several people would pick a beer and then ask to change their mind after a few sips.

Conclusions, lager yeast is extra work and equipment and care. It often requires a big starter. In recipes like this Bock, where there is a grain bill that is a darker beer, lager yeast may not be required for us non-super tasters.

All the participants said they liked both even after they knew the difference. The Loki batch was treated like a step child comparatively.

Sure, lager yeast may be needed yeast for a competition worthy beer or maybe in a lighter beer style. Even for the sake of tradition a lager yeast may be right.

But we have some really clean fermenting ale yeasts, especially Loki at low temperatures. There are other options out there too. Is it worth it for most of my lager like beer batches? I am open to being wrong. Now, where is my beer.

We were super stoked to be a small part of Jeff’s experiment, and it brings up a great point!  Using kveik cultures at lower temps may be a fun and viable alternative to trying to make traditional bottom fermented strains work - especially in the summertime!  Not everyone has access to cold storage, temperature control and lager brewing fermentation tanks!

Kveik strains available year round for high temperature fermentation

You hear a lot about strains like Lutra and Opshaug and how clean and lager-like they are, but we’ve found in many of our home brews that Loki, Lallemand Voss and Kveiking, all year round available kveik strains, tend to produce wonderfully clean beers at or just below normal ale temps.  It might be time to do some experimentation of your own!

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Jeff - May 16, 2021

Thanks for letting run the experiment at BrewChatter and to the customers that were willing. You guys are always fun and so helpful.

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