Elkland Lager (2015)

IMG_0425I brewed this beer on March 18.  I’m not keeping up with my goal of posting before brew day, but I did write most of this before brewing and tried to finish off the post without acknowledging anything that happened on brew day.  I will say now that overall, everything pretty much went as planned.

In 2013 I brewed Elkland Adjunct Lager.  Last year I brewed Elkland Golden Lager and Elkland Amber Lager, then re-brewed the latter as Elkland Amber Ale.  So this year, the Golden version is just Elkland Lager.

This is my attempt at the Light American Lager.  Not Lite Lager.  Light as in pale, it is actually a Premium American Lager because the alcohol content will be north of 5%.  I got into all that last year, though.  Let’s get down to this specific beer.

There are several changes from last year.  The biggest one probably being that I’m switching back from rice to corn.  My original, 2013, batch was brewed with corn, then in 2014 I decided to try rice and use corn in the amber version.  I’ve preferred the corn, though.  This beer’s grist will be made up of a whopping 28% flaked corn.  My other recent corn beers, Sheriff Cluster’s Salvation at 16% and Elkland Amber Ale at 21%, were both much lower.  I’ve heard stories of some commercial lagers going as high as 40% corn, but breaking the one quarter barrier seems like pushing it far enough to me.

The base malt is also changing this year.  Previously I’ve used six row pale malt.  My experiment in using Pilsner malt with an adjunct on Sheriff Cluster worked out, so I decided to go with Pilsner this time, too.  Briess, the maltster responsible for this malt, discontinued their production of 6-row Pale Malt this year.  My homebrew shop still sells 6-row and I’m not sure if it is leftover Briess product or if they got it from a different producer.

Anyway, the Pilsner malt seems to do fine in helping convert the corn’s starches to sugar and it is much lighter in color and crisper in flavor.  In a move that may seem to be going against everything I just said, I again included some light Munich Malt to help give the beer some degree of body and bready malt flavor.  I upped the corn quite a bit this year, so I also upped the Munich. 

Again, this might seem like I’m working in different directions at the same time, but I think it is going to work out great.  The two pounds of Munich in this ten gallon batch will not be enough to make up for all that corn, this will still be a very light bodied and colored beer.  It should give it a little twist and at the very least, set it apart from other beers in this style.  This is not going to be a super complex beer, but hopefully it will have enough character to be not be too boring to drink in large quantities on hot days.

I feel like I should address a somewhat related topic here.  This is NOT a session beer.  I have written about my love of session beers before and I feel like saying that this beer will be consumed in large quantities is enough for some people to think that I’m making a session beer.  This stuff should be between 5 and 5.5% ABV while still maintaining drinkability.  Session beer is lower (4.5% or less) ABV and I believe that they should have more complexity than this.  The idea is for session beer to be interesting and conducive to conversation without leaving you too inebriated after a few pints.  The idea for this beer is to not get in the way of conversation.  To be drinkable in large quantities and not worry about inebriation because you’re at the cabin, or at home working in the yard or watching a parade during a cook out.

IMG_0426This may seem subtle to some people, but they are worlds apart for me.  I love that session beer is getting more attention in craft beer circles, but I’m extremely frustrated with the push by some people to count beers up to and over 5% ABV in the category.

Anyway, I haven’t mentioned the hops yet.  This beer is not highly hopped, but again, as with the Munich addition, it should have more character than the industrial versions.  It is hopped to about 25 IBUs in the kettle, which is right on the edge of the BJCP’s acceptable limit for the style, the alcohol is right there too, though so I think that keeps things balanced.

In addition to raw bitterness, the flavoring hop additions are much higher than macro lager, albeit still much lower than your average craft beer.  As with previous years, all hopping in this beer is done with Cluster.  An ounce of which is added twenty minutes before the end of the boil along with another ounce in the last five minutes.  Along with the bittering charge, that means that only three ounces are used in the full ten gallon batch, however those last two additions should still leave a bit of flavor and aroma behind.  This is up from last year’s batch, which only had half an ounce at twenty and no later hopping.  The new additions are a little closer to being inline with Elkland Amber Ale, which seems to be generally better liked.

I am skipping the extra Champagne yeast step I have done in previous years.  I don’t think it helped get last year’s batch get any drier and I think it more than likely just exposed the almost completed beer to more of the elements and possible spoiling bacteria or just oxidation.  I’m pitching a more appropriate amount of yeast this year and I will try to keep after the temperature better.  We have recently placed a thermometer in the basement.  As simple and possibly stupid as that may sound to mention, I think it will make a big difference.  If it is as easy as checking the thermometer, I will be much more likely to keep an eye on the temperature and take steps to keep it in line.

IMG_0430

I debated also skipping the high gravity brewing, but ultimately I ended up sticking with it.  Despite having success with Sheriff Cluster, I was still nervous that all that corn might not convert without any six row malt.  Since I’m finishing this post after brew day, I can confirm that it did convert just fine, though.  Had my efficiency taken a hit, I could have just bottled this without added water, as it is though, the ABV will be too high.  I’m not exactly sure how much water I’ll be adding yet, but I recently acquired fifteen gallon plastic container that originally held liquid malt extract from my local homebrew store and I plan to figure it out and add that much water to the container before racking the two six gallon carboys I’m doing primary in on top of the water and lagering in there.

That pretty much covers my brewing plans for this beer. Beyond that, I’m planning to enter it into the Mount Hope Brewfest homebrew competition again.  I got second place in the Light Lager category last year and I was honestly a bit disappointed with that beer.  I’m hoping to do better this year, at least as far as score.  Bottles are due on April 25, but judging isn’t until May 9.  That doesn’t give me a lot of time for lagering, but that is normal for this style.  Since the judging is a couple weeks after collection of bottles, I should be okay as long as I get it bottled before the due date and I plan to push it fairly close.

My full recipe is below, however the original gravity and final ABV and IBUs are not adjusted for the water that I plan to add after primary fermentation.

IMG_0433

Elkland Lager (2015)

Style: Premium American Lager

OG: 1.054

FG: 1.01

ABV: 5.80 %

IBU’s: 23.46

Grains & Adjuncts

Amount

13.00 lbs 61.90 % Pilsner (2 Row) US

6.00 lbs 28.57 % Maize, Flaked

2.00 lbs 9.52 % Munich Malt – 10L

Hops

Amount IBU’s Name Time AA %

1.00 ozs 11.92 Cluster 60 mins 7.00

1.00 ozs 9.16 Cluster 20 mins 7.00

1.00 ozs 2.38 Cluster 5 mins 7.00

Yeasts

Amount Name Laboratory / ID

4.00 pkg Saflager W-34/70 Fermentis W-34/70

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