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I'm contemplating my next brew equipment purchase, and it's likely to be a chest freezer, either for lagering or for converting into a kegerator.

I know some of the things I've heard, but what are the compelling characteristics that only lagering can produce?

I've heard it described as a clean, crisp character. Is there either a more technical, or different way of describing this effect, and is it the sole purpose?

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1 Answer 1

up vote 14 down vote accepted

Why should you start lagering? Because you want to make a lager.

It's a simple choice of preference, mate. Why brew a stout? Why brew an IPA? Brew whatever you feel like.

But if the style of beer that you want to brew happens to be a Pilsner, Light Lager, Vienna Lager, Bock, Oktoberfest, Dunkel, Baltic Porter, Schwarzbier, or any variant of those (Maibock, Bohemian Pils, Dopplebock, American Lager, Marzen, Helles Bock, or Eisbock, for example), then you're better off using lagering techniques to achieve certain flavor, aroma, and mouthfeel characteristics.

While lager yeasts are generally described as producing more clean and crisp characteristics than ale yeasts, lager yeasts produce a variety of smells and tastes.

For most styles traditionally made with lager yeasts, you can usually brew a comparable beer with the appropriate ale yeast, but substituting an ale for a lager makes a pretty substantial difference. Most lager styles are defined by flavors and aromas specific to their strains of yeast, so trying to replicate exact characteristics of specific lagers absolutely requires using a lager yeast.

So decide what you'd like to brew. And then decide if you want to invest in lagering equipment and are willing to spend the extra time between brewing and drinking. Maybe you want to match a certain style, or brew an exact clone of a commercial beer, or brew identical wort with different yeasts. But for whatever reason, if you think it's worth the time and money, or if you just enjoy the challenge of learning new techniques, then you should start lagering.

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second and upvoted. beautifully spoken. –  Bullet86 Feb 16 '11 at 6:50
    
Most of the beers I've been drawn to are ales, and staying true to any particular style is not important to me right now. This is exactly what I wanted to hear, that it's yeast dependent. I have much exploring to do with ale yeasts, lagers can come later. Thanks. –  Mlusby Feb 16 '11 at 14:01
    
There are various benefits to cold-conditioning most beers, but that's a different thing. –  baka Feb 16 '11 at 14:57
    
A very well-stated answer. –  Jeff L Feb 20 '11 at 3:16
    
FYI the equipment needed to make lagers is pretty much what hard core ale brewers end up buying anyway (fermentation fridge & kegerator/freezer for kegs). So the extra $$$ for equipment sometimes isn't an issue. –  Graham May 19 '11 at 17:08
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