I know all the cliche answers: "it rounds the beer out", "it cleans it up", "it takes away some of the harshness".

I'm looking for a definitive answer of whats actually happening during extended cold storage. Is it just clarity? Are you dropping polyphenols/tannins that affect FLAVOR? Couldn't this be achieved with some finings and a quick crash? I've had some pretty darned clear beers that I've turned around in less than 2 weeks, grain to glass with some prepared gelatin, big yeast pitch, and careful manipulation of fermentation temp.

My only lager to date is Jamil's Oktoberfest that I primary'd @ 50* for 3 weeks, cold-pitched with about a gallon starter. I have to be honest, I am a provisional BJCP judge, taking my tasting exam @ the end of the month, and consider myself to have a pretty good palette. I couldn't really tell the difference between the sample of beer pulled @ 3 weeks, and the beer after it sat in a fridge for a month.

Listening to Jamil and John Palmer talking about it, it sounds like the purpose is largely to achieve clarity. I also seem to remember Jamil saying something to the effect of "if you have a strong, healthy primary fermentation, you don't need to lager as much".

In many ways, it seems like decoction to me: an antequated process that is not really necessary anymore given upgrades in technology (in the case of decoction: advanced malting techniques; in the case of lagering: yeast selection/genetic modification, fermentation temp control, and refrigeration).

Or alternatively, maybe I just need more experience tasting pre-lagered lagers and brewing lagers! :^D

1 Answer 1


Clarity and poly-phenol/tannins pretty much nails it. Lager yeast do tend to be weaker flocculators than ale yeasts, so more time at cold temp helps clear things up.

I brewed up an all Munich malt beer with German Lager yeast. It tasted so good after a 4 week primary that I kept drinking it during "lagering" and it was gone before the lager period was over. In the same vein, I brewed an oktoberfest with the same yeast strain that wasn't great after primary, but most certainly was great after two months stored at 45F.

I think its style, recipe, water chemistry and palette dependent.

  • 1
    I think you are certainly correct about the recipe being a big factor. Seems like my all-Pils lagers turned around quickly, but my Vienna lagers with some roasted and crystal malts really needed several more weeks before the flavors all came together.
    – GHP
    Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 13:08
  • I feel like I have actually heard this before. Lagers that have darker malts have, by nature, much more tannic/astringent flavors that cold-conditioning helps precipitate out (my understanding is that tannins are a very molecularly large polyphenol). But that would be counterintuitive to your Okfest. Ah the mysteries of brewing!
    – Pietro
    Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 14:39

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.