Tag Archives: Lager

Tasting Impressions: Schwarzbock from 2013

I found a couple of bottles of homebrewed Schwarzbock from 2013, and I decided to see how it had developed during two years in bottle. This one ended up at an ABV of 6.8% and with a final gravity of 1.020, so a bit lighter than what was originally planned. I remember this one being very tasty when fresh, so let’s see how it tastes now!schwarzbock

The beer pours black and with a fluffy tan-colored head (it looks a lot lighter in the picture below). If you hold the glass against the light, you see that the beer actually has a dark ruby color (and is crystal clear). As the head collapses, it leaves patches of lacing along the glass. A nice appearance! The aroma is really nice as well, and it features a good combination of chocolate-like roasted tones, together with dark fruits and caramel. There is a slight alcohol note in the aroma as well, even though this is only 6.8%. The flavor is mostly roasty as well, with tones of dark chocolate and ash dominating. Behind this roast, there are tones of malt bread, biscuits and caramel that balance out the flavor. There are not many hop-derived flavors, but that was expected based on the recipe and the beer age. The finish has a moderately light bitterness though. The finish is quite dry as well, which adds to the perception of a relatively light body. This is quite a difference to the sweet and strong imperial stouts. The moderate carbonation level gives the beer some more mouthfeel though. It is quite easy to drink, and it has aged very well! Overall, a very nice beer that I would definitely brew again!

Homebrew: Wedding Dunkel

Time for another wedding beer. This time not for my own wedding, but for two of my friends’ wedding. The groom requested one dark and malty beer (the wedding is in January, so that would fit with the cold weather) and one pale and fresh beer. I’ve noticed that the most popular beers during events, where the majority of the people are not ‘beer nerds’, are balanced and easy-to-drink beers. American Pale Ales with a relatively mild bitterness seem to be especially popular, so I thought I’d go with a remake of my own Wedding APA for the pale and fresh beer. For the dark and malty beer, I decided to go with a dark lager.

I haven’t brewed many dark lagers before, but decided to go for a malt base dominated by Maris Otter and Munich malt. To this I added hints of Chocolate and Dark Crystal malt to give some color and flavor. I kept it simple with the hops, and decided to go with Tettnang at moderate amounts to a fairly low IBU. For the yeast I chose to use W-34/70, which is my favorite homebrew lager yeast because of the ease-of-use (just sprinkled two packs on top of the 21 litres of wort) and the clean and crisp flavor profile. The brewday went extremely smoothly, and 21 liters of wort are now fermenting strongly at 12C. The aroma coming from the airlock is really nice, which is always a positive sign! The wedding is in about three months, which will mean I will have some time to lager the beer once it has finished fermenting.

[beerxml recipe=http://beer.suregork.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/jl_dark_lager.xml metric=true cache=-1]

Homebrew: Wedding Hybrid – American Pale ‘Lager’

Today it was time to brew the third batch of beer for my wedding in August (see my previous posts for the Wedding Pils and Wedding Blond): an American Pale Ale-like beer, fermented with one of my newly created A62×C902 lager yeast hybrids. I’m not really sure what to expect from the beer, but I’m hoping for a really fruity aroma and flavour. Apart from the large amount of experimental fermentations we’ve done with the yeast hybrids at work, we have also fermented a bigger batch of ‘typical’ lager wort with one of the hybrids, which we then kegged and taste-tested. That beer at least had a really fruity flavour, with plenty of ethyl esters and isoamyl acetate. That wort was relatively lightly hopped, so it will be really interesting to see how the yeast aromas go along with a more heavily hopped beer. I’m hoping for bold flavours, yet still an easy-to-drink beer.

The recipe might seem a bit complicated, as it features six different malts and five hop varieties. This is because I’m using up some opened malt and hop bags. I’m hoping that the ingredients come together nicely, and that the flavours aren’t too muddled in the final beer. The malt bill consists mainly of some Pilsner and Maris Otter malt as base, with a hefty portion of Munich malt to lend some more breadiness. The rest of the malt bill consists of some CaraPils, oat flakes and Crystal 6oL, in order to give the beer some increased mouthfeel and a hint of caramel. I aimed for an original gravity of around 1.050, in order to get a beer with around 5% ABV. For the hops, I chose to bitter with some leftover Styrian Goldings and Simcoe, and at flameout I added a mixture of Amarillo, Citra, Saphir and Simcoe. I aimed to keep the bitterness levels quite low and instead concentrate on a massive hop flavor and aroma. I pitched a 2.5L starter of one of my lager yeast hybrids after I had cooled the wort down to around 17C. I kegged the Pilsner yesterday (it was tasting awesome by the way!), so my fermentation fridge was free again. I set the fermentation temperature to 15C, and 6 hours after pitching there was already slight activity in the airlock. Fingers crossed that this turns into an awesome beer!

[beerxml recipe=http://beer.suregork.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/wedding_hybrid.xml metric=true cache=-1]

How new yeast species are inspiring a revolution in brewing

Note, this is a repost of an article I wrote for VTT’s Industrial Biotechnology Blog.

Lager beers – sometimes crisp & light pilsners, sometimes dark & malty doppelbocks, have a common denominator: They are all produced using the lager yeast Saccharomyces pastorianus, the workhorse of the lager brewing industry. This yeast is known for its tolerance to lower temperatures, and brewers take advantage of this when producing lager beers.

These beers typically have a ‘clean’ flavour profile (i.e. lack of yeast character) you see, and by fermenting the beer at colder temperatures, the yeast produces less flavour-active by-products.


Recent analysis of lager brewing yeast genomes has revealed that the many hundreds of strains used in the brewing industry are, in fact, all closely related – more like multiple variants of the same strain than individual strains. Brewers have essentially been using the same strain to brew lager beers for probably 500 years. This is in stark contrast to the other fermented beverage industries, ale, whiskey, wine, cider and so on, where a rich and diverse collection of individual yeast strains is taken for granted.

Therefore, there is huge potential for introducing diversity into the lager brewing industry by generating new strains of lager yeast.

But before one can create new lager yeast it is important to understand what exactly the lager yeast is…

It has been known for some time that lager yeast is actually a hybrid species – more like a mule than the proverbial workhorse. It was clear that one parent was the well-known ale yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. It wasn’t until recently that the other side of the family, Saccharomyces eubayanus, was discovered. This discovery has allowed for the improved characterization of lager yeasts, and also opened up the possibility to create new tailor-made lager yeast strains. This is possible through mating of selected strains from the two parent species. These new strains could, e.g. produce unique flavours or ferment the beer more efficiently.

This is exactly what has been the focus of our ongoing research projects at VTT.


The research team. From left to right: Brian Gibson, Kristoffer Krogerus, Virve Vidgren and Frederico Magalhães in VTT’s pilot brewery.

Screening perfect parents to mate

There are four main challenges in generating new lager yeasts: To select suitable parent strains. To get the parents to mate. To separate the hybrid cells from the parents. And finally, to confirm that they actually are hybrids.

We began by screening a range of ale yeast strains, from both VTT’s Culture Collection and commercial yeast suppliers, for beneficial fermentation properties. Once suitable parent ale yeast strains had been identified, the next step was to try to mate them with a strain of S. eubayanus, the other parent of lager yeast.

Before mating, the parent strains still had to be modified with selection markers, so that any hybrid cells could be isolated from the population. We did this by selecting spontaneous auxotrophic mutants of the parent strains, i.e. cells that weren’t able to grow on media lacking certain amino acids. This meant the hybrid cells could be selected by their ability to grow on media lacking these certain amino acids. Mating was then attempted by simply mixing populations of both parent strains, and letting them grow for a couple of days.

Seub_cells© VTT/Ulla Holopainen

After isolating some potential hybrid cells, their hybrid status was confirmed through various PCR tests, which showed whether DNA from both parent strains was present in them. After confirmation that we had produced our own lager yeast hybrids, we wanted to compare them to the parent strains in an actual wort fermentation.

To our pleasant surprise, all hybrid strains performed better than both parent strains, fermenting faster and reaching higher ethanol contents!

The hybrid strains also inherited beneficial properties from both parent strains, such as strong flocculation, cold tolerance and maltotriose utilization.

These first results suggest that this technique is suitable for producing new lager yeast strains with unique properties. These new strains also have the benefit of being non-GMO, which currently at least remains a necessity for brewers.

We are continuing our attempts to find and create perfect lager yeast hybrids at VTT. Our research will especially pay attention to flavour formation and determining how their genetic composition is reflected in their physiology.

Our work will show, for the first time, that such hybrids can be created and how they can be applied in the brewing industry. The results will appear shortly in the Journal of Industrial Microbiology and Biotechology:

Krogerus, K., Magalhães, F., Vidgren, V. & Gibson, B. (2015) New lager yeast strains generated by interspecific hybridization. Journal of Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology, in press. DOI:10.1007/s10295-015-1597-6.

Maybe someday also you have an opportunity to enjoy these new tasty lager beers in your local pub. Cheers!

Generating new lager yeast hybrids

For my PhD thesis, I’ve been researching the flavour- and stress-related properties of brewing yeast hybrids. It has been known for some time that lager yeast (Saccharomyces pastorianus) is actually a hybrid species, and that one parent was the well-known ale yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. In 2011, the other side of the family, Saccharomyces eubayanus, was discovered. This discovery has allowed for the improved characterization of lager yeasts, and also opened up the possibility to create new tailor-made lager yeast strains. This is possible through mating of selected strains from the two parent species.

graphical abstractThis is exactly what I’ve been doing during the past year, and I’m happy to announce that we recently published our first results (New lager yeast strains generated by interspecific hybridization) in the Journal of Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology. We mated a strongly flocculent production ale strain (from a brewery in the UK) with S. eubayanus, to produce lager yeast hybrids which performed better than the parent strains, and inherited beneficial properties from both. This will open up the possibility to produce a range of new lager yeast strains, with e.g. interesting flavour production and increased stress tolerance. We already have plenty of new interesting hybrid combinations that I’m looking forward to characterizing. I will post more details in a later post, but in the meanwhile feel free to read the publication if you are interested, it is Open Access!

Link to the publication: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10295-015-1597-6


The interspecific hybrid Saccharomyces pastorianus is the most commonly used yeast in brewery fermentations worldwide. Here, we generated de novo lager yeast hybrids by mating a domesticated and strongly flocculent Saccharomyces cerevisiae ale strain with the Saccharomyces eubayanus type strain. The hybrids were characterized with respect to the parent strains in a wort fermentation performed at temperatures typical for lager brewing (12 °C). The resulting beers were analysed for sugar and aroma compounds, while the yeasts were tested for their flocculation ability and α-glucoside transport capability. These hybrids inherited beneficial properties from both parent strains (cryotolerance, maltotriose utilization and strong flocculation) and showed apparent hybrid vigour, fermenting faster and producing beer with higher alcohol content (5.6 vs 4.5 % ABV) than the parents. Results suggest that interspecific hybridization is suitable for production of novel non-GM lager yeast strains with unique properties and will help in elucidating the evolutionary history of industrial lager yeast.

Tasting some beers brewed at work

I’ve been having a blast working at the brewing laboratory at VTT, and today I thought I’d try a couple of beers brewed at work. The first two are research-related, while the third was brewed in honor of VTT’s 70th anniversary. The first two beers are related to a project that attempts to shorten fermentation time, without affecting the quality of the final beer. I can’t reveal any details, but I’ll give some general information on the beers. Both beers, the ‘control’ and the ‘treated’, were fermented with the same yeast (S. pastorianus) and wort supplied by a Finnish brewery (usually we use our own wort and yeast for experiments). The ‘treated’ beer finished fermenting over 24 hours before the ‘control’ beer, and both reached similar attenuation and had similar concentrations of aroma compounds and vicinal diketones. The real test will be whether they taste the same, so let’s try them out. I asked my girlfriend to pour the beers into three glasses (2+1), so I could attempt a blind triangle test. The beers should be quite standard ‘bulk lagers’, so am not expecting anything mind-blowing.

Glass 1:

Appearance: The beer pours with a crystal clear golden-yellow color. A small foam head sits on top of the beer, but it disappears really quickly. All in all, the beers look identical.

Aroma: The beer has a very light and clean aroma. A sweet, grainy almost bready maltiness is all I can pick out. Maybe some slight apple-like tones in the background?

Flavor: The flavor is also light, and it focuses mostly on a sweet grainy maltiness. The flavor is not as clean as the aroma, as there are some slight solvent-like tones present, which could be caused by higher alcohols or esters. I can’t detect any buttery tones from vicinal diketones. The finish is quite dry and crisp, and the bitterness level is low. A quite typical ‘bulk lager’, that is a little less clean than the primes of the style.

Mouthfeel: The body is light and the beer has a medium carbonation level. Easy to drink.


Glass 2:

Appearance: Similar to Glass 1.

Aroma: The aroma of this glass is also very clean and light. As good as identical to Glass 1, with a sweet grainy maltiness dominating.

Flavor: Similar to Glass 1, but it feels like the flavor is a little more malty, there might be just a minor VDK presence, and there is a little less solvent tones. Could this be different from Glass 1? As I return to the glass later, I start to question my initial thoughts, as these are so similar.

Mouthfeel: The mouthfeel is similar to Glass 1, but it maybe is slightly creamier.


Glass 3:

Appearance: Similar to Glass 1. Maybe just slightly more head retention.

Aroma: Again, very similar to the other two. I can’t tell apart any of the beers on aroma basis at least.

Flavor: Again, very similar to the other glasses. A grainy maltiness, with slight solvently off-tones.

Mouthfeel: Very similar to the other glasses.



I’m having a very hard time telling these apart, and I feel at least Glass 1 and 2 are different from each other, but I’m having a difficult time deciding on Glass 3. My final guess is that Glasses 1 and 3 are the same, while Glass 2 is different. I slightly preferred Glass 2, but as I said, these were very similar.


The correct answers were:

1. Treated

2. Control

3. Control


Well, that means that I at least wasn’t able to correctly tell them apart. This is a good result for us, as this means that our technique for speeding up the fermentation process doesn’t influence flavor considerably. I repeated the tasting for my girlfriend (who had poured up the beers for me, and also initially tasted them while I was tasting them), and according to her there was a noticeable difference between them. As I try the beers again, knowing what beer is what, I can sense a slight difference between them, as the control beer features a slightly more ‘slick’ mouthfeel, while the treated beer has slightly more solvent-like flavors (as I thought I noticed during my blind-tasting), especially during the aftertaste. All in all, this was a very interesting experiment, and the beers were really similar (enough to fool me).


The next beer of the evening is the 70th anniversary lager. This beer is a standard ‘euro lager’, brewed for as wide of an audience as possible. I helped out with brewing and gave some tips for recipe formulation. The beer has been brewed with pilsner, pale ale and vienna malts, and hopped with Northern Brewer, Perle and Saaz. The bitterness level came out a little lower than expected, and is around 15-20 IBU. The beer was fermented with S. pastorianus strain A-63015, and alcohol level has been adjusted to 5.0% ABV. We also recently brewed a 70th anniversary ale (amber ale), with pale ale, vienna, crystal 150 and chocolate malt, and we hopped it with Northern Brewer, Perle and Cascade (huge amounts of late hops). The ale is currently maturing, and am really looking forward to trying the final beer. The ale was brewed with more demanding beer drinkers in mind. But let’s see how the lager tastes!

Appearance: The beer pours crystal clear (it has been filtered before bottling) and with a golden-yellow color. A slight fluffy white head is formed during the pour, but it collapses very quickly leaving no lacing along the glass. I wish the beer would have had a little better head retention.

Aroma: The aroma is light and clean, with some tones of a grainy and bready maltiness, and a really small amount of almost apple-like esters. Nothing mind-blowing, but it fits the style well, as there is no diacetyl or other off-smells present.

Flavor: The flavor is quite light as well, spinning mostly around the slightly sweet and grainy maltiness, that features a very light touch of biscuits and caramel as well. A very light floral hoppiness is present as well, which is joined by the same esters present in the aroma. The finish is quite dry and not very bitter. Again, the flavor is very clean, with maybe a slight hint of diacetyl and some fruity esters being present.

Mouthfeel: The beer has a light and crisp body, and a medium carbonation level, making it very easy to drink.

Overall: I wasn’t expecting much before trying the beer, and the beer wasn’t anything mind-blowing, but I was positively surprised over how clean tasting this beer was, as making a light lager requires skill from the brewer. I would maybe up the bitterness just a notch, throw in some more late hops to increase the hop presence (as it was non-existing at the moment), and try to increase the head retention (by adjusting the mash schedule or throwing in some wheat or carapils malt).


Really looking forward to returning from my winter holidays and continuing research!



Homebrew: Double Brewday – Smoke Beer Part II

Last Sunday was a long day, as two friends (Johan & Marcus) and I brewed up two batches of smoke-themed beers (a smokey lager and peat-smoked porter). We started at around 11:30 AM and put the primaries in the fermentation fridge at around 7:30 PM, so a total of about 8 hours. Everything went quite well, but we did have some problems. First, we noticed the cordless drill my friend had brought for my malt mill wasn’t that powerful, so crushing the grains took some time. The battery in the drill lasted through about half the grain bill of each beer, meaning we had to make a total of 3 battery changes. Luckily he had two battery packs, so we had one constantly in the charger. Mashing went well, and with batch sparging we hit total efficiencies of 62% for the lager and 68% for the porter; which is an improvement over my previous batches. I’m still sure that the efficiency could be boosted a bit by crushing finer. Boiling went well, but the hop filter in my boiler kept getting clogged, even though we used cones instead of pellets, so it took some time to get the beers into their fermenters. In the end, the lager hit an OG of 1.050 and the porter an OG of 1.064. The taste samples were promising, but it became evident that we had been a bit too conservative with the amount of smoked malts in each of the beers, as there wasn’t much smokey character present in either of the pre-fermentation samples. Hopefully a smokey aroma and flavor will become more pronounced after fermentation. As if we hadn’t had enough problems already, I managed to grab the wrong combination of fermenting bucket + lid from home, which meant the lid didn’t fit the bucket perfectly. We fixed this by using some tape, to keep it down. After 24 hours the porter, fermented with WLP002, was already bubbling vigorously at an ambient temperature of 16C (meaning the beer itself is probably around 18-19C), while the lager showed no signs of activity in its fermentation fridge (set at 10.5C). Lagers usually have a longer lag time though, and since carbon dioxide is more soluble in cooler water, it will take more time before ‘visible fermentation’ is achieved. Hopefully the beers turn out good (and I won’t mind even though the beers don’t turn out smokey).

Homebrew: Double Brewday – Smoke beer

Sunday I will be brewing two beers together with a couple of friends. One friend expressed a desire for smoked beer, so both beers we will be brewing will have a smoky character. We will be brewing a Smoked Lager, inspired by the German Rauchbiers, and a Smoked Porter, brewed with peated malt from Scotland. It’s probably gonna be a long day, but hopefully we end up with 38 liters of tasty beer. This will be the first time I try brewing a lager, and have managed to get a new fermentation fridge, that I will put to use for it. You can find the recipes below.

[beerxml recipe=http://beer.suregork.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/smoked_lager.xml metric=true cache=-1]

[codebox 1]

Kunstmann Lager Sin Filtrar


  • Brewery: Kunstmann
  • Country: Chile
  • Style: Lager
  • ABV: 5.8%
  • Size: 330 ml
  • Bought from: Gift from Chile
  • Not on Beer Advocate
  • RateBeer

    Yesterday I also tried two beers that my father had brought home from a business trip in Chile. The craft beer scene in Chile is expanding at a high rate, with new breweries opening all the time, so it will be really interesting to see what kind of beer they make. First up is an unfiltered lager (Lager Sin Filtrar), brewed by La Cerveceria Kunstmann, the largest ‘craft brewery’ in Chile. My Spanish isn’t the best, so it was a bit difficult to find any information on this brew, but it seems that it has been brewed with some Crystal malt and German hops. The bottle is interesting as well, since it has a misty/frosted/dirty (can’t find the word) look. Unfortunately I realized while drinking that the Best Before Date was 2 weeks ago, so this might explain some of observations.

    [easyreview title=”Kunstmann Lager Sin Filtrar” cat1title=”Appearance” cat1detail=”The beer has a golden-yellow color and is hazy. A slight white-colored head was formed during pour, that collapsed, leaving some lacing along the glass.” cat1rating=”3″ cat2title=”Smell” cat2detail=”The aroma has some malty and grainy tones, but overall the aroma was very light. The low score is not because there was anything bad in the aroma, but rather that there was almost no aroma at all.” cat2rating=”2″ cat3title=”Taste” cat3detail=”The flavor begins with some sweet and malty tones, lending just a hint of honey as well. There are some light earthy and herbal hop tones present as well.” cat3rating=”2.5″ cat4title=”Mouthfeel” cat4detail=”The beer has a smooth medium-light body, and a moderate-low carbonation level, making it quite pleasant to drink.” cat4rating=”3.5″ summary=”Overall, this was a drinkable lager and much better than the bulk lagers found everywhere. Unfortunately it also seemed a bit tired and tasteless. This can though partially be explained by the drink before date.”]

    Mikkeller Burger & Bun L.A. Lager


  • Brewery: Mikkeller
  • Country: Denmark (Brewed in Belgium)
  • Style: (American) Premium Lager
  • ABV: 5%
  • Size: 330 ml
  • Bought from: Alko, 3.95€
  • Beer Advocate
  • RateBeer

    This is a lager brew by Mikkeller for the Danish burger bar ‘Burger & Bun’ found in Copenhagen. This lager is hopped with some nontraditional hop varieties (American influence), featuring Columbus, Nelson Sauvin, Centennial, Simcoe and Amarillo, boasting an IBU of around 30 for Pils-style. Not a big fan of light, and especially lightly hopped lagers, but this one seemed promising. PS. Sorry about the crappy photo, will try to get a new one if I ever drink this one at home!

    [easyreview title=”Mikkeller Burger & Bun L.A. Lager” cat1title=”Appearance” cat1detail=”The beer has a golden color (just a hint of amber), is hazy (the beer is bottle conditioned), and has a small white head, leaving just a slight lacing along the glass.” cat1rating=”3.5″ cat2title=”Smell” cat2detail=”The beer has a strong citrusy and grassy aroma, with some piney and floral notes as well. The hops dominate the aroma completely, and I keep thinking to myself: is this really a lager I’m about to drink?” cat2rating=”4″ cat3title=”Taste” cat3detail=”An initial light malty taste is quickly overtaken by flavours of citrus and tropical fruits. The hops have a huge presence in the flavour as well. The aftertaste is quite bitter, and the beer leaves a pleasant tingle on the tongue.” cat3rating=”4″ cat4title=”Mouthfeel” cat4detail=”The beer has a medium-light body, with a quite dry finish, and a moderate carbonation level, making this an easy to drink and very refreshing beer.” cat4rating=”4″ summary=”I was definitely not disappointed with this one, as it is a fantastic beer. This is definitely not a classic lager, as it borderlines with the (American) Pale Ale style. This was hoppy, refreshing and easy to drink, making this a perfect summer beer to enjoy together with e.g. hamburgers from your grill. I’ve loved everything so far that I’ve tried by Mikkeller, and will probably try to get my hands on some of their Single Hop IPAs in the close future. I really recommend this one, and the price is even OK for a premium beer like this!”]