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» Marathon Honey Lager

Marathon Honey Lager

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First of all, this post is going to be LONG! Proper Lagering is a combination of planning, guesswork, luck and……waiting.

This brew was a total experiment. I wanted to have a play with traditional Lagering methods rather than just brew it up and then bottle it. Lager style beer produced in the traditional way takes time and patience…LOTS of both! And hence the name of this brew being Marathon.

It’s certainly not a brew to undertake if you don’t have a working fridge to ferment in and another fermenter to play around with whilst this long winded bevvie is doing its stuff. Total fermentation time before bottling was a whopping THREE months!!! Yep, thats right, THREE damn months. Lager is a German word meaning to store and i guess those Germans had nothing else to do during the long cold winter months than produce a damn fine style of beer.

So why take three months to produce a beer when I could have it over and done with in two weeks? WHY NOT! Home brewing is all about experimenting with taste (and alcohol levels of course!). You are free to do whatever you like, are most certainly not bound by ’style’ restrictions, and, who cares if it turns out really bad? It cost you bugger all and you learnt not to do that again! So, I thought Bugger It, let’s go play!!! Not content with tackling a trad. lager, I decided to use honey as the main fermentable base, just to throw a bit of a spin on an already involved process!

Honey can be a bit unpredictable for brewing, mainly because it is not standard in water content, fermentable and non-fermentable sugar content, and most importantly, what flavour it will impart to the final product. Honey generally imparts a dry sweetish edge to a brew, but this is a very general statement. There are so many different types of honey and their flavours are derived from such variables as climate, blossom species the nectar was collected from, species of bee and position of the hive. But, we are experimenting with our brewing, aren’t we!

So, armed with a heap of enthusiasm, a vague guide on Lager brewing and little idea about much else, I began the marathon brew…

Start brew 16-03-2006 Brew#4 Marathon Honey Lager

Wander Premium Munich Lager Can x1 (1.7 kg)
2.0 kg honey
Saflager brewing yeast (bought from local brew shop)

*Redisolved crystalised honey by gently heating it (not boiling)
*Pitch yeast at 27deg C -wort cooling, sprinkled yeast on top of wort (as per useless can instructions)
*Yeast did not take on first pitching (used old yeast packet). Re-pitched fresh yeast after 3 days (on 19-03-06), standard liquid starter at 17deg C (not at 22-24deg C as with ale yeasts)
*Fermentation temp - aimed for 11-12deg C, maintained 10-13deg C reliably
*Start SG, first yeast pitch 1.048 @ 27deg C
second pitch 1.046 @ 16deg C

Lagering Schedule:
*02-04-06 Carried out Diacetyl Rest procedure - Raise brew temp from 12deg C to approx 24deg C for 24-36 hours then rack to new fermenter. Immediately begin cooling for lagering period of 6-8 weeks at approx 6deg C.
*SG at beginning of Lagering period 1.016@24deg C

*Rack to holding fermenter very slowly (to keep aeration of brew to absolute minimum during transfer). Carefully mix primer liquid sugar mix into brew directly.
*Pitch new Saflager yeast into brew - did not carry out starter method, sprinkled packet onto brew. Mixed in thoroughly but slowly toi minimise any oxidation from aeration.
*yeast fell out readily, approx 75% of yeast left in bottom of fermenter

And now the important info……
YIELD: 59×375ml bottles @ approx 6.0%alc

*Brew start 16-03-2006
*Start SG 1.048 (1st yeast pitch), 1.046 (2nd liquid yeast starter pitch)
*Diacetyl Rest 24 hours 12deg C > 24deg C
*Primary fermentation temp 12deg C for 17 days
*Lagering Temp 6deg C. for 55 days
*Final gravity 1.007 (before pitching bottling yeast)

*At racking to new fermenter, brew yeast very active, brew still quite cloudy
*Rack to new fermenter for Lagering after fermentation approx 80% complete (guessing that it would finish at 1.006-1.007 SG)
*Reduce temp of diacetyl rest to minimise any by-products from yeast that may adversly affect taste. This brew diacetyl rest was 24deg C for 24-36 hours. Perhaps reduce this temp to 6-8edg C above normal fermentation temp.
*Honey Lager has a very strong honey taste and smell (maybe a bit too strong!). Think about reducing the honey and substituting in some light malt (wheat malt perhaps?) or add some hops for a bit of offset taste and aroma
*Carbonation is excellent. Tad high, but the lager can hold it okay. Head retention is damn fine(!) and seems to be getting better as the beer ages and taste is developing well. I think the beer will be best after about 6 months of bottle conditioning. Happy with the first effort at lagering and will certainly do more in this style.
*Best served extra cold. Like most other lagers I have tasted this ones taste certainly goes south when it warms up!

How does it taste?

This brew is DAMN FINE! From the reactions of the extensive tasting panel Marathon Honey Lager has become the Viking Brewhouse flagship. Like everything about this lager, it takes time. Time to ferment, time to lager and time to condition in the bottle. But the taste…. to quote Homer Simpson… ‘It’s like a party in my mouth, and everyone’s invited!’

First is the colour - a beautiful clear deep honey amber.
Then the smell - like you just stuck your nose in a bee hive!
Taste - is slightly sweet with a depth of wonderful honey aftertaste that just lingers on the tongue and throat and conjures images of warm spring afternoons lying in grassy paddocks making animals shapes in the clouds with the buzzing of bees and birdsong underneath it all.
In the mouth - A bit over carbonated. Bubbles are large but the beer holds a nice head most of the way through drinking if it’s chilled nicely and poured into a good tall pilsner style glass. Head retension is not as good when drinking from a wide ale style glass. The Lager has a nice crisp feel that just enhances the honey that lingers on the tongue.

I’m pretty happy with how this experiment turned out (you couldn’t tell much!).
I’m also certainly no beer critic so you’ll just have to put up with my bummbling attempts describe the various brews and their characteristics.