Lager versus American Ale Yeast

In this experimead, Lager yeast, Saflager W-34/70, is compared to an American Ale yeast, Safale US-05, for its flavor and aroma contributions in a 9% ABV, still, off-dry traditional mead. Triangle tests are conducted to see if participants can identify the odd mead out. The the respondent identified the odd mead out they were also asked to provide feedback on the differences perceived in the two meads.

There are a couple articles out on the web about people making mead with lager yeast. They seemed to have success and so I wanted to put it to the test and compare it next to a clean ale yeast. US-05 is a common yeast for me and I like how it lets the honey profile shine but also has more mouthfeel and character than say WY 1388. Saflager W-34/70, is a very popular German lager yeast strain. Two one-gallon batches were brewed side by side at the same temperature and nutrients. This is obviously a caveat. Lager yeast and ale yeast brewing temps and procedure are different, but in this test I treated them the same. That’s ok. I wanted to see if I could replicate the success that others have had with beer fermenting lager yeast at ale yeast temperatures.

One thing I did differently this time is let participants know what the treatment was. When the triangle test for this experiment was conducted, I had participants do two other triangle test. This triangle test was the third test. Before any of the triangle tests were conducted, I told people that there would be a triangle test that compared ale yeast to lager yeast as well as the treatments of the two other tests. They did not know which test they were being served but knew it was one of the three. They were still blind to the meads in the triangle tests. Giving participants a head up to the treatment may help them zone in to the potential differences, while still being blind in the triangle tests. This is yet to be quantified. However, the results should be interpreted with this in mind.

Recipe: 9%, Off-dry Standard Traditional Mead, December 2018, 1 gallon

  • 1 Gallon
  • OG = 1.068
  • 1.7 lbs Golden Toba Apiary wildflower honey
  • 29 grams Dutch Gold orange blossom honey
  • 1.2 grams of medium toast American oak.
  • 0.9 grams of medium toast French oak.
  • 0.5 grams of acid blend
  • 1 gram of US-05 or 1 gram of 34-70 lager yeast

Nutrients:

  • Recommended YAN by The MeadMakr BatchBuildr for a high nutrient requirement is 206.2 YAN, medium nutrient requirement 148.5.
  • 1/3 Sugar Break: 1.046
  • 1.3g Go-ferm (40 YAN)
  • 2.9g Fermaid-O (150 YAN)
  • Total Actual YAN: 190 YAN

At pitch

  • Made an activation starter using yeast and all Go-ferm for 2 hours
  • Mixed honey and water.
  • 1 liter of distilled water and 1.5 grams of spring water (see water profile below)
  • Started at 65 f
  • Aerated by shaking 4 liter jug for 2 minutes.

Brewday

Fermentation

  • Degassed every 6-12 hours for first two weeks.
  • +12 h first nutrient addition. 65f.
  • +24 h second nutrient addition. Both at 1.066 65f
  • +48 h third nutrient addition. 34/70 at 1.062, US-05 at 1.066. Added oak. 34/70 had a strong sulfur smell, rotten eggs. US-05 smelled sweet and raw honey.
  • +72 h fourth nutrient addition.
  • +2 weeks- fermentation complete.

Secondary 

  • +1.5 months, transferred to secondary. Cold crashed at 2 degrees C for 2 weeks.
  • +2 months, took out of cold crash, Transferred to tertiary. Let sit at ~70 C.
  • +3 months, given acid blend, stabilized with 0.25 grams of k-meta and 0.6 grams of sorbate, given 29g of OB honey.

Bottling

  • +3.5 months- bottled.
  • 34/70 FG 1.008.
  • US-05 FG 1.005.

Water profile 

The calculations were completed using John Palmers water profile calculator. The mineral profile of the blended spring water and distilled water was as follows.

Waterprofile

Basically a water profile with very low minerals. The only other potential source of minerals was from the Go-ferm additions. I generally like the calcium around 100 ppm but didn’t have problems with flocculation.

Initial Tasting Notes

This was a fun mead. The US-05 mead came out really clean. No esters or phenolic were present. For the US-05, in both the nose and taste there was a citrus and floral character. The 34/70 had a slight sulfur nose and tasted like a lager. For both, the floral character was dominate, but the orange blossom honey made for a more rounded experience. They looked identical. The meads would of been more interesting carbonated.

Two meads

Triangle Tests 

Tests were evaluated when the meads were 4 months old in a controlled setting with the Kingston area homebrew club, KABOB. Three triangle tests were conducted in succession. Participants were asked to identify the odd mead out in a triangle test. As mentioned participant knew that the triangle test could have been for lager versus ale yeast. They completed this test after finishing two others.

The meads were poured 50-50 between two groups of cups that looked identical except for a sticker of a black triangle on the bottom of one set of cups. No sticker was placed on the other cup. Just over 1 oz was served in 8 oz red plastic solo cups. Randomly, half of participants were given two cups with the treatment, half were given two cups without treatment (as well as the other mead). Every participant was given the following survey sheet.

ScoreSheet

Participants were asked their experience level with meads, how blown their palate was, and their status as judges and home/professional brewers. Experience was given a value from one to five where one is first time having a mead to five being very experienced. Palate was given a value from one to five where one is having had nothing to drink yet to five being they’ve already had too much. If participants guessed the odd mead out correctly, they were asked to say which mead they preferred and provide some comments on overall difference and presence of off flavors characteristics of the meads.

cupstopfilled

There were 13 participants. The difference between the two meads was quite obvious. Out of the 13 participants, 11 were able to identify the odd mead out. A test that the results were from random guessing is rejected with a p-value of  0.0001. Of the 11 that identified the odd-mead out, 9 preferred the American Ale yeast, 2 preferred the lager yeast. A test of the preferences being equally split is rejected at a p-value of  0.033. Here is a summary of the results:

data

More experience with meads and less blown palates was correlated with higher success in the triangle tests.

summary

Homebrewers versus not being a homebrewer didn’t matter much.

details

What people described as the difference between the two meads is summarized below. Basically, no-one had an issue with the ale yeast. The lager yeast however, had sulfur on the nose. Four people described it as farts. Haha. Despite it coming in at a higher FG it was also described as dryer.

tnotes

I am surprised that 2 people preferred the lager yeast with tasting notes like this. One of the people who preferred the lager yeast said they don’t typically enjoy lagers but preferred that the lager yeast gave the mead a crisper, dryer finish.

Conclusion

I am really sensitive to sulfur smell. In the , any yeast that produced any sulfur was noted as having a beer, lager like quality. Generally these yeast were not as well liked. This is not a quality I personally find appealing in any mead. I actually felt bad for making people do this triangle test, given that some were really sensitive to the sulfur smell.

There is a possibility that if I pitched at a higher rate, aged longer, or fermented at a cooler temp I could of give the lager yeast a more fair fight. That’s ok. I wanted to keep the parameters at the baseline for a US-05 fermentation. I also wanted to see if I could get similar sucess that people have found fermenting lager yeasts at ale temps in beer. I think that even if I managed to reduce the sulfur by more, it still have that lager-crisp beer like character.

As an aside, I did do another batch at the same time of making his mead where I co-pitched all the remaining 34-70 and US-05 yeast (about 4 grams each) into a very similar mead and treated it the same. I got much less sulfer on the nose and after 6 months it was mostly gone. It also had a “crisp” character which some others who tried it really enjoyed.  This may have been due to the much higher pitch rate or the co-pitch. Either way, this experiment does not present a best practice for lagered meads. It can be done.

Peer Review (Joint review of this and High Mineral Vs Low Mineral Content)

Justin Angevaare, Statistician and homebrewer, https://onbrewing.com

I’d caution against summaries of correct vs incorrect for such a small sample size, as the palate and exp/fatigue statistics would only be coming from 2 individuals in the lager article. I’d at least recommend reporting group sizes in each figure, and maybe soften “associated with”.

In the mineral article your summary says too small a sample size – I may expand on that a bit more to be sure it isn’t taken the wrong way. A small sample size doesn’t make p-value incorrect or experiment invalid, it just makes the statistical power very low – i.e. likeliness to detect a small effect, very low. Only blatant differences would be likely to be detected statistically. I know you know all that, just trying to work through some possible wordings you could use 🤓

I don’t see an issue with even telling participants what each specific experiment is for. In some cases, participants are trained extensively on the variable of interest before doing a discrimination test. I like your idea in one of your comments to inform half your panel about a future experiment, though you’d need a pretty large sample size to pull anything out from that.

Same comment as I previously made about the sticker method. I think it’s great that images are provided of the cups from above and below for the reader. You basically rely on honesty of participants to some extent, and that’s probably safer for a smaller group like you had here.

You had the same set of people do 3 triangle tests. Did the same people tend to be correct?

Author Responce to Peer Review no. 1

Thank you Justin for your feedback. Points well taken and I have revised the article to reflect the better wording. I should do a meta analysis of participants.

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