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 correctly identify the difference between the two meads. Correct respondents also provided 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. The ideas is that given participant a head up to the treatment helps them zone in to the potential differences, while still being blind in the triangle tests. Thus, 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
  • 2 packets of 11.5g US-05 packets

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.
  • 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/ lagered 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 spring water was as follows.

OrigWater

The final water profile (excluding from nutrients, etc) was as follows:

Water1g

Basically a soft water profile.

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 compete 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 home-brew 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 marking on the bottom of one set of 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). Participants were asked their experience level with meads, how blown their palate was, and their status as judges and home/professional brewers. If participants were correct, they were asked to say which mead they preferred and provide some comments on overall impression, aroma and flavor characteristics of the meads.

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

Where the treatment is US-05. More experience with meads and less blown palates was associated with higher success in the triangle tests.

summary

Experienced home brewers did slightly better than average.

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 I didn’t give the lager yeast a fair fight by fermenting warm and not lagering for longer. That’s ok. I think that even if I managed to reduce the sulfur by more, it would of still had more than the ale yeast and still have that beer like character. I wouldn’t recommend lager yeasts if you are looking for a clean fermentation. Lager yeasts will give you that lager character if that is what you are looking for.

Peer Review 

To be added.

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