Unlocking the Secrets of Brewing Crispy Lagers

Lagers, with their crisp and refreshing characteristics, hold a special place in the hearts of beer enthusiasts worldwide. Yet, mastering the art of brewing lagers requires a deep understanding of the nuances within different styles and a commitment to meticulous brewing techniques. Today, we embark on a journey to unravel the secrets behind crafting the perfect crispy lager.

Understanding Lager Diversity

Not all lagers are created equal. Different lagers, just like different ales, require different tools, techniques and methods in order to execute properly. Mind you, this isn't a official designation, but we like to think of lagers as two main groups: North American and Continental.

North American lagers, including NA Light Lager, Premium Lager, and Mexican Lager, are characterized by their minimal ester profiles, and dry finishes. On the other hand, "Continental" lagers, such as Munich Helles, Czech Pilsner, and Dunkel, offer rich malt-driven tones, and moderate ester profiles.

We categorize these as such due to the flavour profiles of the beer, which ultimate require a certain methodology to achieve. Isn't a perfect system, but it works for us for the purpose of this deep dive!

Key Brewing Principles

Regardless of the style, several key principles remain constant when brewing crispy lagers:

Yeast Nutrients: Ensuring proper nutrition for yeast cells is crucial to avoid off-flavours. Acetaldehyde, sulphur, fusels, and diacetyl are common off-flavours that can be mitigated with the right nutrients.

  • Why should you care? Good yeast nutrients are important. Off flavours occur because the cells don't have proper nutrition - just like you, when not properly fed things don't work well!
Extended Boil: Boiling the wort for 90 minutes helps eliminate DMS compounds, ensuring a cleaner end product.
  • Why should you care? DMS is organic sulfur compound that is a by-product of the malting/mashing process, where the precursvor S-Methylmethionine (SMM) is extracted from grains. When grains are kilned during the malting process, SMM will be broken down into DMS which leads to this off flavour. Since pilsner malt is lightly kilned, then more remain in the grain.
pH Adjustment: Monitoring and adjusting pH levels during brewing can enhance the brightness and cleanliness of the beer.
  • Why should you care? If it tastes flabby or dull, it is likely because the starting pH is too high. Lower pH means bright, light and clean beers. Aim for 5.2-5.4 pH for light beers, 5.4-5.6 for darker lagers (higher pH = more body). Your target for the finished pH should be below 4.5.

Abundant Yeast Pitching

Pitching a sufficient amount of yeast promotes a clean and healthy fermentation process.

  • Why should you consider this? We think it is important to add more yeast for lager strains to ferment as intended. More yeast = cleaner, faster, healthier fermentations. However — too much yeast can mean too little yeast growth, which can mean more off flavours. So, it's a delicate balance. 

 Cold Fermentation and Conditioning: Fermenting and conditioning lagers at colder temperatures slow down flavour production and allow for a smoother finish.

  • Why should you care about cold conditioning? There are 3 things that Lagering can help to achieve: adjust carbonation (especially in secondary fermentation), development in filterable chill haze, final flavour development. Lagering is traditionally started at 5C and allowed to slowly decrease to 0c. Beer will stay at 0C for a few weeks to months until desired traits are achieved.


Making Different Types of Lagers

The approach to brewing lagers varies depending on the desired style. For North American lagers, a focus on minimal ester profiles and dry finishes is paramount. In contrast, Continental lagers require attention to rich malt flavours and moderate ester profiles.

Another key distinction is that North American lagers are fermented warmer which produce more issues, BUT they then warm conditions which allows for maximum re-uptake. Continental mainly focuses on preventing the creation in the first place.

We take a deep dive of this in session #6 of our Efficiency & Flavour Toolkit webinar series, How to Brew Crispy Lagerswhich we encourage you to watch!


Common Questions Addressed

Decoction mashing, extended boils (past 90 mins), and multiple rests are often debated topics among brewers. While they can contribute to flavour development and fermentability, they may not be necessary for every brewer or style.

If you're looking to learn more about these common questions, we'll be diving into these in a future blog! Or if you're super keen, click the photo below for the How to Brew Crispy Lagers webinar that we mentioned above.


Brewing crispy lagers is both an art and a science. By mastering key brewing principles and understanding the nuances of different styles, you can unlock the secrets to crafting exceptional lagers. So, whether you're brewing a classic North American lager or exploring the depths of Continental styles, remember to embrace experimentation, attention to detail, and a passion for great beer.

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