Monday, October 23, 2023

Brewday & Tasting Notes: Inverted Fest (Marzen)

 A couple years ago I brewed a version of this award-winning recipe from Ian Anderson of the Boston Worts. I'll be damned if that was not one of the best beers I have ever made!

Now, I did to make a few adjustments based on the ingredients I had on hand. 

No Fest 2020

Batch Size (fermenter): 5.25 gal   
Bottling Volume: 5.00 gal
Estimated OG: 1.056 SG
Estimated Color: 4.7 SRM
Estimated IBU: 16.7 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 76.7 %

9 lbs 11.9 oz    Pilsner Malt (Muntons) (1.9 SRM)  85.0 %            
1 lbs 2.3 oz     Munich Malt (Muntons) (8.1 SRM)  10.0 %            
9.2 oz           Cara Malt 10 (5L) (Muntons) (5.1 SRM)   5.0 %              
1.50 oz         Hallertauer Mittelfrueh [2.80 %] - Boil 60.0 min        14.3 IBUs               
0.50 oz          Hallertauer Mittelfrueh [2.80 %] - Boil 15.0 min          .4 IBUs           
1.0 pkg          Octoberfest Lager Blend (Wyeast Labs #2633)          10         

Tasting Notes from my brew log: Might be the best lager I've ever made. The consensus is that my beer is better than Notch's Festbier.  Definitely more malt forward and less hoppy than Weinstephan Festbier. 

Overall super smooth, touch of sweetness, enough hop character to finish clean. If anything it could have used a little more body and breadyness. That could be corrected with better yield in brewhouse. 

I replaced the 20% Vienna Malt with 10% Munich Malt because that's what I had. The 5L Caramalt really gave the beer a subtle sweetness that I think put it over the top. 

One thing I love to do is play around with grists. To take the percentages and change the ingredients. In the Festbier Malt A was 85%, Malt B 10%, and Malt C was 5%. I wondered what would happen if Malt A was Munich instead of Pilsner Malt, Malt B was Pilsner instead of Munich, and Malt C was a different Caramel or Crystal Malt. This beer, I put that theory to the test!

I also trialed a new yeast in this batch: LalBrew NovaLager. Essentially NovaLager is a hybrid yeast that is designed to ferment and condition as quickly as an ale yeast, while producing clean lagers. The team at Pro Brew Supply was talking about this yeast. I pointed out that a lager yeast that can ferment and condition faster should be appealing to smaller brewers. The longer a lager beer well... lagers, that beer is tying up space in a tank. Space that could be used to turn over another batch. 

Lallemand also recommends the same pitching rate for NovaLager as they do Nottingham, which means brewers can pitch less yeast than they would with a standard lager strain.  

Brewday went really well. My mash efficiency was as high as it has ever been. I almost think my scale didn't tare correctly when I was weighing my grain. My OG was 1.062.

In Lallemand's internal testing the NovaLager fully finished fermenting in six days at 12C/54F. I put that to the test by placing the wort into a fermentation chamber, setting the temp to 54F, then pitching the yeast. At six days I checked the gravity. It hadn't quite fully fermented out, gravity was around 1.022. Given the relatively high gravity of my wort, I am not going to completely knock or refute Lallemand's results.

As much as anything I wanted to test how quickly NovaLager could turn around a batch. I set the temperature controller to 68F, while unplugging the heater inside the chamber. The idea was to slowly let the beer free rise to room temperature as fermentation wrapped up. The NovaLager fermented all the way down to 1.012; attenuation of almost 80%.

L to R: Ayinger Fest-Marzen, Berkshire Brewing Life on Marzen, homebrew.

Once my beer was kegged, I did a side-by-side with two commercial examples. One was an authentic German version: Ayinger Fest-Marzen, and the other one of my favorite local craft examples: Berkshire Brewing Company's Life on Marzen.


Ayinger: light butterscotch and toast

BBC: straw and graham cracker

Homebrew: stonefruit 


Ayinger: light copper, brilliant, good foamy white head with good retention 

BBC similar to Ayinger with thicker head

Homebrew: dark copper, quite hazy, thin head that fades quickly 


Ayinger: lightly toasted wheat bread, hint of butterscotch- not diacetyl, no accompanying sweetness, hop bitterness sufficient to balance, super drinkable. Low floral hop flavor. Overall rich but super clean and crushable. 

BBC More assertively sweet and toasty than A.  A bit more lingering hop bitterness and hop flavor as well. It’s like A, but with everything turned up a notch or two. Still finished clean enough to be drinkable. 

Homebrew: Lots of brown bread, some honey, some berry. 


Ayinger: medium-full body, medium carb, finish fairly crisp

BBC full bodied, more syrupy and finishes sweeter than Ayinger

Homebrew: Med body, med low carb, more hop bitterness dries out finish. Hint of alc warmth 


Of the three A is the most refined, B has a similar overall balance but is bolder across the board, C is fine but isn’t as crisp and complex as the other two. 

I can attribute the clarity problems in my beer to chill haze caused by using an immersion chiller with warm August water, not racking off the yeast, no finings in secondary or the keg, and trub getting in the keg due to low final volume. 

The commercial examples are more toasty, like Vienna Malt. My high ratio of Munich malt is probably a hinderance here. Something like 85% Vienna, 15% Munich, 5% Caramel/Crystal probably would’ve been better. 

I'd also use a less attenuating yeast. If using NovaLager again in a malty style, I’m mashing at 158F and/or going heavy on dextrin-type malts. 

Around three weeks after that first side-by-side, I did a second side-by-side with one of my gateway craft beers Samuel Adams Octoberfest. My first impression was that the Sam Adams more than held it's own with the Ayinger and Berkshire. 

The homebrew felt like it benefitted from the additional time in the keg. It was slightly less hazy and definitely less boozy. Samuel Adams Octoberfest was fuller-bodied, with a more toasty malt flavor and some melanoidins. The homebrew was less complex, with a malt flavor that was bready with a hint of fruit. More hop bitterness came through the leaner body. 

In all this beer is okay. I could see this scoring in the high twenties in a BJCP competition. I've identified process changes I would make if using the NovaLager yeast again, and recipe changes next time I brew this style. 

NovLager is designed to allow lagers to ferment and condition more quickly. I'd say it did that here. At two weeks grain-to-glass the beer was good, if not quite at it's peak. That was me pushing the limits of how quickly this strain could turn around a lager. At four to five weeks, the beer was noticeably smoother and more crisp. That is still less time than a traditional cold lager fermentation and extended lagering time. It is also possible that at an SG lower than 1.060 would smooth out a little more quickly.

For the recipe, next time I am going to use dramatically less Munich Malt. The commercial versions were all more toasty, which screams Vienna Malt to me. A lighter Caramel or Crystal Malt would also be a better choice. 

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Recipe: Inverted Fest
Brewer: Jason Chalifour
Style: Märzen
TYPE: All Grain

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 6.18 gal
Post Boil Volume: 5.68 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.25 gal   
Bottling Volume: 5.00 gal
Estimated OG: 1.059 SG
Estimated Color: 12.1 SRM
Estimated IBU: 20.6 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 80.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 83.0 %
Boil Time: 45 Minutes

Amt              Name                                             Type          #          %/IBU         Volume        
8.39 gal         Amber Full (7-17 SRM)                            Water         1          -             -             
1.89 g           Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate) (Mash)                  Water Agent   2          -             -             
0.75 g           Baking Soda (Mash)                               Water Agent   3          -             -             
0.50 tsp         Lactic Acid (Mash)                               Water Agent   4          -             -             
9 lbs 4.0 oz     Munich Malt (Muntons) (8.1 SRM)                  Grain         5          86.0 %        0.72 gal      
1 lbs            Pilsner Malt (Muntons) (1.9 SRM)                 Grain         6          9.3 %         0.08 gal      
8.0 oz           Crystal 150 (60L) (Muntons) (76.1 SRM)           Grain         7          4.7 %         0.04 gal      
0.50 tsp         Lactic Acid (Sparge)                             Water Agent   8          -             -             
0.60 oz          Hallertauer Mittelfrueh [4.80 %] - Boil 60.0 min Hop           9          9.9 IBUs      -             
0.20 oz          Cluster [7.80 %] - Boil 60.0 min                 Hop           10         5.3 IBUs      -             
0.50 oz          Hallertauer Mittelfrueh [4.80 %] - Boil 15.0 min Hop           11         5.4 IBUs      -             
1.0 pkg          Lalbrew Novalager (Lallemand #)                  Yeast         12         -             -             

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Full Body, No Mash Out
Total Grain Weight: 10 lbs 12.0 oz
Name              Description                             Step Temperat Step Time     
Mash In           Add 3.46 gal of water at 167.9 F        156.0 F       45 min        

Sparge: Fly sparge with 4.11 gal water at 168.0 F
Short on Hallertau, supplemented with Cluster for 60 min addition.

During sparge grain bed kept channeling, increased wparge water flow, ended up with 2"-3" of water above grain bed.

Took reading Day 6 (thought it was Day 8), 1.024, beer still hazy and green. Put back in ferm chamber, set temp to 68F (no heat, let free rise to ambient temp inside fridge)

Kegged on 9/18, tasted done if slightly alcoholic

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