N. Jufer (I am not sure if he wants to be quoted, but I need to attribute this to him since it is a direct quote) responded to a question about lagering on the American Homebrew Association digest email I got today with an entirely different approach from what I used on the Pilsner I completed recently. I used the Noonan (based on the German) method. I think I will try this next time:
Rather than repeat rigid old school German lager practice (as in Noonan's "New Brewing Lager Beer"), I will relater to you what works for me (and works quite well judging by competition results). I drew on George Fix's similar experience as related in the Classic Beer Styles Book "Vienna-Marzen-Octoberfest". Also Palmer and Zainasheff have similar recommendations in "Brewing Classic Styles. My basic process is to pitch a big pitch of yeast on wort at 46 to 47 degrees F and let it ferment to completion at 50 degrees. Sometimes after a week to 10 days I will raise the temperature to mid-50's to finish the fermentation, but in all cases I let it ferment to completion in primary. This means, bubbling has virtually ceased and almost all the yeast has fallen and the beer is clear. This is generally fourteen to twenty eight days and is dependent on OG, fermentability of the wort, and on yeast strain, pitching rate, yeast health, and the temperature regimen used.
Being a keg brewer, At this point I rack to the finishing keg and cool it in the refrigerator at 34 degrees. George preferred to cool the primary down to 34 degrees before transferring to keg (which aids in dropping more of the yeast still in suspension. I generally don't have room in my little fridge to do this so I transfer at 50 degrees F or whatever the finishing temperature was. Then the Corny keg is put in the fridge which is set at 34 degrees. I begin force carbonation immediately which by my process usually takes about 10 to 14 days to achieve. I usually don't hook up the out side of the keg during that period. When I do I pull off the yeast from the bottom and take two ounce samples every four days to a week or so until it clears to brilliant. This usually takes two to three weeks but the beer is not at its best until around four to six weeks (bocks and baltic porters even longer).