Part 4 of the Experimental Lagers Series
The high alcohol lagers are lagers greater than 6% ABV, these range in colour, malts and hop flavour and aroma. This family include Helles Bock, Dunkles Bock, Doppel Bock, Eisbock and even though it is not a recognised style yet, India Pale Lagers (IPL) are common.
With the high alcohol lagers, these cover the full-colour spectrum and therefore can use the widest range of malts, for the classic styles they typically use traditional German malts and typically follow the reinheitsgebot purity laws. However, we are talking about experimenting with lagers, so don’t be afraid to bend or break the rules. The same as with the lower alcohol lagers when experimenting with lagers we are using the relative simplicity of lagers to showcase an experimental feature of the beer and with the increased alcohol allows for more intense flavours to be showcased while the beer remains balanced.
Like most of the classic lager styles these also mainly use German noble hops except for the IPL which typically use American new world hops. Therefore the inclusion of new world hop varieties in lagers is increasing in popularity, and with the subtlety of lager yeasts, the hop flavour and aroma can be unadulterated by the common fruity esters produced by ale yeast.
The high alcohol lagers are similar to the lighter lager versions when it comes to spices or process experimentation but due to the higher malt and alcohol flavours these can handle more bold flavours like barrel ageing or more classicly freeze distillation to get Eisbocks.
The easiest way to start experimenting is to start with a classic recipe for a particular style and make changes from there, as per the classic saying ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’. Try to make the changes singular and small at first noting the flavour changes with each batch. This process is slower but will allow you to dial in a particular flavour profile and be able to repeat it in future.