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Cheers to Wedding Beers: Part 1, Rice Lager

Editor’s Note: This is part one of a two-part series of guest posts by my buddy Brandon O., describing the beers he made for my wedding last November. Thanks for everything, Brandon! You really helped make a special day even more special.

I first met Ben on a cold February night in 2017 at our monthly homebrew club meeting. I remember Ben brought a Thai-inspired gose and I was blown away by it, giving it my kudos for the night. (At the end of our monthly club meetings, everyone gets to select their favorite beer of the evening and give kudos to the brewer.) Even though Ben now resides in Bend and I live in Santa Fe, we remained in contact, sharing brewing ideas, beer reviews and bread photos.

When Ben asked me if I’d be down to collaborate on some beers for his wedding in Santa Fe last fall, I was honored—and jumped at the opportunity! We tossed around some ideas and ultimately settled on two beers, a rice lager and a red ale featuring Mosaic hops. Since Santa Fe sits at 7,000ft of elevation, we tweaked the recipes so they’d end up around 4.5% ABV. After all, we didn’t want people who weren’t used to the altitude to get too enthusiastic at the open bar and end up with a hangover to remember.

Instead of bottling the beers, we thought it would be easier if I brought my kegerator over and let people serve themselves directly from the tap. We moved the kegerator into place the day before the wedding, so the kegs had time to settle at serving temp overnight.

With the rice lager, we were looking for a crisp, easy drinking beer that would appeal to the Bud Light crowd but would also compliment the Vietnamese-inspired dinner menu at the wedding. Rice lagers are popular all across southeast Asia, so it was a no-brainer to pick that style. To add a little bit of a twist (Ben and I both find it hard to make a traditional beer of any style), we used Mandarina Bavaria hops to amp up the citrus notes on the palate.

What’s in it?

The Vitals

  • Category: International Pale Lager (BJCP 2A)
  • Method: All grain (batch sparged)
  • Batch size: 5 gallons
  • Mash: 3.47 gallons @ 148’F for 60 minutes
  • Sparge #1: 1.91 gallons @ 168’F for 20 minutes
  • Sparge #2: 4.24 gallons @ 168’F for 20 minutes
  • Boil: 90 minutes
  • Fermentation: 7 days at 53F; ramp to 67F over 2 days, hold for 7 days; drop to 33F over 3 days and hold for 4 days before packaging and lagering for an additional 40 days.
  • OG: 1.041
  • FG: 1.006
  • ABV: 4.8%
  • IBU: 21

The Grain

  • 6 lb Chateau Pilsen 2RS (63.2%)
  • 2 lb flaked rice (21.1%)
  • 12 oz Carapils (7.9%)
  • 8 oz Acidulated malt (5.3%)
  • 4 oz rice hulls (2.6%)

The Hops

  • 0.75 oz Perle [6.2% AA] @ 60 minutes (19.1 IBU)
  • 0.25 oz Mandarina Bavaria [9.7% AA] @ 5 minutes (2.0 IBU)
  • 0.75 oz Mandarina Bavaria [9.7% AA] @ Flameout (0 IBU)

Misc:

  • Yeast: 2 packets Fermentis Saflager W-34/70, dry
  • Water: 9.62 gallons of RO water + 5g Gypsum in mash

How’d it go?

I’ve brewed enough beers on my setup to have the system and process nailed down really well. That being said, this was my first attempt at using flaked rice in a beer, so I was a little unsure how that would affect my efficiency. This did prove to be a slight issue as I was under my pre-boil gravity (1.027 actual vs 1.031 expected).

With the beer already being lower ABV, I wanted to boost the pre-boil gravity up to the expected number. I ended up adding ¼ cup of golden light DME and ⅓ cup corn sugar to get me up to the expected gravity.

The rest of the brew day went as expected, and I ended up pretty much right on my expected OG. I chilled the wort down as low as it would go with my groundwater and then transferred it to my Big Mouth Bubbler. I used my fermentation chamber to fully chill the wort to 53F, and then pitched 2 dry packets of W-34/70 that evening.

The airlock was slowly bubbling away the next morning with full fermentation kicking up later that day. After ramping the temp up for diacetyl rest and fermentation completion, I transferred the beer to a keg, gave it head pressure, and started the drop to nearly freezing for a few days. After three days sitting at 33’F, I moved the keg to my kegerator where it sat at 40’F for a little over a month.

How’s it taste?

Appearance: Light straw colored and relatively clear without any particles in suspension. I have to admit I’m surprised it didn’t drop completely clear after such a long lagering period. It’s not hazy by any means, but it isn’t crystal clear either. The head is fluffy white but fades to a nice ring on the beer. (Note: The beer did finally clear up, as you can see in the top image—just not in time for the wedding).

Aroma: The initial aroma is that of a traditional lager, followed by some slight citrus notes.

Taste: Orange peel dominates the flavor but doesn’t linger. This is followed by a nice crisp lager profile that goes down extremely easy.

Mouthfeel: Even though the beer finished at 1.006, it still has a smooth mouthfeel. My only thought is the perceived sweetness from the hops is contributing to the mouthfeel.

Would I brew it again?

Definitely! The crisp and easy drinking nature of this beer, paired with the citrus notes from the Mandarina Bavaria hops, made this dangerously delicious. The only real changes I’d make for next time would be to add more flaked rice so I don’t have to adjust the gravity with DME and corn sugar. I’d also like to experiment with Saphir hops.

Editor’s note: Check out part two, which focuses on Brandon’s Mosaic red ale, here.

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