Wednesday, April 30, 2014

American-Ingredient Pilsner Recipe

Homebrewers often talk as if brewing a lager is a completely different process than an ale. In fact, neither requires decocting, filtering, krausening, spunding, or really anything else the other does not. Producing a great lager demands extra attention to a few key areas (e.g., temperature control and yeast pitching rates) to produce the cleanest yeast profile possible, but many ale yeasts have their own quirks too. Making accommodations for a demanding yeast strain is easier if you have specialized equipment, but if you have a temperature controlled fermentation chamber, you’re most of the way there. A larger vessel for starters, and a more effective wort chiller are optional, but helpful.

Two packets of Saflager W-34/70 rehydrating.There are some brewers for whom any added effort isn’t worth the loss of ale yeast’s aromatic esters and/or phenol. More flavors doesn’t always result in more complexity though. Lager yeasts stay out of the way, allowing a fuller expression of both malts and hops. When you brew a lager lacking substantial “wort” character, you’ll end up with a quenching if bland result. However, many wonderful lagers are brewed with assertive malt and hop bills. For example, the recent wave of IPL (India Pale Lagers) from The Bruery, Jack’s Abby and other craft brewers often beat many American IPAs at their own hoppy game.

This recipe is my second batch inspired by Moonlight Brewing's Reality Czeck (I never posted the first). It's a bright Pilsner, grainy, and assertively hopped with US grown Perle. Achieving a really saturated hop aroma with classic “landrace” varieties like Czech Saaz or German Hallertau can be difficult because of their low essential oil content compared to modern varieties. Perle isn't exactly an “exciting” hop, but it's a refreshing spicy/herbal break from the usually citrusy/fruity varietals that are so popular now. I was using American hops, so I decided to stick with the theme and used American malted Pilsner malt as the base.

If your ground water isn’t colder than your target pitching temperature, you have a couple options. Sometimes I attach my immersion chiller to a submersible pump to recirculate ice water to chill the wort the last bit. An easier option is to get the wort as cold as I can and then just stick it in the fermentation chamber and pitch a few hours later. Either way the fermentation character will be much cleaner than pitching the yeast while the wort is still warm and then lowering the temperature.

This batch also served as an excuse to deploy my HopRocket (hop-back) on a batch that won't be dry hopped (with my setup/recipes dry hops tend to overwhelm the aroma gained from a hop-back). I find dry hopping with European (and related) varieties imparts grassy flavors, so hopefully the hop-back is a good alternative. The HopRocket has the side-benefit of filtering hot break, which results in clearer wort and higher yields.

Gelatin bloomed in cool water.After two weeks in the primary fermentor, tasting to ensure there was no diacetyl, I transferred the beer to a purged keg and allowed it to settle for a day at 35 F before fining with gelatin. It is important to have the beer cold before adding the gelatin to gain the maximum clarity boost. I'm not normally a clarity snob, but yeast itself can lend a flavor to a beer as delicate and crisp as a Pilsner. I used a similar process to good effect in the Urquell-inspired Czech Pils I brewed a couple years ago.

Looking forward to drinking this real American Pilsner on the porch this summer!

Reality Czeck Inspired#2

Adding boiling water to the bloomed gelatin instantly turns the solution transparent.
Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 5.50
Total Grain (Lbs): 10.25
Anticipated OG: 1.046
Anticipated SRM: 2.9
Anticipated IBU: 44.4
Brewhouse Efficiency: 67 %
Wort Boil Time: 75 Minutes

92.7% - 9.50 lbs. Briess Pilsener
4.9% - 0.50 lbs. Briess CaraPils
1.2% - 0.13 lbs. Weyermann Acidulated
1.2% - 0.13 lbs. Weyermann Melanoidin

1.00 oz. Perle (Whole, 8.25% AA) @ 45 min.
1.00 oz. Perle (Whole, 8.25% AA) @ 15 min.
2.00 oz. Perle (Whole, 8.25% AA) @ 0 min.
2.50 oz. Perle (Whole, 8.25% AA) @ Hop-Back

0.50 Whirlfloc @ 10 min.
0.50 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 10 min.

SafLager W-34/70 

Water Profile
Profile: Pilsen

Mash Schedule
Sacch Rest - 60 min 153F

Brewed 4/12/14 with the final Modern Times Kickstarter group

Half distilled and half spring water. 2 g CaCl and gypsum added to the mash and sparge water (plus 1 tsp of phosphoric acid to the sparge).

Mash pH 5.3 at room temperature.

Collected 6.5 gallons of 1.040 runnings from a batch sparge.

Added .5 gallons of spring water as volume was a bit lower than anticipated.

Put wort into fridge set to 45F to chill the rest of the way. 6 hours later rehydrated 2 packs of Saflager W-34/70 in 85 F water for 30 minutes. 75 seconds of pure O2 in the wort then pitched. Set fridge to 52F.

Up to 54F after 24 hours without activity. Finally activity around 44 hours, dropped temperature to 50F to absorb the added heat of fermentation.

Up to 55F 4 days after the first signs of activity

4/21/14 Up to 60F

4/23/14 Up to 65F for diacetyl rest.

4/27/14 Kegged, already pretty bright. Left at 35F, not hooked up to gas. 1.012 (74% AA).

4/28/14 Poured off the first pint to remove any settled yeast. Added 1/2 packet of Knox gelatin to 1/3 cup of filtered tap water. Added 2/3 cup of boiling water 10 minutes later. Mixed into the cold beer. Topped off with CO2 a few times and shook it in. Returned to the fridge to lager at 35F.

6/18/14 Tasting notes posted! It is clear-ish, but I think the beer may not have gotten down to 35F before adding the gelatin. Head is terrific. The herbal hop aroma is solid, but I don't taste a big contribution from the hop back compared to adding a similar total amount of hops (4.5 oz) at flame-out.


Gene said...

I appreciate the detail you've been going into with regards to water adjustments and pH control. Personally, I use the straight 85% phosphoric out of a glass eye dropper. What is Modern Times approach to pH control?

I too have been doing lighter lagers with misc hop styles and addition times. Tremendously drinkable beers for any season! I did a Xmas light lager with pilsner, 10% Vienna, 3% carafoam, with Polaris hops and 3gm/gal juniper berries. It went quick over the holiday break.

Have you had Straub's IPL?

ReformedBrewer said...

I really appreciate you posting this. I have been curious about lagers and everyone makes it seem like such a daunting thing. Great detail and I look forward to trying an IPL employing your methods from this post!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

When I was out in San Diego the brewers were using acid malt for mash pH adjustment. Easy to add to the grist once you figure out how much it takes.

Sounds like a delicious beer to me. I've been threatening to do a juniper version of the highly citrusy Fortunate Islands.

I haven't had Straub's IPL, worth seeking out?

Even if you can't get your fermentor all the way down, you can try fermenting with the California "Steam" Lager strain. Especially with a really hoppy beer the pristine fermentation probably isn't necessary.

Gene said...

Straub IPL? Straub beers seem to have a house yeast character/flavor across their family of beers. I dont get that so much with the IPL. It's a clean, crisper beer with a healthy but tempered bitterness. Very easy to drink. It's nice to see this type of thing come out of a 130 yr old classic German-American lager brewery.

Unknown said...

I'm intrigued by this statement: "It is important to have the beer cold before adding the gelatin to gain the maximum clarity boost." What is your evidence for this as I'd love to pass this on in a thread on HBT? Currently I gelatin and then immediately chill to 0℃ and have had very good results. Always looking for logical reasons to improve though.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

My recollection is that you want the beer to be below the temperature at which chill haze appears so that the gelatin will pull it down and out of solution. If you chill your beer after adding the gelatin, it may fall out before it has a chance to trap the maximum chill haze molecules.

If your method works for you though, I don't see a reason to change it though.

Clydesdale71 said...

How about chilling then finning in the fermenter? Then transfer carefully to the keg after a few days. I get nervous fining in the keg as ive had mixed results with extracting all the gunk.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

That is certainly an option. I'd rather add the finings after removing as much trub as I can, that way the gelatin can "focus" on the yeast cells and trub that didn't drop out on their own. Racking to a keg also allows me to purge with CO2 and avoid air-lock "suck back" issues. What some brewers do if fine/lager in one keg, then push to a serving keg. My kegs all end up with a bit of gunk at the bottom, but 95% gets sucked out in either the first and last pints. I don't move my kegs while serving and haven't had any issues.

Unknown said...

Wouldn't you want to wait until after the lagering is done to fine? I thought the point of the lagering was to let the suspended yeast do its cleanup.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

There are a couple different ways to ferment and lager... a lager. The old-school way is to slowly lower the temperature at the end of fermentation (a couple degrees per day) giving chance for the yeast to slowly finish their attenuation and diacetyl reduction before reaching cold aging. The new-school way is to warm the fermentation as it finishes, allowing the yeast to quickly complete their work. At that point you crash cool close to freezing. Even lager yeasts really aren't capable of doing anything when the temperature is that low.

Lagers clearly aren't my specialty, but the last time I did a similar method I was happy with the results.

jd said...

Hi there.
I am interested in trying this recipe but I don't have any acidulated malt and can only access to "acid blend" which is typically used in wine making.
I was pondering trying an overnight mash to increase the efficiency/dryness as per your suggestions for improvement.
Can I get away with the acid blend in the mash and mash out and how much gain in terms of dry/crisp do you surmise could be made with an overnighter?
Also, what did you find the melanoidin brought beer?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I wouldn't add any acid unless you have a pH meter to measure if you need it. No reason acid blend wouldn't work, but I don't think I've heard of anyone using it hot-side. Pure lactic or phosphoric would be more traditional choices.

An overnight mash wouldn't hurt, but lowering the temperature to 149-150F would be more effective at increasing fermentability. Beta amylase will be mostly denatured by 90 minutes anyway.

Melanoidin is supposed to replace some of the slightly deeper maltiness you'd get from a decoction mash. Given several studies suggesting that the average taster can't reliably discern whether or not a beer was decocted, melanoidin might be a more effective way. Think of it as a sort of "super" Munich malt! You can certainly leave it out, my last Pilsner was straight Pils (and acid malt).

Best of luck!