Lagers can be more interesting, quicker, and easier to brew than they are often given credit for! Every time I brew a lager I find myself drinking it faster than I realize. Kicking the keg when in my mind it is still half full. The cleanliness of lagers showcases malts, hops, and other ingredients better than characterful ale yeasts are able. Balanced, versatile, and hard to find from craft breweries!
One of the first commercial lagers I really loved was Sprecher Black Bavarian. It is marketed as a "Kulmbacher style lager" (AKA schwarzbier), but because it was formulated in the early 1990s it is brewed with inauthentic dark malts (chocolate and black patent). The result is a dark lager that is halfway to English porter. Like cold-brewed coffee: smooth, roasty, moderate bitterness, and no astringency.
In the January/February 2013 issue of Brew Your Own Nathan Zeender and I wrote Dark Lagers: The New Possibility. In addition to Baltic porter and weizen tripelbock, we covered tmavé pivo (Czech for "dark beer"). It is sometimes called černé (black). Our friend and DC beer-historian extraordinaire Mike Stein had returned from Prague with actual examples of the style (most were a bit bland/sweet) to share. We also got context from Czech-located beer writer Evan Rail, and Nathan brewed one with Jason Oliver at Devil’s Backbone – Morana. I never got around to brewing one for myself though!
Earlier this year, I bumped into a recipe courtesy of Horst Dornbusch for Flekovský ležák 13° the hallmark example brewed by U Fleku (founded in 1499, the oldest still operating brewpub in the world). It has since been deleted from the Brewer’s Associations website, but is preserved in this BeerAdvocate thread. However, the ensuing discussion only served to catalyze confusion about the accuracy of the recipe, especially the roasted malt.
So I started digging: 2015 BJCP Guidelines for Czech Dark Lager, Stan Hieronymus’s For the Love of Hops has a recipe from Evan Rail, Gordon Strong's Modern Homebrew Recipes, and of course rereading our BYO article. The result was that I came to assume the U Fleku recipe likely should call for Carafa Special II (in place of the Carafa II), but I wanted to err on the roasty end, so I only replaced 1/3. The 13% CaraMunich seemed high, but I occasionally brew recipes that I wouldn’t write to help break me out of routine. I had originally intended to use Munich as prescribed, but an order SNAFU resulted in a free sack of Weyermann Floor Malted Bohemian Dark… similar SRM and "well suited for classic Czech Dunkel lagers," so why not?
I employed the Brulosophy Quick Lagering method for the first time for this batch. Results were good, but the WLP800 was in no mood to be rushed even finishing with a week sitting at 65F. The batch was about twice the size stated below, with most of the first runnings going to a similar “special” higher gravity Baltic porter-esque version at 7% ABV. Sadly I also learned that two 30L Speidel fermentors won’t fit in my fermentation fridge together, so the Czech-tic porter fermented at ambient-fall-basement temperature.
Coincidentally I was at the Rockville, MD Gordon Biersch brewing a collaborative wine-barrel-aged Flemish Red last week and brewmaster Christian Layke happened to have his Tmavé Pivo on. Much closer to the original style (without being bland): less roasty, a few shades lighter, and slightly less sweet allowing the hops to be more present. More on our beer another time!
Tmavé Pivo: U Fleku Style
Appearance – Dark brown, but with clear red highlights. The dense off-white head exhibits tremendous retention. Good lacing. The body is a few shades darker than I hoped for, would be nice to see highlights without holding it up to a lamp.
Smell – Hints of coffee, bready malt, and some dark fruit. Really intense maltiness for the style. "Spicy" Saaz hop aroma doesn’t come through. Clean fermentation, glad the quick lagering method worked!
Taste – Smooth French-roast coffee, and caramel cookies. Clean fermentation, but the malt obscures most of the other characters. Light bitterness, enough to balance the sweetness. Fermentation is clean again in the flavor, although I'm not sure how much I'd notice if it was a little fruity.
Mouthfeel – Full, rounded, and well carbonated. Smooth.
Drinkability & Notes – It’s a good beer, but a true Tmavé Pivo it is not. Richer, roastier, and fuller than classic examples of the style. Turns out my instincts were right on the recipe. To get closer to the real deal, I’d back down the CaraMunich to 7-8% and go all Carafa Special II at 5%. I need to buy a bottle of Black Bavarian to remind myself of how close I ended up!
Tmavé Pivo U: Fleku Style
Batch Size (Gal): 6.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 11.57
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75 %
Wort Boil Time: 70 Minutes
51.9% - 6.00 lbs. Weyermann Floor Malted Bohemian Pilsner
29.6% - 3.43 lbs. Weyermann Floor Malted Bohemian Dark
13.0% - 1.50 lbs. Weyermann CaraMunich II
3.7% - 0.43 lbs. Weyermann Carafa II
1.9% - 0.21 lbs. Weyermann Carafa Special II
1.13 oz. Sterling (Pellet, 7.50% AA) @ First Wort
1.00 oz. Czech Saaz (Pellet, 3.50% AA) @ 5 min.
0.50 Whirlfloc @ 5 min
0.50 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 5 min
White Labs WLP800 Pilsner Lager
Profile: Washington, DC
Protein Rest - 15 min @ 126F
Sacch I - 30 min @ 145F (direct)
Sacch II - 20 min @ 158F (direct)
Two stage starter made a week in advance (1.25 L to 3.5 L). Second stage was mini-mash of Bohemian Dark. Crashed in fridge prior to brew day.
5 g CaCl added to the filtered DC tap water for the mash. Started with only the two Bohemian grains (no CaraMunich or Carafa). Added specialty malts as I heated to the second Sacch rest to ensure conversion, but reduce intensity/astringency.
Collected 8 gallons with a 5 gallon cold sparge at 1.042 for the Tmavé.
Added 1.125 oz of 8% AA Sterling adjusted down shortly before the start of the boil. 1/2 tsp Wyeast nutrient, 1 whirlfloc. OG 1.053. Chilled to 51F, shook to aerate, pitched 1/2 starter. Left at 48F to ferment.
10/29/15 To 1.033 (38% AA), upped to 52F.
10/31/15 AM, started ramping up 5F every 12 hours. Topped out at 65F.
11/3/15 Gravity at 1.019 (64% AA). Still a few more points to go. Remnants of the krausen remain. Would be nice to see 1.016!
11/6/15 Still a little krausen, but I got my wish, 1.016 (64% AA, 4.9% ABV). CaraMunich caramel shines, no diacetyl, ready for kegging and lagering tomorrow.
11/7/15 Into a flushed keg and into the fridge at 60F for the slow ramp-down (5F every 12 hours). Looked pretty yeasty and there was a dense persistent krausen. 1 extra liter into a growler with 1.25 tsp of sugar.
in evan rails book he gives the history and recipe for perhaps the most famous pivo.a really great (and cheap, its a short read) book.ReplyDelete
I'll have to check that one out, I've very much enjoyed his writing!ReplyDelete
I was looking just last week for a good czech brown recipe! Thanks!ReplyDelete
I was wondering about the mash: why is the protein rest necessary? Seems like you are using well-modified grains... or am I wrong about that? I'm not sure I can pull that off in my cooler mash tun using just infusions.
The Floor Malted BoPils is usually right above the line where you can do a single infusion (Kolbach index = 38). I decided to add the short protein rest and it seems to have paid off (good head retention and clarity). You could certainly skip it if desired, I did for the Pilsner that I have lagering now!ReplyDelete
A few years back, I was lucky enough to get a tour at U Fleků, and had a chance to sit and talk with the brewmaster (Ivan Chramasil). I have a photo from the brewhouse showing that they use Caramunich II and Caramunich III, as well as Munich I, all from Weyermann (the picture is of empty grain sacks next to the mill), as part of the grist.ReplyDelete
To my taste Flekovské pivo has always seemed a bit underattenuated and sweet, almost worty. The caramel character definitely makes itself known.
I don't know that I'd hold it up as a typical example of černé/tmavé pivo, but it's definitely a recognizable beer.
Thanks for the info, Mike. I first visited U Flecku in the heady days of late October, 1989, about two weeks before the fall of the wall. I was living in West Berlin, doing a post-doc at the time. I was working with a Czech professor who had been living in exile since 1969, and when he learned that I was going to visit Prague, he told me about U Flecku and how to find it. I asked if he thought it was still there, and he had a good laugh. "It's been there since the 16th century, yes, it's still there!" (SIlly American!) The sense that something really big was afoot permeated our visit to East Germany and Czechoslovakia. Good memories!ReplyDelete
I finally made it too Modern Times today. My wife and I really enjoyed the Modern Times beers.ReplyDelete
The problem with these newly recognized Czech styles is I don't know how to pronounce them.ReplyDelete
How it is written as far as I'm aware: t-ma-veh.ReplyDelete
Did you ever brew it again with increase of the carafe malt to 5% ?ReplyDelete
Haven't rebrewed this one. I've got another dark lager on the schedule, but it'll be a completely different beer! If you give it a shot, make sure to let me know how it goes!ReplyDelete
Hi Mike! Just wanted to thank you for the recipe! I made this a few months ago and it's just awesome! I used the Munich instead of bohemian dark and also did a double decotion mash! It seems very similar to the u fleku version but difficult to tell without a pint of it in front of me! Really malty, but very clean and refreshing! The flavours also change a lot as it warms up! Beautiful!ReplyDelete
Hi Mike, tweaking your recipe but basing everything around it and taking on board your suggested changes along with Mark Hammonds excellent post. Will add the Carafa II and III in the sparge however as I made a similar style and the roast flavours came through rather than just the colour.ReplyDelete
GlentoranMark from the same forum as you Crawford (at least I assume that's you!) who put me onto the recipe. U Fleku is the sole reason I've got into brewing.
Best of luck, and please report back on your results!ReplyDelete
Hi Mike! I would like to try this recipe with your suggested changes. Quick question, when you say "I’d back down the CaraMunich to 7-8% and go all Carafa Special II at 5%", what would the new grain bill be? I can't get the math to add up to 100% with these changes.ReplyDelete
Thanks in advance - I promise to report back on my results.
Whenever I talk about tweaks to specialty malts, I just assume the remainder will be added or subtracted from the base malt. In this case something like:ReplyDelete
58% - Weyermann Floor Malted Bohemian Pilsner
30% - Weyermann Floor Malted Bohemian Dark
7% - Weyermann CaraMunich II
5% - Weyermann Carafa Special II
Looking forward to your results, best of luck!
The beer turned out great! However the taste is much sweeter than the U Fleku I remember. The only thing that may have contributed was that I held the specialty grains until the Sacch II rest, which ended up mashing low at 148 degrees. Oops.ReplyDelete
OG ended up at 1.060 due to less water than projected after boil (target 1.053). FG was 1.010. Pitched WLP800 at 50 degrees, fermented at 52F 10 days, diacetyl rest 3 days at 65, and then lagered at 35 for 8 weeks. Kegged & gelatin for clarity - Color is black but I can still see light through the pint glass.
Other than the sweetness, this is a great beer and one than I plan to do again (with correct mash temperature!). I do feel that this recipe is not quite an U Fleku clone yet, but it's definitely in the ballpark.
Just poured my first glass of this last night after lagering for two months. It's delicious! Had a slightly higher OG due to my grain crush for BIAB, but it finished right around expected. I used your notes to adjust the grains to be more like the real thing like you mentioned. Have never had this style of beer before, so not sure how it compares to the real deal, but it's mighty tasty to me and will go into my brew again rotation! Thanks for posting the recipe Mike!ReplyDelete
Whats the water profile for such a beer. Definitely needs CaCO3 for such a large amount of dark and crystal malts?ReplyDelete
My municipal water has about 100 ppm carbonate, seemed like a reasonable amount. Could go higher if desired if your mash pH drops too low. Otherwise, a decent amount of chloride would help to round out the flavor.ReplyDelete
Tried this recipie and after 8 weeks am tasting the results. Used the "adjusted" recipie from 10/2017. Did the "tiered" mashing, primary for 2 weeks, 6 weeks secondary, put in brite tank and carbonated 1 week. Color is beautiful, brown with clear red highlights as advertised! Taste is smooth with coffee notes and some sweetness. Not much head retention, however, but drinks very well. I have no idea what the original tastes like but it was a great experiment!ReplyDelete