Dark Helmet Schwarzbier

As I continue to work my way through lager styles, I also realized that a lot of my recent brews have been fairly light (at least color-wise). This generally fits my summer drinking preferences, but I’m starting to get the itch for something with just a touch more robustness. Now, I don’t want anything too dark and filling (after all, it’s still hot here!), and I’ve been doing a lot of amber type beers recently, so schwarzbier sounded intriguing.

To sum up the BJCP 2015 style description, schwarzbier should be roasty yet also highly drinkable. That’s intriguing! I’ve maybe only sampled one or two in the very distant past (if ever), so I was a bit in the dark (no pun intended) as to how I should craft the recipe. So, I turned to the ever-reliable Brewing Classic Styles by Zainasheff and Palmer. With a few minor adjustments for ingredients, I was ready to roll. Following the lead of Gordon Strong, I elected to add all of the dark and crystal malts at vorlauf. This is supposed to impart a smoother character, and I figured it couldn’t hurt to try.

As for the name of this brew, I’m not the first to be so clever, but that didn’t deter me. The schwartz is strong with this one.

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Spent grains after the mash

Dark Helmet Schwarzbier

  • 4.5 lbs. Munich I malt (Weyermann)
  • 4.25 lbs. Château Pilsen malt (Castle Malting)
  • 6 oz. chocolate malt, added at vorlauf (Briess, 350 SRM)
  • 6 oz. crystal 40 malt, added at vorlauf (Great Western)
  • 3.5 oz. black barley malt, added at vorlauf (Briess)
  • 3.5 oz. Carafa Special II, added at vorlauf (Weyermann)
  • 1.25 oz. Liberty hop pellets (4.9% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 0.75 oz. Liberty hop pellets (4.9% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Fermax yeast nutrient, 10 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
  • 2 pkg. SafLager West European Lager yeast (S-23)
  • 1 pkg. SafLager Lager dry yeast (W34/70)

Target Parameters

  • 1.046 o.g., 1.011 f.g., 4.6% abv, 26 IBU, 28 SRM, 5.5 gallons into the fermenter
  • Water built from RO and tap water to hit target of 67 ppm Ca, 7 ppm Mg, 27 ppm Na, 30 ppm SO4, 89 ppm Cl, 126 ppm HCO3, 103 ppm alkalinity, and 51 ppm RA.
  • 60 minute mash at 152°, batch sparge, 60 minute boil

Procedure

  • For my mash water, I used 3.25 gallons of RO with 1 g table salt and 3.5 g calcium chloride. For the sparge water, I treated 5 gallons of Claremont tap water with a quarter of a Campden tablet. All together, this should hit my general brewing water parameters as outlined above.
  • I mashed in with 3.25 gallons of water at 162.6°, to hit a mash temperature of 153.5°. This was down to 150° after 35 minutes.
  • I sparged with 1.5 gallons of water at 175°, let it sit for 10 minutes, added the dark grains, vorlaufed, and collected the first runnings.
  • Then, I sparged with 3.5 gallons of water at 175°, let it sit for 10 minutes, and collected the second runnings.
  • All together, I collected 6.8 gallons of wort at a gravity of 1.039, for 72% efficiency.
  • I started the boil, and added all of the hops, etc., per the schedule in the recipe.
  • After 60 minutes, I chilled the wort to 80° and put it in the fermentation chamber to chill for a few hours, until the beer was down to 48°.
  • I pitched the two packets of S-23 into a slurry of distilled water, which did show appropriate activity. But, I also noted that they were expired by 10 months.
  • There wasn’t any real activity visible in the fermenter after around 24 hours, so I opted to pitch in some extra yeast. Luckily, I happened to have a few packets of W34/70 on-hand. Fermentation was underway visible around 48 hours after the initial pitch. Perhaps I was being overly cautious, but I figured it couldn’t hurt.
  • I am fermenting this at 50°. Starting gravity was 1.046.
  • I brewed this batch on July 3, 2017.
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