Crystal Pils

One of my current brewing goals is to try out American noble-type hops, to see how they stack up against German varieties. I theoretically should be able to get American varieties that are fresher and slightly cheaper than their German counterparts, although freshness is my main concern in the quantities I use.

For this batch, I’m making a German-style pils, with American malt and American hops. Crystal is my focus for this batch–it is often described as a substitute for Hallertauer Mittlefrueh, which made this American variety a logical choice.

Otherwise, the batch is a pretty straightforward pilsner. I upped the effort a bit with a double decoction, to improve mash efficiency as well as flavor. I also experimented with boiling the water prior to brewing to precipitate out carbonates. Finally, I made an additional water treatment of gypsum and calcium chloride. Our tap water here is a bit low in sulfate, and I also thought a bit more calcium and chloride wouldn’t hurt. I have had perpetual issues with minor haze, so it seemed worth a try. Similarly, I think that decoction may be helpful. This is all bad experimental science of course, because I’m changing way too many variable at once, but in any case I was feeling adventurous.

Crystal Pils

  • 9.5 lb. Superior Pilsen Malt (Great Western Malting)
  • 1 oz. Crystal hop pellets (3.0% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Crystal hop pellets (4.5% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Fermax yeast nutrient, 10 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
  • 2 oz. Crystal hop pellets (4.5% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. German lager yeast (WLP830), prepared in starter

Target Parameters

  • Double decoction, with 60 minute rest at 145°, 20 minute rest at 158°
  • 1.048 o.g., 1.006 f.g., 5.5% abv, 32 IBU, 3 SRM
  • Claremont tap water, boiled and cooled prior to brewing, with 2 g gypsum and 3 g CaCl added.


  • Two days prior to brewing, I brought the tap water to a rolling boil and let it cool, in an attempt to precipitate out carbonate. I carefully decanted the water prior to brewing. I added 2 g of gypsum and 3 g of CaCl to increase the overall calcium and sulfate levels.
  • Also two days in advance, I made a 1.75L starter, let it run, and cold crashed for 12 hours prior to pitching.
  • I mashed in with 4 gallons of water at 156°, to hit 145°. I added 6.25 mL of 88% lactic acid to the mash, to adjust mash pH. Because I didn’t know the exact chemistry of my water, I did a few test scenarios and found that this amount would keep me in the acceptable pH range for most possible water chemistries.
  • After 30 minutes of mash rest, I decocted 6 quarts of thick mash, raised the temperature to 160°, and let it sit for 10 minutes. I boiled for 15 minutes, and added it back to the main mash, to hit 152°. This was a bit below my intended target of 158°, so for next time I’ll want to decoct a larger volume–perhaps twice what I needed?
  • After 20 minutes, I decocted two gallons of thick mash, boiled for 10 minutes, and added it back to the main mash. This hit a temperature of 166°, so I stirred and added 1 gallon of water at 160°. This brought the mash down to 162°.
  • I let the mash sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collecte the first runnings. I added the remaining 3.6 gallons of water, and collected second runnings.
  • In total, I collected 7.1 gallons of water with a gravity of 1.040, for 81% mash efficiency.
  • I brought the kettle to a boil, boiling for 60 minutes and adding hops, nutrients, and finings per the schedule.
  • I chilled down to 85° and let the kettle sit for 4 hours. Trub settled out nicely–a long rest might be a good procedure for future beers where I care about clarity.
  • I transferred to the fermenter, chilled to 48°, oxygenated, pitched the yeast, and let the fermenter free rise to 52°.
  • I brewed the beer on 26 December 2019, and fermented at 52° for the first 11 days. The yeast threw off a ton of sulfur in the first few days of fermentation.
  • On January 6 (11 days post-brew), ambient temperature in my garage was 58°, so I moved the fermenter out of the fermentation chamber. Temperatures in the garage were between 55° and 62° for the next three weeks.
  • After 20 days at ambient, I kegged the beer on 26 January 2020. I transferred the beer semi-closed transfer into a CO2-purged keg. I conditioned at 33° for awhile, before moving it on-tap.
  • Final gravity was 1.010, down from 1.045, for 4.6% abv.


  • Appearance
    • Light yellow, clear (but not quite brilliant), with persistent, fine white head. Gorgeous! It’s a shame it’s not brilliant, but that would probably just take a bit more time and patience.
  • Aroma
    • Slightly spicy hop aroma, with a lightly sweet malt note. Very nicely balanced between the two.
  • Flavor
    • Slightly sweet, grainy malt character. Firm but not overpowering bitterness.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Moderately dry, smooth finish with a residual bitterness that pleasantly lingers. Moderate carbonation; a bit reduced because I have to do an extended pour thanks to the massive head!
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Yes! This is a delightful beer, which is a darned good approximation of the German pils style using American ingredients. I would be a bit happier if it was brilliant rather than just “vey clear,” but that’s about the only ding on this otherwise great brew. It seems that a decoction didn’t make much difference for clarity here. Even so, the thing I love about pilsners is that they are simplicity in recipe with maximum enjoyability in flavor!
  • Overall
    • 9.5/10