Despite their sometimes bland reputation, pale lagers have a surprising breadth of variation. One type I’ve not yet explored is the Dortmunder Export, lumped into the German Helles Exportbier category under the BJCP 2015 guidelines. As described there, it’s a style that packs a fair bit of malt character (especially for a pale lager) and noticeable but not overwhelming hopping, against a relatively mineralized water profile. The latter aspect was particularly appealing for me, given the nature of our local tap water. Let’s just say I’m not going to be making a Bohemian pilsner straight out of the water faucet, but with a bit of tweaking I can get right into the appropriate water zone for a Dortmunder Export.
I did a fair bit of research for this brew, checking out the recipes available already (including this nice article) and trying to approximate something of my own. Compared with other lagers, there are surprisingly few example recipes. My first recipe draft was about 90% pilsner malt and 10% Vienna. After posting this to the Homebrewers Association Forum, common feedback was that some Munich would also be in character and even desirable. So, I adjusted the recipe to include approximately 70% pilsner, 15% Vienna, and 15% light Munich malt. In practice, my percentages were slightly off of this just because I was using up some of my malt stock (for instance, I had 2 ounces of extra Vienna malt, and it seemed silly to leave that behind). I also had a blend of two pilsner malts, because I used up one bag and opened another. Finally, I chose Magnum as the backbone for my bittering, with Mt. Hood as the flavor/aroma addition.
For this recipe, I decided to use my new Lamott water testing kit and some chemistry to adjust my tap water prior to the mash. My goal was to use acid to neutralize much of the carbonate load, and then adjust from there. Excluding the carbonate, my water is actually pretty good most of the time, and can be built up for many styles. It just takes some time and careful adjustment.
The name for this references a supposed archaic Latin name for the city of Dortmund. It sounded cool, so it stuck.
- 4 lb. 5 oz. Superior Pilsen Malt (Great Western)
- 4 lb. Pilsner Malt (Weyermann)
- 1 lb. 10 oz. Vienna Malt (Great Western)
- 1 lb. 8 oz. Munich I Malt (Weyermann)
- 0.5 oz. Magnum hop pellets (13.2% alpha), 60 minute boil
- 0.5 oz. Mt. Hood hop pellets (4.6% alpha), 10 minute boil
- 0.5 oz. Mt. Hood hop pellets (4.6% alpha), 5 minute boil
- 1 tsp. Fermax yeast nutrient, 10 minute boil
- 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
- 2 pkg. Saflager W34/70 dry yeast
- 1.052 o.g., 1.012 f.g., 5.3% abv, 27 IBU, 5 SRM
- Infusion mash, 152° for 60 minutes, batch sparge
- Claremont tap water adjusted with lactic acid and mineral additions, to achieve calculated water profile of 64 Ca, 8 Mg, 26 Na, 97 SO4, 91 Cl, 24 HCO3. RA=-31 ppm, alkalinity=20 ppm, effective hardness 51 ppm.
- The night before brewing, I started the water adjustment process. With 9 gallons of Claremont tap water, I added 7.5 mL of 88% lactic acid to bring down the alkalinity. I stirred the hot tap water sporadically over a 4 hour period, to let the CO2 get kicked out. This amount of lactic acid should be well below the flavor threshold. I tested the water chemistry after this, and confirmed that much of the bicarbonate was dropped out. To this water, I then added 2 g gypsum, 2 g epsom salt, and 0.8 g calcium chloride, along with half a Campden tablet (for chloramine removal), to hit the water properties listed above.
- I mashed in with 4 gallons of water at 163°, to hit a mash temperature of 152.5°. I added 2.5 mL of 88% lactic acid to drop the pH slightly. The mash had dropped to 149.5° after 25 minutes.
- After 60 minutes, I added 1.3 gallons of water at ~185°, let it sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected first runnings.
- Next, I added 3.75 gallons of water at ~185°, let it sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the remainder of the runnings.
- In total, I collected 7.5 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.044, for 78% efficiency. I’m happy with that!
- I boiled the wort for 60 minutes, adding hops and finings per the recipe above.
- Once the boil was done, I chilled down to 52°, and sprinkled the dry yeast directly into the wort. I did not oxygenate this batch, beyond simple aeration when going into the kettle.
- I brewed the beer on 16 May 2020, reaching a starting gravity of 1.050. Final gravity was 1.013, for 4.9% abv.
- I kegged the beer into a CO2-purged keg on 6 June 2020. After a few days of carbonation at 33°, I added 0.75 tsp. of gelatin dissolved and pasteurized in 1/2 cup of water on 12 June 2020, in order to speed up the clarification processs. I noticed nice clarity within 48 hours, and nearly brilliant clarity within a week. Thank you, gelatin! I realize I risked adding some oxygen at this point, but want to see if there are any noticeable effects as I finish the keg.
- It has the color of burnished gold and is wonderfully clear, with a persistent and creamy white head that leaves slight lacing on the side of the glass.
- Moderate bready and slightly sweet malt aroma, with a hint of hop spice against that; very clean yeast character
- Moderately bitter, with a grainy/bready malt character that finishes with just a hint of malty sweetness and lingering bitterness; really nice!
- Medium body, medium carbonation, very slightly dry on the finish but not overly so
- Would I brew this again?
- Absolutely! I really love this recipe, and love this style as a result. It’s a nice notch up from pilsner in terms of maltiness, without getting too heavy or too high in alcohol. I find the beer to drink really easily, too…maybe too easily. I see this as a recipe that I can play around with hop varieties and malt brands, but I really see no reason to make any substantial adjustments. The Pilsner/Vienna/Munich balance is pretty much spot-on!