I keep coming back to the kölsch style, iterating through various grain bills and yeast choices. My past attempts (here [with process notes], here, and here) have been pretty good, but not quite on the mark of what I’m looking for.
My recipes have evolved considerably over three attempts. The first version (Vitamin K Kölsch Clone), brewed way back in 2015, was a fairly typical American brewpub version, with a measure of wheat malt. My next version, Kölsch Simple, used a Kolsch base malt from Schill Malting, but ended up a bit darker and maltier than typical for the style. My most recent attempt, Kölschy Kölsch, was closer to the mark but still a bit stronger on the malt character than I wanted.
So here we are at kölsch attempt number four! I wanted something quite drinkable, with an abv on the lower end of things, and a simple malt character. Kölsch Minimus is the result! My recipe philosophy was to go with a majority (95%) pilsner malt, and then a touch of Munich I (5%) to add a teeny bit of character. Hops were all American equivalents of German hops, and I used a dry yeast (K-97) for fermentation.
- 9.5 lb. pilsner malt (Weyermann)
- 0.5 lb. Munich I malt (Weyermann)
- 0.8 oz. Sterling hop pellets (7.4% alpha), 60 minute boil
- 1 tsp. Fermax, 10 minute boil
- 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
- 0.2 oz. Sterling hop pellets (7.4% alpha), 5 minute boil
- 1 pkg. SafAle German Ale yeast (K-97)
- 60 minute infusion mash, 152°, batch sparge
- 1.046 o.g., 1.012 f.g., 4.5% abv, 21 IBU, 3 SRM
- Claremont tap water adjusted to hit hit 52 ppm Ca, 2 ppm Mg, 26 ppm Na, 40 ppm SO4, 94 ppm Cl, 24 ppm HCO3, -19 ppm RA, 20 ppm alkalinity
- The night before brewing, I prepared my water by adding 7.5 mL 88% lactic acid and 1/2 Campden tablet to 9 gallons of tap water. The lactic acid knocked out the carbonates, to bring the hardness of the water down.
- I mashed in with 3.5 gallons of water at 163°, to hit a mash temperature of 152°. After 60 minutes, I added 1.5 gallons of water at 185°, let sit 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the first runnings. I then added another 3.75 gallons of water at 185°, let sit 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the second runnings.
- In total, I collected 7.2 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.041, for 77% mash efficiency.
- I boiled the wort for 60 minutes, adding hops and finings per the recipe.
- After the boil, I chilled the wort down to 74°, transferred it to the fermenter, pitched the yeast, and chilled the beer the rest of the way down to 64° in the fermentation chamber.
- I brewed the beer on 7 June 2020, with a starting gravity of 1.048.
- I kept fermentation temperature at 64° for six days (until 13 June 2020), when I moved the fermenter to ambient in order to make room for another beer in the fermentation chamber. By this point, bubbling through the airlock had largely ceased.
- I kegged the beer on 22 June 2020, transferring into a CO2-purged keg. The fermenter had a slight whiff of sulfur when opened; it wasn’t overpowering, and was subtle enough to be pleasant against my taste of the uncarbonated beer.
- Final gravity was 1.009, for 5.1% abv.
- Subtle malt aroma with a slightly grainy character; I don’t pick up any fruitiness from the yeast, but there is a very subtle sulfury character that is quite pleasant against the malt. No noticeable hop aroma.
- Pale gold, slight haze; white head that thins out shortly after pouring but is reasonably persistent
- Soft, highly drinkable beer, with a pleasantly understated grainy/sweet malt character. Bitterness is moderate against the malt, and quite smooth. Hop flavor is low, with a spicy quality (as expected with these hops). I get very little in the way of yeast character.
- Medium-light body, moderate carbonation, crisp finish.
- Would I brew this again?
- This is probably the best kölsch-style ale I have brewed to date. The malt character is exactly where I want it, and the hops are pretty much perfect too. I’m pleased with how the yeast performed here. The only minor flaw is in the clarity of the beer–I am simply too lazy to fine this batch, and I was a bit worried about oxidation if I opened up the keg. I suspect it will clarify a little more with extended time in the keg, although this is likely at the risk of flavor degradation.
You need time and cold to clear the beer… I use the same yeast, and takes like 2 months to clear. Its a style that need to be lagered.
Absolutely agreed! When possible, I’ve begun to plan my brewing a bit more so that things get a bit more time to lager, too.
One conflict I’ve had with long-term lagering of kolsch-style ales, though, is the admonishment in many places that these styles should be served “fresh”…which I get, because lighter ales are definitely oxidation prone without proper handling. I suppose this is overcome in commercial applications by filtering rather than just time!
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