Summer Helles

Last year, I made a Munich helles following a recipe in Gordon Strong’s Modern Homebrew Recipes, with pretty excellent results. Munich helles is such a great summer lager (among many great summer lager varieties!), but it was only on my 2021 batch that I felt I had finally gotten close to nailing the style.

This year’s version is along the same lines as last year’s, but I used different brands/variations of ingredients for what I had on hand or needed to use up. For instance, I used Weyermann’s Barke pilsner malt instead of their “regular” pilsner malt, and their Munich I malt instead of Chateau’s equivalent. I had Briess’s aromatic Munich 20L on-hand, so that went in as a substitute for Carahell, and I just flat-out skipped Carapils. I used Hallertau Tradition in place of Hallertauer Mittelfrueh, and finally went with Diamond Lager yeast instead of 34/70. I guess that’s a long way of saying it is a completely different recipe, but has largely the same proportions of ingredients and targets pretty similar numbers.

Because this was a really busy summer (filled with fieldwork, a house move, and COVID), the beer ended up conditioning in the keg for over two months. I rarely have a lager that sits for so long, and the end result was something that was crystal clear. As you’ll see in the tasting notes, I’m overall quite pleased with this iteration!

Summer Helles 2022

  • 8.25 lb. Barke pilsner malt (Weyermann)
  • 1.25 lb. Munich I malt (Weyermann)
  • 0.25 lb. Aromatic Munich malt 20L (Briess)
  • 0.75 oz. Hallertau Tradition hop pellets (6.1% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. BruTanB, 10 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
  • Repitch of Diamond Lager yeast (Lallemand)

Target Parameters

  • 1.044 o.g., 1.007 f.g., 17 IBU, 5 SRM, 4.9% abv
  • Full-volume infusion step mash, 45 minute rest at 144°, 45 minute rest at 160°, 10 minute rest at 168°
  • Water built from RO, to hit 23 Ca, 8 Mg, 32 SO4, 40 Cl, -21 RA

Procedure

  • I added 2.5 g epsom salt and 2.5 g CaCl to 7 gallons of RO water, to hit my target water specifications.
  • I heated the strike water to 148°, and added the grains along with ~1.1 mL of 88% lactic acid in order to hit my target pH of 5.4. I held at 144° for 45 minutes while recirculating, and then raised the mash to 160° for another 45 minutes. Finally, I mashed out for 10 minutes at 168°.
  • After removing the grains, I had collected 6.4 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.041, for 72% mash efficiency.
  • I brought the kettle to a boil, adding hops and finings per the recipe. After a 60 minute boil, I turned off the heat and chilled the wort to ~70° before transferring to the fermenter. I chilled overnight to 49°.
  • I brewed the beer on 15 May 2022, and pitched the yeast slurry from my Alta California Lager the next morning, 16 May 2022. At this time, I oxygenated with 30 seconds of pure O2.
  • I starting fermentation at 50°, holding it there until 23 May 2022, when I let it free-rise to 60°. Then, I cold crashed to 34° on 28 May 2022.
  • I kegged the beer on 8 June 2022. Starting gravity was 1.046, and final gravity was 1.012, for 4.5% abv. The beer cold conditioned at ~34° for over two months, before going on tap.

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • Brilliantly clear, gold beer. It pours with a white, medium head that subsides to a persistent white ring around the edge of the glass.
  • Aroma
    • Malty aroma, at a modest level. Very clean fermentation, with no noticeable yeast character. No hop aroma apparent.
  • Flavor
    • Moderately rich malt flavor, with a lingering sweet maltiness against a moderately low level of hop bitterness.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Medium-light body, moderate carbonation, very smooth finish.
  • Would I Brew This Again?
    • Yes! This is a great recipe. The low level of head on this is the only minor flaw. Otherwise, this is an incredibly gorgeous, tasty, and easy drinking beer. Next time, I’ll probably add the Carapils back in, and switch back to Carahell instead of Aromatic Munich.
  • Overall
    • 9/10

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