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

Alta California Lager 2022

I brew this recipe nearly every year, with only minor variations–usually in yeast or corn form. The 2022 version is another winner! I rolled it out with Diamond Lager Yeast for something a shade different.

Alta California Lager 2022

  • 6.5 lb. Barke pilsner malt (Weyermann)
  • 2 lb. flaked corn
  • 1.75 lb. Vienna malt (Weyermann)
  • 0.25 lb. rice hulls
  • 0.5 oz. Magnum hop pellets (10.1% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. BruTanB, 10 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
  • 0.75 oz. Saaz hop pellets (4.0% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. yeast nutrient (WLN1000), 5 minute boil
  • 2 pkg. Diamond Lager Yeast (Lallemand)

Target Parameters

  • 1.046 s.g., 1.010 f.g., 4.8% abv, 19 IBU, 3 SRM
  • 8.75 gallons of RO water with 1.7 g CaCl to hit target parameter of 14 ppm Ca and 25 ppm Cl
  • 75 minute full volume infusion mash, 149°

Procedure

  • I mashed in with 8.75 gallons of RO water and 1.7 g of CaCl, heated to 160°, to hit a mash temperature of 149°. I added 2.5 mL of 88% lactic acid, to adjust the pH.
  • I recirculated for 75 minutes, and then raised the mash temperature to 168° for 10 minutes, before pulling the grains.
  • In total, I collected 7.6 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.037, for 76% estimated mash efficiency.
  • I boiled the runnings for 30 minutes before adding hops, to bring up the gravity for a bit.
  • Once the Magnum hops were added, I boiled for 60 minutes total, adding aroma hops and finings per the recipe.
  • I did an initial chill with my coil, and then dropped it the rest of the way in the fermentation chamber to 48°, overnight.
  • I pitched the yeast on 24 April 2022, and fermented at 52°.
  • Starting gravity was 1.049.
  • I raised the temperature to 60°on May 6.
  • I cold crashed over a few days starting on May 10, dropping to 50°, 40°, and then 33°.
  • I kegged the beer on 15 May 2022. It had a final gravity of 1.010, for 5.1% abv.

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • Light gold color, slight haze, creamy and persistent white head. The haze had dropped out, but when I moved the keg between houses, it must have kicked up a bunch of sediment, because even after a week it was still hazier than two weeks prior. Very annoying! The head is gorgeous, so that makes up a little bit for the haze. After another month of settling, the beer was back to its crystal clear original nature.
  • Aroma
    • Amazing! A sweet and light corn aroma comes through at the front, with a touch of malt behind that. I think I might get a whiff of the Saaz character, but that is highly variable.
  • Flavor
    • A moderate level of nuanced malty flavor through at first, with the sweet hint of corn sitting next to that. A clean bitterness balances out the malt, with a smooth and unobtrusive character. The malt really shines here, making it a highly drinkable beer that is a bit more flavorful than your typical Corona.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Medium-light body, moderate carbonation, smooth and a very slight bit of dryness to the finish.
  • Would I Brew This Again?
    • This is consistently one of my very favorite recipes…or rather recipe families. It is slightly different every time, in terms of the brand of malt, mode of corn, and yeast involved. The Diamond lager yeast worked exceptionally well here, and I will probably keep that going forward (unless I choose a bona fide Mexican lager yeast). I suspect the flaked corn contributed to the persistent haze; my original cereal-mashed version was crystal clear. Or maybe it just needs a little more time to settle. Either way, I love this beer–the slight haze is my only minor gripe, and it did drop out in the end.
  • Overall
    • 9.5/10

Pre-Prohibition Lager

Continuing my journey through the world of lagers, I decided to try a new version of a Pre-Prohibition lager. I’ve made something from this style range before, during my first foray into lagers, and it turned out pretty well. For the current batch, I used a blend of pilsner and 2-row malt to achieve a bit of complexity, layering in some flaked corn to give the “American” component. I got some Triumph hops in a HOPBOX selection, and thought this would be well suited for my American lager. Triumph is an American hop with European parentage, including some noble hops, and it is supposed to bring some noble characteristics along with delicate fruit qualities.

Pre-Prohibition Lager

  • 6.5 lb. Pilsner Malt (Viking)
  • 4 lb. 2-row malt (Rahr)
  • 1 lb. flaked corn
  • 0.25 lb. rice hulls
  • 0.5 oz. Triumph hop pellets (7.9% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 0.75 oz. Triumph hop pellets (7.9% alpha), 15 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. BruTahB, 10 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
  • 0.75 oz. Triumph hop pellets (7.9% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 2 pkg. Diamond lager yeast (Lallemand)

Target Parameters

  • 1.051 s.g., 1.008 f.g., 28 IBU, 5.7% abv, 4 SRM
  • Full volume Hochhurz mash, 45 minutes at 144°, 45 minutes at 10 minutes at 160°, 10 minute mash-out at 168°
  • Water built from scratch to hit 59 ppm Ca, 8 ppm Mg, 89 pm SO4, 63 ppm Cl, -47 ppm RA

Procedure

  • I added 2.7 g gypsum, 2.2 g epsom salt, and 3.4 g calcium chloride to 7 gallons of RO water, to hit a target of 59 ppm Ca, 8 ppm Mg, 89 pm SO4, 63 ppm Cl, and -47 ppm RA.
  • I heated the water in the Foundry to 150°, and added the grains to hit a mash temperature of 144°. I added 1.5 mL of 88% lactic acid to adjust pH slightly. I held the mash at 144° with recirculation for 45 minutes, and then raised the temperature to 160°, holding it here for 45 minutes also. Finally, I raised the mash to 168° and held it here for a 10 minute mash-out.
  • After the mash-out, I removed the grain basket and brought the runnings to a boil. I collected 6.3 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.048, for 71% mash efficiency.
  • I brought the beer to a boil, aiming for 60 minutes, adding hops and such per the recipe. My Foundry had an issue mid-boil (the power switch was starting to burn out),so it took a bit of work to limp the boil through to the end. I adjusted the length of the boil time slightly to compensate.
  • After approximately 60 minutes of total boil, I turned off the heat and chilled to ~68°, before transferring to the fermenter and chilling down to 48° in the fermentation chamber. I then pitched the yeast.
  • I brewed the beer on 14 February 2022, and fermented at 52°. Starting gravity was 1.053.
  • I kegged the beer on 8 April 2022. Final gravity was 1.013, for 5.3% abv.

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • Brilliantly clear, light yellow beer with moderately persistent head. The head pours fairly thick, but thins out after awhile.
  • Aroma
    • Clean! Slight grainy/corn profile; not much hop character, although there is a bit of a spice hop note.
  • Flavor
    • Malty/grainy, with light corn flavor; moderately high bitterness, but not much for hop character otherwise.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Fairly crisp finish, with moderate carbonation. Medium body. Very smooth drinking!
  • Would I brew this again?
    • YES! This is a nice version of the style; I suppose it doesn’t hit all of the BJCP style notes, but it really is a pretty awesome American lager. A touch more hop aroma would be nice, but not mandatory.
  • Overall
    • 9/10

Winter Pils

I am continuing my quest for the perfect German pils, with numerous iterations (see these recent examples) and a continued presence on my Brew Year’s Resolution list. Through various iterations, I am finding that I like a beer in the lower end of the IBU range for the style (around 25 to 30), and a lower mineral water profile.

This new version focused on the Edelweiss hop blend, a really delicious blend of (mostly) US-grown varieties. I decided to do multiple additions, to layer up the flavor and aroma characteristics of the hop. Additionally, I wanted to give Diamond Lager yeast (from Lallemand) a spin…I have primarily used W34/70 up until this point, but have consistently noted a slight tartness that I didn’t really care for. Diamond has been really well regarded, so it’s time to give it a spin!

Winter Pils

  • 10 lb. Viking pilsner malt
  • 0.5 lb. acidulated malt (Weyermann)
  • 6 oz. dextrin malt (Viking)
  • 1 oz. Edelweiss hop blend pellets (5.1% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 0.75 oz. Edelweiss hop blend pellets (5.1% alpha), 15 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. yeast nutrient WLN1000 (White Labs), 15 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. BruTanB, 10 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
  • 0.75 oz. Edelweiss hop blend pellets (5.1% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 2 pkg. Diamond Lager yeast (Lallemand)

Target Parameters

  • 1.049 o.g., 1.007 f.g., 5.5% abv, 28 IBU, 4 SRM
  • Water built from RO to hit target of 59 ppm Ca, 8 ppm Mg, 89 pm SO4, 63 ppm Cl, -47 ppm RA
  • Full volume Hochkurz mash, held at 144° for 45 minutes, 160° for 45 minutes, and 10 minute mash-out at 168°

Procedure

  • I added 2.7 g gypsum, 2.2 g epsom salt, and 3.4 g calcium chloride to 7 gallons of RO water, to hit a target of 59 ppm Ca, 8 ppm Mg, 89 pm SO4, 63 ppm Cl, and -47 ppm RA.
  • I mashed in at 150°, to hit a rest temperature of 144°, and held it there for 45 minutes. Then, I raised the mash to 160° (over a period of about 15 minutes), and held it at 160° for 45 minutes. Finally, I raised the mash to 168°, and held it there for 10 minutes before removing the grain basket.
  • In total, I had 6.35 gallons of runnings at a gravity of 1.047, for 74% mash efficiency.
  • I brought the runnings to a boil, adding hops and finings per the recipe. After a 60 minute boil, I chilled the wort, transferred to the fermenter, and chilled the rest of the way down to 50°.
  • I brewed the beer on 21 November 2021, and pitched the yeast on 22 November 2021.
  • I fermented the beer at 50° until 24 November 2021, when I let it free rise to 52°. I let the beer free rise to 54° on 28 November, 56° on 1 December, and 60° on 3 December 2021. On 6 December, I began to cycle the beer down to 34° by about 5° per day. I was down to 34° by 9 December 2021.
  • I kegged the beer on 26 December 2021, using a closed transfer into a purged keg. Final gravity was 1.014, for 5.0% abv.

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • Brilliantly clear and straw-colored, with a white, creamy, and persistent head.
  • Aroma
    • Floral hop aroma, with a crackery sweet malt character. Very clean yeast profile.
  • Flavor
    • Malty sweet, with a moderate and clean bitterness that has a slightly floral quality. The bitterness level is perfect for my taste. It lingers a bit, but isn’t overwhelming as in some previous beers.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Medium light body and relatively crisp (but not quite perfectly crisp). The finish is off-dry, and carbonation is moderate.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Absolutely! It took awhile to get to “brilliant” (around two months), but the wait was worth it. Bitterness level is right where I want it, and the malt and yeast character are great. Diamond lager yeast is worth the hype…I don’t get the slight tartness I sometimes got on W34/70, which is nice. Going forward, I think a 25 to 28 IBU German pils is about perfect. I’ll probably drop any dextrin or CaraPils malt, to crisp things up a bit, and I’ll also stick with my current water profile.
  • Overall
    • 9/10

Dimorphos Kellerbier

I’m still working my way through the world of German beer, and there is no shortage of varieties to try. Although kellerbier isn’t necessarily a discrete style (just being vaguely young lager), I wanted to give it a go. I also wanted to use up some ingredients. How convenient!

I aimed for an amber kellerbier, with a rich and malty character. I had some Munich malt to finish, as well as Vienna malt. A little bit of melanoidin (Great Western’s Mela malt, in this case) went in to raise the maltiness bar, and I used some Carafa Special II for color adjustment. Spalt hops are apparently somewhat traditional; I had a little bit to use up, so in they went too.

The name of “Dimorphos Kellerbier” is after the smaller member of the 65803 Didymos asteroid system. Coincidentally, it’s also part of the root for the pterosaur Dimorphodon, which appealed to my paleontological side. In any case, Dimorphos is the planned target for the DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) mission, in which the orbit of the asteroid will be changed very slightly through impact by a satellite. It’s testing technology that may be used to save Earth from an asteroid impact someday, which I can definitely support as a paleontologist. The mission launched on November 24, and I was just a few miles from the launchpad to see the satellite head into the great beyond. It was a pretty incredible experience, and one worth commemorating with a beer batch!

The DART mission on its way to its rendevous with Dimorphos and Didymos, during its launch with a Falcon 9 rocket on November 24, 2022. The ring represents clouds pushed aside by the shock wave of the rocket’s passage; the rocket itself is the bright object in the middle of the photo, with the exhaust plume to the left of the image.

For many of my beers, I write up the tasting notes after a few weeks on tap. This gives the beer chance to mature, and allows me to figure out the character of the beer. This time, I wrote up the tasting on my very first glass out of the keg. Because the style is supposed to be served young, I figured I didn’t gain anything by waiting. It also gave me a chance to provide first impressions, before I’ve had a chance to talk myself into a particular opinion about the beer.

Dimorphos Kellerbier

  • 5 lb. 1 oz. Vienna malt (Weyermann)
  • 3 lb. 12 oz. pilsner malt (Viking)
  • 15 oz. Munich I malt (Weyermann)
  • 4 oz. Mela malt (Great Western)
  • 2 oz. Carafa Special II malt (Weyermann)
  • 0.5 oz. Magnum hop pellets (10.1% alpha), first wort hop and 60 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Spalt hop pellets (3.0% alpha), 20 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Spalt hop pellets (3.0% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 2 pkg. Diamond lager dry yeast (Lallemand)

Target Parameters

  • 1.049 o.g., 1.007 f.g., 5.5% abv, 28 IBU, 10 SRM
  • Full volume Hochkurz mash, held at 144° for 45 minutes, 160° for 45 minutes, and 10 minute mash-out at 168°
  • Claremont tap water

Procedure

  • I mashed in with 7 gallons of water at 149°, adding 6 mL of 88% lactic acid to adjust the pH. This hit an initial rest temperature of 144°, which I held for 45 minutes with recirculation.
  • Next, I raised the mash (while recirculating) to 160°, and held it here for 45 minutes.
  • Finally, I raised the mash temperature to 168°, and held it there for 10 minutes before removing the grain basket.
  • In total, I collected 6.4 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.045, for 77% mash efficiency. The Hochkurz mash protocol seems to do well for efficiency!
  • I brought the runnings to a boil, adding hops and finings per the recipe.
  • After a 60 minute boil, I turned off the heat and chilled to 70°, before transferring to the fermenter.
  • I brewed this beer on 22 November 2021, and let it sit overnight in the fermentation chamber to get down to my target temperature of 50°. I pitched the yeast on the morning of 23 November 2021.
  • Starting gravity was 1.050.
  • I raised the fermenter to 52° on 24 November 2021, to 54° on 28 November 2021, 56° on 1 December 2021, and let it free rise to 60° on 3 December 2021.
  • On 6 December 2021, I started to cycle down the temperature, lowering it by 5° to 10° daily (sometimes dropping 5° in the morning and 5° in the evening). It was down to 34° on 9 December.
  • I kegged the beer on 11 December 2021, and force carbonated it.
  • Final gravity was 1.013, which equates to 4.9% abv.

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • Deep copper beer with a slight haze; very persistent ivory head
  • Aroma
    • Bready, malty aroma with a slight bread crust character and a slight spicy hop character. Yeast character is very clean.
  • Flavor
    • Rich and very pleasant maltiness. Moderate bitterness with a spicy, slightly herbal quality. Clean yeast character.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Medium body, medium-low carbonation. Smooth, very slightly dry finish with extended bitterness.
  • Would I Brew This Again?
    • Yes! This is like tearing off a piece of warm, crusty bread pulled straight from the oven, and popping it into your mouth. There is so much awesome malt character, and the yeast quality is super clean. This is a perfect winter lager!
  • Overall
    • 10/10