Altbier is a really enjoyable style for me, but it’s tough to find a good version commercially in our area. So, I’ve been brewing it from time to time in the quest for a perfect batch. I think I might have found one!
My jumping off point was the Alstadt Altbier recipe from Horst Dunbusch’s Altbier book. I made a version of it last year, and was fairly happy with the results. At the time, I noted that I would like a touch more hop character, and would also like to experiment with using CaraMunich or something similar instead of American Crystal 60. So…that’s what I did for the latest version!
The base of the new batch is fairly similar to the old one, with 61% pilsner malt,14% Munich I, and 14% Vienna malt. Instead of crystal 60, though, I used an even split of Briess’s Caramel Munich 60L and Weyermann’s Caramunich I. I also swapped out Carafa Special III for Carafa Special I, in the color adjustment (I figure such a small amount won’t make a major flavor difference, but the devil is in the details). Finally, I dropped in some Spalt for the aroma addition (instead of Mt. Hood).
The end result is spectacular. The aroma in a freshly poured glass is absolutely heavenly, and the beer drinks so easily. I will be making this again!
Alstadt Altbier 2.0
- 6.5 lb. Pilsner Zero malt (Viking)
- 1.5 lb. Munich I malt (Weyermann)
- 1.5 lb. Vienna malt (Weyermann)
- 0.5 lb. Caramel Munich 60L malt (Briess)
- 0.5 lb. Caramunich I malt (Weyermann)
- 2 oz. Carafa Special I malt (Weyermann)
- 1.2 oz. Sterling hop pellets (7.4% alpha), 60 minute boil
- 1.0 oz. Spalt Spalter hop pellets (3.0% alpha), 5 minute boil
- 1 Whirlfloc tablet
- 1 pkg. German ale dry yeast (Fermentis K-97)
- 1.048 s.g., 1.012 f.g., 4.8% abv, 34 IBU, 13 SRM
- 60 minute infusion mash, full volume, 152°
- Claremont tap water treated with Campden tablet
- I mashed in with 7.1 gallons of water at 158°, to hit a mash temperature of 152°. I added 4mL of 88% lactic acid and held the mash here (with recirculation) for 60 minutes, before raising to 168° for the 10 minute mash-out.
- After removing the grain basket, I had 6.4 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.040. This is only 64% mash efficiency–this spurred me to tighten down the mill from 0.037″ to 0.034″.
- I brought the runnings to a boil, adding malt and finings per the recipe. After the 60 minute boil, I chilled to 78° and transferred to the fermenter. I think let it sit at ambient for a few hours before pitching the yeast at ~69°. Ambient was around 60°, so the beer finished out fermentation at that temperature.
- I brewed the beer on 1 January 2021, and it had a starting gravity of 1.046. I kegged the beer on 31 January 2021, and it had a final gravity of 1.013. This works out to 4.3% abv.
- Deep amber color, brilliantly clear. Persistent and creamy ivory colored head.
- Floral hops and rich bread crust aroma, both very prominent. This is a delicious combo! So good!
- Rich malty flavor of bread crust, and a clean yeast character. There is a slightly floral hop flavor. The beer is moderately bitter, with the balance tilted very slightly to bitter over malty. There is a low level of a cherry/fruity ester.
- Medium body, moderate carbonation, slightly dry finish, but not too much so.
- Would I brew this again?
- YES. This is the best altbier I have ever done, and it is a massive step beyond the previous (also pretty good) version. The malt and hop character are amazing, making an incredibly interesting and very drinkable beer.
I’m slowly and steadily improving my German pils game, and feel like this one is a winner! It’s a super basic recipe, but my philosophy has always been that the best pilsners are accentuated by skill and quality ingredients, rather than endless ingredient lists.
The name is a cheeky reference to a naming convention in zoology, with many amphibians, reptiles, and relatives getting an “-erpeton” suffix. It translates literally as “reptile” or “creeping thing.” Acquaintance Brad McFeeters cheekily noted that Pilsnerpeton would be a great name for a lagerpetid (dinosaur cousin), and I thought it would also be a euphonious name for a beer! I might keep it as the name for my house German pils recipe from here on out…
- 10 lb. Viking Pilsner Zero malt
- 0.4 oz. Perle hop pellets (7.1% alpha), 60 minute boil
- 0.15 oz. Sterling hop pellets (7.4% alpha), 60 minute boil
- 1.0 oz. Perle hop pellets (7.1% alpha), 10 minute boil
- 0.25 oz. Mt. Hood hop pellets (4.6% alpha), 10 minute boil
- 1 tsp. Fermax yeast nutrient, 10 minute boil
- 1 WhirlFloc tablet, 5 minute boil
- 1 pkg. Global liquid yeast (Imperial #L13)
- 1.046 s.g., 1.006 f.g., 5.2% abv, 4 SRM, 26 IBU
- Full volume step mash, with 30 minute rest at 142°, 40 minute rest at 156°, and 10 minute mash-out at 168°
- Claremont tap water, treated with Campden tablet.
- Around 12 hours in advance of pitching, I made a 1.5L SNS (shaken-not-stirred) starter with 150 g of light DME.
- I heated 7.25 gallons of water to 147°, and mashed in the grains. I added 5 mL of 88% lactic acid to adjust pH.
- I held the mash at 142° for 30 minutes, and then raised it to 156°, which took approximately 9 minutes. After 40 minutes at 156°, I raised the temperature to 168°, which took around 10 minutes. I held it at this temperature for 10 minutes, before removing the grains and bringing the kettle to a boil.
- The gravity out of the mash was 1.039, with 6.4 gallons collected. This equates to 67% mash efficiency.
- Once the kettle was boiling, I added hops and kettle finings per the recipe.
- After a 60 minute boil, I turned off the heat and chilled down to 88° while recirculating. At this point, I stopped recirculation and let the wort settle for 30 minutes.
- Then, I transferred the wort to the fermenter, discarding around 1 gallons of trub. This was probably a bit more than I needed to get rid of, and would aim for ~0.5 gallons next time.
- In the fermenter, I chilled the wort down to 49°, over a 3 hour period. I oxygenated the wort for 40 seconds, and then pitched the yeast.
- I brewed the beer on 28 December 2020. Starting gravity was 1.044.
- I started fermentation at 48°, with a free rise to 50° after pitching. I raised the beer to 54° on 1 January 2021, 56° on 5 January, and 60° on 9 January. I cold crashed down to 34° on 16 January 2021.
- I kegged the beer on 30 January 2021, after two weeks of cold crashing.
- Final gravity was 1.013, down from 1.044, for 4.1% abv. The final gravity was a bit higher than predicted by BeerSmith, but I think that’s because the software doesn’t do well with calculating wort fermentability from step mashes.
- Very clear light gold beer, just shy of brilliant, with a beautifully creamy, tall, and persistent white head. It has wonderful lacing down the side of the glass as you drink it.
- Malty sweet and cracker notes in a moderate malt aroma. There is a low level of “spicy” hop character. I might like a little more hop aroma, but that’s a minor fault.
- Clean, malty-sweet character, with moderate level of very smooth bitterness. The hop flavor is herbal/spicy, with a clean finish. The bitterness lingers pleasantly.
- Medium-light body, moderate carbonation, very smooth finish.
- Would I brew this again?
- Yes! The malt/hop balance are perfect for my taste, so I think ~25 IBU in a lower-gravity pils is a sweet spot for my preference. Clean fermentation character and clean malt make this taste so good! I might try some hop adjustments for the late hopping to improve aroma, but that is the only real fault in this beer.
I last brewed this recipe awhile back, and it was high time to make it again! It’s basically the same recipe as before, just modified slightly for the efficiency of my current system and on-hand ingredients. It’s super simple, but really tasty!
2021 Orange Summer Wheat Ale
- 6 lb. white wheat malt (Briess)
- 3 lb. 2-row malt (Viking Xtra Pale)
- 8 oz. caramel 10L (Briess)
- 8 oz. rice hulls
- 1.5 oz. Mt. Hood hop pellets (4.6% alpha), 60 minute boil
- 1 tsp. Fermax yeast nutrient, 10 minute boil
- 1 pkg. American Hefeweizen Ale yeast (WLP 320)
- 1.044 s.g., 1.011 f.g, 4.3% abv, 26 IBU, 4 SRM
- Full volume infusion mash, 152° for 60 minutes
- Claremont tap water
- I made a 1L shaken-not-stirred starter around 4 hours before pitching. It took off pretty well!
- I mashed in with 7.25 gallons of water at 158°, to hit a mash temperature of 152°. I added 5 mL of 88% lactic acid to adjust the pH.
- After a 60 minute mash, I removed the grains.
- In total, I had 6.5 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.040, for 72% mash efficiency.
- I brought everything to a boil, adding hops and finings per the recipe.
- After 60 minutes, I chilled down to 66° and transferred to the fermenter. I pitched the yeast, and let it ferment at 66°.
- I brewed the beer on 13 February 2021, with a starting gravity of 1.045.
- I had 5.5 gallons in the fermenter, and fermented it at 64° to 66°, as I moved it in and out of the house and garage.
- While I started the beer, I zested three Valencia oranges that I had picked, putting the zest in 3 oz. of vodka. This steeped for 3 weeks, and then I strained it to add to the keg.
- I kegged the beer on 27 February 2021. It had great flavor and aroma on the base beer, even before I added the orange extract.
- Final gravity was 1.010, down from 1.045. So, it had an estimated abv of 4.6%.
- Pale gold color and hazy, with a thin white head that is moderately persistent.
- Fresh orange zest, with a faint doughy wheat character behind that. Really awesome!
- Orange juice flavor at the forefront, with a bread dough malt character behind that. Bitterness level is moderate, perhaps a little higher than works for this beer. Yeast character is very clean, with no noticeable esters.
- Medium-light body, moderate carbonation, off-dry finish.
- Would I brew this again?
- This is a really, really nice recipe…the orange character is absolutely perfect. It’s a bit more bitter than I envisioned in the early tastings, so when I brew this again I’m going to back it down to 20 IBU. Interestingly, as it has aged a bit in the keg that overly bitter edge has been reduced. Otherwise, I wouldn’t change a thing.
There’s not much to say for the past month, so let’s just jump into the beer!
Beer Batch Updates
- I kegged the orange wheat ale mentioned last time, and it’s now on tap! Such an incredibly delicious beer.
- My latest schwarzbier is kegged and lagering; it’s super nice in initial tastes! Even after only two weeks in the lagering chamber, the beer is now brilliantly clear.
- I brewed my 2021 edition of Alta California lager on 6 March 2021, and it’s currently fermenting along. I will start the cold crash in a day or two.
- I had put Pilsnerpeton (a German pils) on tap for a week or two, but swapped it out for the orange wheat ale. The pils wasn’t totally clear yet, and I thought a few more weeks of lagering would help with any latent haze. Similarly, I cycled my altbier back out from the keezer, with the English IPA taking its place. Again, I wanted to condition the altbier just a bit more. The IPA and porter kegs kicked in the last few days, so I was able to get the pils and altbier back on service. The extra wait was worth it!
- I brewed a Belgian quad this weekend, as part of a homebrew club barrel project. It was a super fun challenge to plan out such a high gravity brew on the Foundry, a setup that isn’t optimal for really big beers. I did a combination of frequent mash stirring, a long mash (2 hours!), and simple sparging to get it to the place I needed it to be. It was a loooong brew day, nearly 12 hours from start to finish, but fun as an experiment. I hit my numbers pretty closely, so I’m satisfied.
What’s On Tap?
- My orange summer wheat ale is fulfilling the “light beer” slot, and it’s quite drinkable!
- I just threw Pilsnerpeton back on…it’s super drinkable, as a moderately hoppy pale lager.
- The altbier is excellent! It’s a great recipe to start with, and the extended cold conditioning cycle paid off.
What’s Coming Up?
- I plan to do an IPA of some sort next weekend. I have some Simcoe and Centennial as well as the Samba hop blend, which seem like a good combination for an American IPA.
- I’ll make my Schell’s Pilsner clone again soon.
- My latest sauerkraut batch is now jarred up and ready to use. It turns out the 3 year old loves sauerkraut too, so we go through it at an unexpectedly rapid pace.
- I finished up the jar of preserved lemons, by turning some of it into chicken tagine (which was delicious), and the rest into a lemon-garlic salad dressing (also delicious). While our lemons are still in abundance, I plan to make another batch. As a short-cut, I’ve found that you can grill lemons low-and-slow on the top rack of the grill while cooking other things. They get an internal consistency very similar to preserved lemons, and a nice smoky flavor.
Two years ago I made a down-the-middle English IPA, which was a super satisfying beer. I decided it was time to do a re-brew, with slight modifications for my upgraded brewing system as well as ingredients on-hand.
- 12 lb. Maris Otter ale malt (Crisp)
- 10 oz. white wheat malt (Briess)
- 8 oz. biscuit malt (BlackSwaen)
- 6 oz. crystal 120 malt (Great Western)
- 6 oz. crystal 60 malt (Great Western)
- 1 oz. Magnum hop pellets (10.1% alpha), 60 minute boil
- 1 oz. East Kent Goldings (EKG) hop pellets (5.0% alpha), 15 minute boil
- 1 oz. Fuggles hop pellets (4.7% alpha), 15 minute boil
- 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
- 1 oz. East Kent Goldings (EKG) hop pellets (5.0% alpha), 10 minute whirlpool
- 2 pkg. Nottingham ale yeast (Lallemand)
- 3 oz. East Kent Goldings (EKG) hop pellets (5.0% alpha), dry hop in keg
- 1.063 s.g, 1.016 f.g., 6.2% abv, 51 IBU, 12 SRM
- Full-volume infusion mash, 154° for 60 minutes
- Water built from Claremont tap water with mineral additions.
- I heated 7.5 gallons of water to 163°, adding 8 g of gypsum and a Campden tablet.
- I mashed in with the grains, maintaining the temperature at 154° for 60 minutes. Next, I raised the temperature to 168° for the mashout.
- In total, I collected 6.4 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.054, for 67% mash efficiency. This is pretty close to my target, so I’m quite happy with this result.
- I boiled for 60 minutes, adding hops and kettle finings per the recipe. After the boil, I chilled and transferred to the fermenter.
- I brewed this beer on 16 January 2021. It had a starting gravity of 1.064. I fermented at 66°.
- I kegged the beer on 13 February 2021, putting the hops in a baggie in the keg. Final gravity was 1.019, for 5.9% abv.
- Clear with a deep gold color; the thin white head is moderately persistent.
- Malt, light caramel character, with a low level of fruity yeast character. The hop aroma is a bit underwhelming, with little to speak of.
- Moderately high, slightly herbal bitterness, but not over the top. It is a moderately-high malty beer, with a bit of caramel and toffee in the malt character. The bitterness is really smooth, and very nicely balanced against the malt.
- Medium-full body with moderate carbonation and an off-dry finish. The beer is very smooth for the level of bitterness!
- Would I Brew This Again?
- This is a pretty good beer overall. The color and clarity are gorgeous, as is the malt character. I would like a bit more hop aroma in the nose and a bit more hop flavor, beyond just the bitterness. I might try switching up the dry hop combination for future versions.