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.
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)
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
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.
Brilliantly clear, light yellow beer with moderately persistent head. The head pours fairly thick, but thins out after awhile.
Clean! Slight grainy/corn profile; not much hop character, although there is a bit of a spice hop note.
Malty/grainy, with light corn flavor; moderately high bitterness, but not much for hop character otherwise.
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.
My first foray into a pilsner is nearing the end of its keg, so I wanted to make sure to get a tasting in before it was gone. I served it at a recent party, which depleted a good chunk of the supply, and gave away a few growlers, also. It’s not that I don’t like the beer–I do!–but I didn’t want to tie up too much equipment with something that required unique handling for serving temperature (cold, cold, cold) and carbonation pressure (high, high, high).
Dad’s Pre-Prohibition Pilsner
Original gravity = 1.051; final gravity = 1.008; abv = 5.5%; estimated IBU = 30.
This beer showcases a crisp and slightly spicy hoppiness, with a hint of corn sweetness behind that.
Clarity is a touch off of the brilliant I was aiming for; there is a very faint chill haze, which is unfortunate (more on this later). The beer has an exceptionally tall and thick white head when poured, almost meringue-like in its texture and fineness. Retention is excellent; it sticks around as a full blanket over the beer until the very end. Despite the very minor chill haze, the effervescence of the beer gives a very nice visual too. The beer itself is a pale straw color.
The flavor profile is quite clean, with crisp hops at the front and a clean but simple malt bill behind that. I definitely taste the corn backing up the rest of the beer, and perhaps a hint of the rye spiciness (although I don’t think I would pick it up if I didn’t know it was supposed to be there). It’s a reasonably bitter beer, but not overly so.
This is a light-bodied beer, with high carbonation (as appropriate for the style). The finish is dry, and very clean. A lingering but not overpowering hop bitterness rounds out each tasting.
Would I brew this again?
I feel like this is a very solid, but not perfect, first try at a pilsner. There’s a lot that hit the mark with this brew. The flavor and aroma are incredibly clean, without any DMS or diacetyl or fruitiness. It’s a tasty, easy-drinking beer, perfect for warmer weather. The color is a bit too light for the Classic American Pilsner style, and the slight haze is also an issue in terms of the strict style. That said, these don’t matter much for me in terms of taste enjoyment, although they are things I want to work out for the next batch of whatever pilsner I do.
I think the haze in this case was compounded by two things. First, I added the gelatin to the keg, rather than the fermenter. I think next time I’ll add to the fermenter and let it work its magic in there for a few days before kegging. Second, I let the keg warm up a bit one night after serving, coupled with a bit of movement/sloshing, that probably didn’t help things either. So, I’ll aim to be a bit more careful with my handling next time, and see if that fixes things.
For my next pilsner, I’ll probably go with something a little more “traditional”, just to see how that goes.
After 11 days at 65°, my pre-Prohibition pilsner is down to a final gravity of 1.008. This equates to 5.5% abv and 83% attenuation. The low mash temperature definitely did the trick for drying out the beer! On Saturday, January 30, I dropped the temperature down to 40°, and on Sunday dropped it again to 35°. This evening (Sunday, January 31), I kegged the beer. I am fining it with 3/4 tsp. of gelatin in 1/2 cup of water, mixed in with the beer. I’m force-carbonating and lagering at a temperature of 34°.
The beer has cleaned up pretty nicely, although is still pretty hazy. I expect the gelatin should take care of that in short order. I can definitely pick up the corn in the grist, as expected for a beer in the American pilsner style.
I checked the gravity for Dad’s Pre-Prohibition Pilsner on Sunday, January 17. At this point, it was down to 1.018, from 1.051. This puts the beer at around 64% apparent attenuation (and 4.3% abv), so it’s time to start ramping up the temperature. The temperature at this point was around 52°. For the first 12 hours, I just let it free rise in the fermentation chamber. The next morning (January 18), it was at 55°. I then put my heating pad in the chamber, and set it at 60°. By that evening, it was at the desired temperature. I then gave it the final bump up to 65°, which it had reached by the morning of January 19.
The beer is a quite pale straw color, and pretty hazy yet (not surprising). The krausen was ridiculously rocky on it–I suppose it’s a product of the grains plus the yeast strain. I am a bit surprised that I don’t pick up any really obvious off-flavors (e.g., diacetyl), but perhaps that is just my bad palate.
For quite some time, I’ve been itching to make a lager. It was on my goal list for 2015, but never quite happened. The main thing deterring me was the time investment–the process takes longer than an average ale, so I didn’t want to tie up my fermentation chamber for months. I have to keep the taps on my keezer all occupied, after all!
When I discovered a “quick-lager” method, that provided the incentive I needed. This is a technique popularized by the folks at Brulosophy (although not developed by them, as they are quick to point out). Essentially, you use a temperature-change regimen to keep the process moving along. Most of the potential off-flavors are produced in the first half of fermentation, so once the beer is more 50% attenuated, you can raise the temperature and speed up the finishing. Then, it’s a cold crash, some gelatin, and you’re done!
For my first lager, I chose a recipe that my dad has been brewing for many years. It is a “Pre-Prohibition Pilsner,” in the style of the American beers that were made before Prohibition destroyed many of the traditional breweries and beers. He makes an extract version that is absolutely delicious, and has been brewing it in some form or another for close to 15 years. The original recipe came from the April 1999 issue of Brew Your Own, and I have modified it slightly for hop and yeast availability. The main changes are using Spalt instead of Tettnanger and WLP800 (Pilsner Lager) instead of an American pilsner strain.
I will note that the rye flakes are “off-style” for a classic American pilsner, and I suppose the yeast is too. But, it’s homebrew, so I’ll make my beer the way I want to and forget about official style guidelines. I also wanted to approximate the classic water of Pilsen, so used a water blend heavily tilted towards distilled water. Our tap water here has a ton of minerals, and so is not well-suited on its own for the styles (including American pilsners) that are best with soft water.
Dad’s 3P (Pre-Prohibition Pilsner)
9 lbs. pilsner malt
1 lb. flaked maize
0.5 lb. carapils malt
0.5 lb. flaked rye
2 oz. German Spalt hops pellets (2.4% alpha, 4.3% beta), 60 minute boil
“Special water blend” – 2 gallons of the carbonate-heavy Claremont water with 7 gallons of distilled water.
Five days in advance, I prepared a 2 liter yeast starter, and let it ferment out for 2.5 days (after the krausen had fallen). I then put it in the refrigerator to cold crash for another 3 days.
I mashed in with 4.25 gallons of water at 161.8°, aiming for a target mash temperature of 149°. The mash hit 149.8°, and was down to 146° after 55 minutes.
After the 60 minute mash rest, I added 0.84 gallons of water at ~160°, let it rest for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the first runnings. Then, I added 3.82 gallons of water at 180°, which brought the mash bed up to 162°. I let this rest for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and drained again.
In total, I collected 7.75 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.043, for an efficiency of 82%. I suspect my water volume must have gotten off somewhere in the process. But, I’m not too worried because this is my target gravity anyhow before the boil.
I brought the wort to a boil, and added the hops, Irish moss, and yeast nutrient per the schedule.
After 60 minutes of boiling, I chilled the wort to 74° using my wort chiller. Then, I transferred it with aeration and placed it in the fermentation chamber for 90 minutes to bring the wort down to 60°. At this point, it was pretty late, and I decided it would be okay to pitch the yeast. I saw evidence of fermentation (krausen starting to form, very slow bubbling in the airlock) when I checked on the beer around twelve hours later.
Starting gravity was 1.051. I’ll do the first stage of fermentation at 54°. I brewed this on 9 January 2016, and will check on the gravity in about a week, to see if it is ready to warm up.