Big Batch Update: Saison, Amber Ale, Pilsner

There’s lots to report with kegging and fermentation for a few recent batches. So, here’s what’s new:

  • Thumbspike Saison 2.0

    • This might have had the quickest turn-around on any kegged beer I’ve ever done! I brewed the beer on 12 May 2017, starting with an 80° fermentation temperature. On 16 May, I raised the temperature to 85°. Everything really churned along, from start to finish (as you might expect with fermentation at those temperatures)! I kegged the beer on 20 May 2017, with a final gravity of 1.004. That works out to 6.7% abv. I’ve had it on tap for about a week, and it’s a pretty interesting and enjoyable beer. All of the ingredients melded together quite nicely, and I am pleased with the results. It’s a very refreshing brew for a warm afternoon on the patio.
    • My first impressions are that it has a very lightly fruity aroma, with a slight tartness on the flavor. Head retention seems pretty miserable at this point, but I don’t know if that’s a real feature of the beer or because I didn’t wash my glass from a previous beer before pouring this one.
  • Hell Creek Amber Ale 1.1
    • I brewed this beer on 14 April 2017, with a starting gravity of 1.060. I kegged the beer on 7 May 2017. Final gravity was 1.016, which equates to 5.8% abv.
  • Czech-ed Out Pilsner
    • This batch has the honor of being my first dumper, ever. I’ve weathered warm fermentations, low gravities, and incomplete fermentations, and have always soldiered through in the end. Alas, this particular batch just wasn’t any good. The culprit wasn’t infection, bad fermentation, or anything like that. It was bad hops! As noted in my original post, the late hop addition smelled really grassy. I should have known better than to add them to the kettle, but wasn’t quite that smart. So, I kegged the beer, carbonated it, and pulled my first sample…to a whiff of pilsner that smelled pretty much like freshly mown lawn, and not in a good way. It was almost reminiscent of jalapenos, but in any case was not reminiscent of what a good European pilsner should taste or smell like. Lesson learned!
    • In terms of fermentation history, I started fermentation at 50° on 9 April. I raised the beer to 65° on 21 April, and then dropped it to 33° on 30 April 2017. I kegged the beer on 14 May, at which point it had a final gravity of 1.011. This equates to 5.6% abv.

Czech-ed Out Pilsner

My first attempt at a Bohemian pilsner turned out reasonably well, but it also had a few areas of potential improvement. The flavor was a little less well rounded than I hoped for, so I aimed for a brew that added in a small percentage of crystal malt. Additionally, the color on my previous batch was a touch paler than desired, so for this version I’m adding in a tiny percentage of Carafa II to deepen that up a bit.


The recipe today is very loosely based on “Czech It Out” pilsner, published in the January/February 2017 issue of BYO. I’ve made some substitutions and adjustments for the malts and hops, but the overall gist is still there. Lots of Bohemian malt, lots of Saaz hops! Note that I did use a touch of Warrior for the bittering addition; my on-hand Saaz was low in alpha, so I needed to beef up the bittering with another hop. I also had to substitute in American crystal malt for Carahell, based on what was at my local homebrew shop.

I had a few members from my homebrew club over for the brew afternoon. Although I can do pretty much everything solo, it was nice to have the extra company!

Czech-ed Out Pilsner

  • 9.5 lbs. floor-malted Bohemian pilsner malt (Weyermann)
  • 0.5 lb. 10° crystal malt (Briess)
  • 0.25 lb. acidulated malt (Weyermann)
  • 0.2 oz. Carafa Special II malt (Weyermann)
  • 0.47 oz. Saaz hop pellets (5.6% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 0.25 oz. Warrior hop pellets (15.8% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 2 oz. Saaz hop pellets (3% alpha), 15 minute boil
  • 2 oz. Saaz hop pellets (3% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
  • 0.5 tsp Fermax yeast nutrient, 10 minute boil
  • 2 pkg. Pilsner Lager yeast (WLP800, White Labs)

Target Parameters

  • 1.053 o.g., 1.013 f.g., 5.3% abv, 40 IBU, 5 SRM, 5 gallons into the fermenter


  • A week in advance, I prepared the yeast in a 2L starter. It ran for three days, and then I cold-crashed it in the fridge. Prior to pitching, I decanted off ~1L of spent starter.
  • I mashed in with 3.45 gallons of water at 163.7°, to hit a mash temperature of 152°. This was built up from RO water with 1 g of calcium chloride. After 60 minutes, I added an additional 1.5 gallons of RO water at ~160°, let sit for 10 minutes, and then vorlaufed. After collecting the first runnings, I added another 3.75 gallons of RO water at 180°, to raise the mash up to 165°. I let the mash sit for another 10 minutes, and collected the second runnings.
  • In total, I collected 7.3 gallons of wort at a gravity of 1.041–nearly right on my target, for ~76% mash efficiency.
  • This batch used a 90 minute boil, and I added all of the hops, etc., per the schedule. After a full 90 minutes, I turned off the flame and started chilling.
  • I’ll note that the hop pellets I used for the aroma additions (last 15 minutes of boil) had a strong herbal and almost “green” character. The latter component is maybe more than I care for, but we’ll see how it all ends up after fermentation.
  • I chilled the wort to 75°, transferred to the fermenter while aerating, and then put it in the fermentation chamber. Once everything was down to 54°, I pitched the yeast.
  • Starting gravity was. 1.054, and the beer was brewed on 9 April 2017. I’m fermenting the beer at 50°.