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

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

Farke’s Best Pils

My dad has a few hop bines on the farm in South Dakota, and usually has a fair bit of Cascade that he sends my way (see my recent pale ale). This year, I also managed to snag some South Dakota-grown versions of Saaz, Hallertauer, and Sterling, so a German pilsner seemed like an awesome use of them. I went with a super simple grist, and loaded up most of the hops towards the end in a hope to elevate relative flavor and aroma. I had to guess on alpha acid levels, so aimed a bit higher in estimated IBU in the presumption that they would be a bit lower in potential bitterness than is typical for the varieties.

Farke’s Best Pils

  • 10 lb. Viking Pilsner malt
  • 1 oz. Sterling whole hops (est. 7.4% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. BruTanB, 10 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Hallertauer whole hops (est. 4.8% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Saaz whole hops (est. 5.3% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. yeast nutrient (WLN1000), 5 minute boil
  • 2 pkg. Saflager lager yeast (W34/70)

Target Parameters

pale yellow beer with white foam held aloft in tall clear glass
  • 1.046 o.g., 1.009 f.g., 4.9% abv, 32 IBU, 4 SRM
  • Full volume mash at 149° for 60 minutes, with 10 minute mash-out at 168°
  • Water built up from RO water, to hit target of 59 Ca, 8 Mg, 89 SO4, 63 ppm Cl, RA=-47

Procedure

  • I added 2.8 g gypsum, 2.3 g epsom salt, and 3.6 g CaCl in 7.25 gallons of water to hit a profile of 59 Ca, 8 Mg, 89 SO4, and 63 ppm Cl, with RA=-47.
  • I heated the water to 154° and mashed in to hit a temperature of 149°. At this point, I added 0.7 mL (approximately) of 88% lactic acid, to hit the target mash pH of 5.3 to 5.4.
  • I mashed at 149° for 60 minutes (with recirculation), before raising the temperature to 168° and holding it there for 10 minutes.
  • After the mash, I removed the grains. In total, I collected 6.5 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.041, for 70% mash efficiency.
  • I brought the runnings to a boil, adding finings per the recipe. After 60 minutes, I chilled to 78°, let settle for 90 minutes, and then transferred to the fermenter. I chilled it down the rest of the way to 50° in the fermentation chamber, before pitching the yeast.
  • Starting gravity was 1.046. I brewed the beer on 18 September 2021.
  • After starting fermentation at 50° on 18 September 2021, there were active signs of bubbling by 20 September 2021. I raised the temperature to 53° on that day, and then up to 56° on 22 September 2021, and 60° on 30 September. I dropped it to 55° on 3 October, 50° on 4 October, 45° on 5 October, 40° on 6 October, 35° on 7 October, and to 32° on 9 October.
  • I kegged the beer on 11 October 2021. There was a gorgeous and delicate malt flavor at that time, with a really nice floral hop character, and moderately low level of bitterness. This was shaping up to be a nice beer!
  • Final gravity was 1.010, for 4.7% abv.

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • Light yellow, very clear (nearly brilliant), with a fairly persistent white head
  • Aroma
    • Delicate malt aroma with a grainy character and light honey-sweet quality. A very low floral hop aroma. Very nice and clean fermentation character!
  • Flavor
    • Light malty character, slightly sweet, with a clean fermentation character. The bitterness is clean and moderate, but not overly so. There is a nice balance between hops and malt!
  • Mouthfeel
    • Medium body and moderate carbonation, with an off-dry finish.
  • Would I Brew This Again?
    • The malt aroma is amazing, but I wish there was a little more hop aroma alongside that in the final product. The bitterness level is perfect, and it dodges some of the issues I have had with overbittering in past recipes. The body could be a touch lighter. That said, I’m very happy with how clean the fermentation turned out, and the water character is great, too! Overall, this is not an amazing beer, but still a pretty good one.
  • Overall
    • 7/10

Twisted Schwarzbier

I have brewed schwarzbier once before, and it came out pretty good. I wanted to revisit the style as a warmer-weather dark beer, and so picked out a second recipe from Brewing Classic Styles. This version differed from the last in that it emphasizes pilsner malt more than Munich.

I am contractually obligated to use Space Balls references in any schwarzbier name, with zero apologies from doing so. Thank you.

Twisted Schwarzbier

  • 9 lb. Viking Pilsner Zero malt
  • 1 lb. Munich I malt (Weyermann)
  • 11 oz. Carafa Special II malt (Weyermann)
  • 1 oz. Vanguard hop pellets (6.5% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 0.5 oz. Mt. Hood hop pellets (4.6% alpha), 15 minute boil
  • 0.5 oz. Mt. Hood hop pellets (4.6% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Fermax, 10 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
  • Repitch of Harvest lager yeast (Imperial L17)

Target Parameters

  • 1.049 o.g., 1.013 f.g., 4.7% abv, 30 IBU, 24 SRM
  • 60 minute infusion mash at 152°, full volume
  • Claremont tap water, treated with Campden tablet

Procedure

  • I mashed in with 7.5 gallons of water at 158°, to hit my mash target of 152°. After adding 5 mL of 88% lactic acid, I held the mash at 152°, with recirculation, for 60 minutes. I then raised the mash to 168°.
  • After the mash, I removed the grain basket and collected 6.75 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.041, for 69% mash efficiency.
  • I brought the wort to a boil, adding hops and finings per the recipe. After 60 minutes, I turned off the heat and chilled it down to 70°, before transferring to the fermenter and chilling down to 52° in the fermentation chamber.
  • After the wort hit fermentation temperature, I oxygenated with 30 seconds of pure O2, and then pitched the yeast.
  • I brewed this beer on 6 February 2021. It had a starting gravity of 1.048.
  • I started fermentation at 52°, held it here for three days, raised to 54° for three days, and then finished at 56° for three days, before cold crashing.
  • I kegged the beer on 27 February 2021. Final gravity was 1.014, for 4.5% abv.

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • Brilliantly clear, deep brown beer, pouring with a persistent tan head.
  • Aroma
    • Roasty and coffee aroma, at a moderately high level.
  • Flavor
    • Roasty malt and coffee flavor, with a bready malt character in the background. Moderately high level of bitterness. Clean yeast character. Extended bitterness on the finish.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Medium-light body, moderate carbonation, off-dry finish.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Perhaps? It’s a good, clean beer, but if feels like I could dial back the roast/coffee character a touch and move the base malts (especially the Munich) more to the forefront. I think if I were to rebrew this, I would add a bit more Munich, or maybe add in some Vienna, and reduce the percentage of pilsner malt. That said, this beer is very drinkable, so I wouldn’t make it too heavy for the base malts. Based on the BJCP written descriptions, it seems to be a great example of the schwarzbier style, but just isn’t to my taste.
  • Overall
    • 9/10

Pilsnerpeton

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…

Pilsnerpeton

  • 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)

Target Parameters

  • 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.

Procedure

  • 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.

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • 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.
  • Aroma
    • 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.
  • Flavor
    • 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.
  • Mouthfeel
    • 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.
  • Overall
    • 9/10