I really like German pils, and make it pretty frequently…with 14 brews of this style under my belt, it’s time for number 15! For this iteraton, I returned to Dave Carpenter’s Lager book for inspiration via the Pfriem Pilsner recipe. My current version is modified for hop varieties on-hand; thanks to my HOPBOX I had a few different German hops in the freezer, which were a perfect match for this style. Notably, I’ve never brewed with Saphir before, and wanted to give it a try. I also had some S-189 in my stockpile (from a freebie give-away), and figured this would be a good batch to try it in.
The batch practically named itself. I was brewing in my garage on a hot summer day, with the Foundry right at the garage door entry. I ran across the driveway (our house is horseshoe shaped, with a parking space right in the middle of the U) to grab something from my fermenting area, leaving my brew rig unattended for a minute. Looking out the window and towards the garage, I suddenly noted a black bear wander into our yard. It ambled over to the open garage door, obviously intrigued by the malty aromas of a pilsner mash. As it started to poke its nose around the Foundry, two thoughts went through my head…first, “That’s so cool! I should get a picture!” The second thought was…”My beer! The bear! I don’t want the mash tun tipped over! The bear could get burned! My beer could get wasted! Action! Quick!” In an instant, I was at the door, yelling at the unexpected visitor to get out of my garage! With what I can only assume was surprise, the bear craned its neck to look at me, and then booked it out of the yard. Disaster averted! And beer recipe named.
Black Bear Pils
10.25 lb. Barke pilsner malt (Weyermann)
2 oz. acidulated malt (Weyermann)
1 oz. Hallertau Tradition hop pellets (6.1% alpha), 60 minute boil
0.5 oz. Hallertau Tradition hop pellets (6.1% alpha), 10 minute boil
0.5 oz. Saphir hop pellets (3.7% alpha), 10 minute boil
0.5 oz. Spalt Spalter hop pellets (3.0% alpha), 10 minute boil
1 tsp. BruTanB, 10 minute boil
1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
1.5 oz. Saphir hop pellets (3.7% alpha), 10 minute whirlpool
2 pkg. SafLager German lager yeast (Fermentis S-189)
1.047 s.g., 1.007 f.g., 35 IBU, 4 SRM, 5.2% abv
Full-volume mash, no sparge, at 142° for 40 minutes and 156° for 40 minutes, with 10 minute mash-out at 168°
Claremont tap water adjusted with RO and minerals to hit 47 ppm Ca, 2.5 ppm Mg, 33 ppm Na, 92 ppm SO4, 39 ppm Cl, and 11 ppm HCO3, with 9 ppm alkalinity and RA=-26 ppm
To produce the water, I added 2 mL of 88% lactic acid to to 2.5 gallons of tap water to remove the bicarbonate, and then 1/4 of a Campden tablet to remove the chloramines. Then, I added 4.5 gallons of RO water and 3.5 g gypsum to achieve a final water with 47 ppm Ca, 2.5 ppm Mg, 33 ppm Na, 92 ppm SO4, 39 ppm Cl, and 11 ppm HCO3, with 9 ppm alkalinity and RA=-26 ppm.
I heated the mash water to 146°, and added the grains to hit a target mash temperature of 142°. I held it at this temperature for 40 minutes, chasing away bears when necessary. It wasn’t necessary to add lactic acid for this batch, because I already had acidulated malt. After the initial rest, I raised the mash temperature to 156°, and held it here for another 40 minutes. Finally, I heated to 168° and held it there for 10 minutes before removing 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 hops, BrewTanB, and Whirlfloc as indicated in the recipe. In total, I had a 70 minute boil.
I brewed this beer on 20 August 2022. After chilling to ~75°, I transferred the beer to my fermenter and continued to chill overnight down to 48°.
Starting gravity was 1.047, right on target. I pitched the yeast on 21 August 2022, and started the fermentation at 48°.
I raised the fermentation temperature to 55° on 28 August, and then to 60° on 1 September 2022. I crashed the fermenter to 36° on 3 September 2022, and lagered at this temperature until kegging on 28 October 2022.
Final gravity was 1.010, for 4.9% abv. Although there was some yeast disturbance upon kegging and initial serving, I was pulling remarkably clear drafts within about 10 days. I’m quite pleased with that!
Near brilliantly clear, straw-colored beer, which pours with a medium white head of modest persistence.
Spicy hop aroma with a doughy and very slight honey quality to the malt. Clean fermentation profile in the aroma. Wonderful!
Cracker-like malt profile, with a slight bit of malty sweetness. Moderately high and clean bitterness, with a modest spicy quality. Clean yeast character. The malt is at the front of the taste, and the bitterness sneaks in and then pops for an extended and prominent bitter finish. The mineral character of the water also comes through, against the hops.
This is a super solid German pils! I wish the head retention was better, but everything else works super well. I’m also pleased with the yeast–it emphasizes the malt well, and also dropped clear pretty quickly.
I am continuing my quest for the perfect German pils, with numerous iterations (see theserecentexamples) 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!
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
0.75 oz. Edelweiss hop blend pellets (5.1% alpha), 5 minute boil
2 pkg. Diamond Lager yeast (Lallemand)
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°
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.
Brilliantly clear and straw-colored, with a white, creamy, and persistent head.
Floral hop aroma, with a crackery sweet malt character. Very clean yeast profile.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Light yellow, very clear (nearly brilliant), with a fairly persistent white head
Delicate malt aroma with a grainy character and light honey-sweet quality. A very low floral hop aroma. Very nice and clean fermentation character!
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!
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.
I brew this recipe from time to time, and have enjoyed it pretty well so far. It’s a nice German pils to have around, and has a wonderfully simple approach. This year’s edition is generally the same as in past years, although I used all-Sterling as the hop, rather than a mix of Mt. Hood and Sterling, and I have a different brand of base malt.
Schell’s Pilsner Clone 2021
11 lb. Viking 2-row Xtra Pale Malt
0.25 lb. Carapils (Briess)
0.75 oz. Sterling hop pellets (7.4% alpha), 60 minute boil
0.5 oz. Sterling hop pellets (7.4% alpha), 20 minute boil
1 g BruTanB, 10 minute boil
1.3 oz. Sterling hop pellets (7.4% alpha), 5 minute boil
1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
1 pkg. German Lager yeast (WLP830), in 2L starter
1.25 oz. Sterling hop pellets (7.4% alpha), 3 day dry hop
1.050 o.g., 1.006 f.g., 5.9% abv, 35 IBU, 4 SRM
60 minute full volume mash, with 40 minutes at 144° and 10 minutes at 158°
Claremont tap water
I mashed in with 7.3 gallons of water at 150°, adding 7 mL of 88% lactic acid, and recirculated at a mash temperature of 144° for 40 minutes.
Next, I raised the mash temperature to 158°, holding it there for 10 minutes.
Finally, I raised the mash to 168° for 10 minutes, before removing the grains.
In total, I collected 6.4 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.044, for 68% mash efficiency.
I brought the kettle to a boil, adding hops and finings per the schedule. After 60 minutes, I turned off the heat and chilled, transferred, and finished chilling to 48°. I oxygenated with pure O2 for 40 seconds before pitching the yeast.
I started with ~5.25 gallons of beer in the fermenter and an original gravity of 1.050.
I brewed the beer on 1 May 2021.
I began fermentation at 50°, and raised the temperature to 52° on 8 May 2021. I raised the temperature to 60° on 26 May 2021, and cold crashed on 26 May 2021. My fermentation chamber broke(!) on 1 June 2021, so the beer was at ~65° for around 24 hours. I got it back cold on 2 June 2021, and added the dry hops on 5 June 2021.
I kegged the beer on 12 June 2021, adding 1 tsp. of gelatin heated to 156° in 3/4 cup of water.
Final gravity was 1.010, which works out to 5.2% abv.
This is a light gold/yellow beer that pours brilliantly clear, with a persistent creamy head.
The beer has a light, spicy hop note, and a crackery malt note.
It has a prominent bitterness, with a crisp and clean hop character. The bitterness is a bit over the top, and the water has a mineral-type (almost salty) character. Paired with the right food it does OK, but it is a bit too bitter on its own. The malt is light and crackery; very simple, but nice. Yeast profile is quite clean.
Yes, but next time I’m going to do better on the water profile. I think using tap water was a mistake here, especially without more adjustments to knock out carbonates, etc. The bitterness is just too much, which is unfortunate! In going back through my notes, all past iterations have built up from RO water, and I think I’ll do that again next time. Everything else works pretty well, and I suppose the bitterness is within the upper bounds of a German pils, so I can’t ding it too much. I might also try going back to the Mt. Hood+Sterling hop combo, just to give it a touch more interest in the hops.
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.