Dog Days Pilsner

As the summer reached its peak of heat near the end of August, pilsners were always on my mind. There’s nothing more refreshing than sitting out on the patio at the end of an afternoon, with a Willi Becher of freshly poured pilsner. I find that a good pilsner with some character can also work as a fall beer…basically, a classic German pils is the year-round beer in my world!

So, during the Dog Days of Summer, I crafted this Dog Days Pilsner recipe. I kept the malt bill super simple, with pilsner malt and a touch of CaraPils to round out the mouthfeel. Although I often go for a SMaSH-type strategy for hopping, this time I wanted to build up some layers of hop character. Finally, I wanted a little more yeast character, so went with the White Labs’ Oktoberfest/Marzen recipe, instead of my usual W34/70. Those strategies paid off nicely in the end!

Dog Days Pilsner

  • 9.5 lb. Pilsner malt (Weyermann)
  • 6 oz. Carapils malt (Weyermann)
  • 4 oz. acidulated malt (BestMalz)
  • 1 oz. Sterling hop pellets (7.4% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Saaz hop pellets (5.3% alpha), 20 minute boil
  • 0.55 oz. Hallertauer Mittelfrueh hop pellets (3.2% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Fermax yeast nutrient, 10 minute boil
  • 1 WhirlFloc tablet, 5 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. Octoberfest/Marzen lager yeast (WLP 820), in 1.75L vitality starter

Target Parameters

  • 1.046 s.g., 1.015 f.g., 4.1% abv, 3 SRM, 37 IBU
  • Infusion mash, 155°, batch sparge; 60 minute boil
  • Claremont water, adjusted with lactic acid and gypsum to achieve 66 ppm Ca, 30 ppm Mg, 81 ppm Na, 107 ppm SO4, 90 ppm Cl, est. 30 ppm HCO3; alkalinity 25 ppm, effective hardness 65 ppm, RA -40 ppm

Procedure

  • The morning of my brew day, I spooled up a 1.75L vitality starter for the yeast, and ran it on my stir plate.
  • To prepare my water, I added 9 mL 88% lactic acid to 8.25 gallons of tap water along with a Campden tablet, and then 4g gypsum. This was done to knock out the carbonates and approximate a target of 66 ppm Ca, 30 ppm Mg, 81 ppm Na, 107 ppm SO4, 90 ppm Cl, est. 30 ppm HCO3; alkalinity 25 ppm, effective hardness 65 ppm, RA -40 ppm.
  • I mashed in with 3.5 gallons of water at 162°. Mash temp was a bit low at 151.5°, so I added 3 quarts of water at 178°, to hit 155.5°. I added 0.75 mL of 88% lactic acid to the mash, to lower pH to an estimated target of ~5.45.
  • After 60 minutes, I added 0.75 gallons of water at 185°, let it sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed and then collected the first runnings. I added the remainder of the sparge water, and collected second runnings.
  • In total, I collected 6.8 gallons of runnings at 1.043, for ~77% efficiency.
  • I brought the runnings to a boil, adding hops and kettle finings per the schedule. After a 60 minute boil, I turned off the heat and chilled down to 85° with my cooling coil. I transferred to the fermenter and cooled the rest of the way (~52°) in the fermentation chamber. This final chill took around six hours.
  • I gave the wort a 30 second blast of pure oxygen, and then pitched the yeast.
  • I brewed the beer on 15 August 2020, and started fermentation at 54°.
  • I raised the temperature to 56° on 31 August, 58° on 2 September, and then 60° on 4 September. I held it at 60° for 12 hours, and then started the downward trend. It was at 57° on 5 September, 50° on 6 September, 45° on 7 September, 40° on 8 September, and 35° on 9 September. The final step was down to 32° on 10 September, and I held it there until kegging on 26 September 2020.
  • The final gravity was 1.011, down from 1.049, for 5.0% abv.

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • Clear, just shy of brilliant. Light gold color, with a fine and persistent white head.
  • Aroma
    • Moderate level of malt aroma comes through, with a grainy sweet character. The hops come across amazingly, with a moderately prominent floral quality.
  • Flavor
    • Moderate grainy-sweet malt character–just gorgeous! The bitterness is moderately high, with a clean and slightly herbal character.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Moderately light body, with a crisp and slightly dry finish and moderate carbonation.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • This is a really nice pilsner. The aroma and malt character are perfect. I can’t think of much I would change with this one, other than letting it lager a touch more before it goes on tap. In the last part of the keg that I’m on right now, it’s looking really nice!
    • My typical German pils recipes are on the upper end of bitterness for the style (37 IBU here, versus 40 max in the BJCP guidelines). At some point, I should probably play around with recipes at the lower end of the IBU spectrum…
  • Overall
    • 9.5 / 10 (slight ding for initial clarity)

Schell’s Pils Clone 1.1

Last year, one of my favorite recipes was a clone of Schell’s Pils, a German-style pilsner from Minnesota using 2-row malt rather than pilsner malt. I decided to have another go at this recipe, but with a few minor modifications in the ingredients.

Schell’s Pils Clone 1.1

  • 11.5 lb. 2-row malt (Great Western)
  • 0.25 lb. Carapils malt (Briess)
  • 1 oz. Mt. Hood hop pellets (4.6% alpha), first wort hopping and 60 minute boil
  • 0.75 oz. Mt. Hood hop pellets (4.6% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 0.75 oz. Mt. Hood hop pellets (4.6% alpha), 20 minute boil
  • 0.5 oz. Sterling hop pellets (7.4% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Fermax yeast nutrient, 10 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
  • 1 repitch of German lager yeast (White Labs WLP830)

Target Parameters

  • 1.052 o.g., 1.011 f.g., 5.4% abv, 38 IBU, 4 SRM
  • 60 minute infusion mash, 152°, batch sparge
  • Water built up from RO, to hit target water profile of 59 ppm Ca, 8 ppm Mg, 89 ppm SO4, 63 ppm Cl; RA=-47ppm

Procedure

  • I built up my RO water with 1.86 g CaCl, 1.45 g gypsum, and 1.2 g Epsom salt in total with 8.5 gallons of RO water.
  • I mashed in with 4 gallons of water at 163.5°, to hit a mash temperature of around 152°. After 60 minutes, I added 1.1 gallons of water at ~185°, let sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the first runnings.
  • I next added ~3.6 gallons of water, let sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the second runnings.
  • In total, I collected 7.25 gallons of runnings with a graviy of 1.045, for 77% mash efficiency.
  • I brought the kettle to a boil, adding the hops, nutrient, and finings per the schedule.
  • After a 60 minute boil, I chilled the wort down to ~75°, and transferred to the fermenter.
  • I chilled the wort in my fermentation chamber down to 49°, oxygenated with 30 seconds of pure O2, and pitched a culture of yeast from a previous batch (my Crystal Pils, harvested about 6 weeks prior).
  • I fermented at 52°, for just under a month.
  • Starting gravity was 1.053, on 7 March 2020.
  • I didn’t change the temperature at all during the duration of fermentation, figuring that any lingering off-flavors would be cleaned up during this time.
  • I kegged the beer on 4 April 2020. Final gravity was 1.010, for 5.7% abv.

Tasting

golden beer with white head in conical pilsner glass
  • Appearance
    • Thick white head, pretty persistent. It pours well, and sticks around, too. The beer itself is light yellow and pretty clear (but not quite brilliant).
  • Aroma
    • Lightly spicy hop character, slight grainy-sweet malt character.
  • Flavor
    • Definitely hop dominant, with an assertive hop presence that is on the tongue well after finishing the sip. Malt character is smooth and slightly doughy, but definitely in the background…almost too much so.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Off-dry, moderately high carbonation, with a lingering bitter finish.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • For my tastes, I liked the first batch much better. This version is still a pretty good German pils, but definitely a touch more bitter than I care for in this style. It just overwhelms the malt too much. I think I’ll go back to my hopping schedule from the previous version. The hop/malt balance was just better in that one. I’ll still keep the dry-hop out, though. I also wonder if changing from Rahr to Great Western for the malt made a difference?
  • Overall: 6.5/10

Crystal Pils

One of my current brewing goals is to try out American noble-type hops, to see how they stack up against German varieties. I theoretically should be able to get American varieties that are fresher and slightly cheaper than their German counterparts, although freshness is my main concern in the quantities I use.

For this batch, I’m making a German-style pils, with American malt and American hops. Crystal is my focus for this batch–it is often described as a substitute for Hallertauer Mittlefrueh, which made this American variety a logical choice.

Otherwise, the batch is a pretty straightforward pilsner. I upped the effort a bit with a double decoction, to improve mash efficiency as well as flavor. I also experimented with boiling the water prior to brewing to precipitate out carbonates. Finally, I made an additional water treatment of gypsum and calcium chloride. Our tap water here is a bit low in sulfate, and I also thought a bit more calcium and chloride wouldn’t hurt. I have had perpetual issues with minor haze, so it seemed worth a try. Similarly, I think that decoction may be helpful. This is all bad experimental science of course, because I’m changing way too many variable at once, but in any case I was feeling adventurous.

Crystal Pils

  • 9.5 lb. Superior Pilsen Malt (Great Western Malting)
  • 1 oz. Crystal hop pellets (3.0% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Crystal hop pellets (4.5% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Fermax yeast nutrient, 10 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 5 minute boil
  • 2 oz. Crystal hop pellets (4.5% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. German lager yeast (WLP830), prepared in starter

Target Parameters

  • Double decoction, with 60 minute rest at 145°, 20 minute rest at 158°
  • 1.048 o.g., 1.006 f.g., 5.5% abv, 32 IBU, 3 SRM
  • Claremont tap water, boiled and cooled prior to brewing, with 2 g gypsum and 3 g CaCl added.

Procedure

  • Two days prior to brewing, I brought the tap water to a rolling boil and let it cool, in an attempt to precipitate out carbonate. I carefully decanted the water prior to brewing. I added 2 g of gypsum and 3 g of CaCl to increase the overall calcium and sulfate levels.
  • Also two days in advance, I made a 1.75L starter, let it run, and cold crashed for 12 hours prior to pitching.
  • I mashed in with 4 gallons of water at 156°, to hit 145°. I added 6.25 mL of 88% lactic acid to the mash, to adjust mash pH. Because I didn’t know the exact chemistry of my water, I did a few test scenarios and found that this amount would keep me in the acceptable pH range for most possible water chemistries.
  • After 30 minutes of mash rest, I decocted 6 quarts of thick mash, raised the temperature to 160°, and let it sit for 10 minutes. I boiled for 15 minutes, and added it back to the main mash, to hit 152°. This was a bit below my intended target of 158°, so for next time I’ll want to decoct a larger volume–perhaps twice what I needed?
  • After 20 minutes, I decocted two gallons of thick mash, boiled for 10 minutes, and added it back to the main mash. This hit a temperature of 166°, so I stirred and added 1 gallon of water at 160°. This brought the mash down to 162°.
  • I let the mash sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collecte the first runnings. I added the remaining 3.6 gallons of water, and collected second runnings.
  • In total, I collected 7.1 gallons of water with a gravity of 1.040, for 81% mash efficiency.
  • I brought the kettle to a boil, boiling for 60 minutes and adding hops, nutrients, and finings per the schedule.
  • I chilled down to 85° and let the kettle sit for 4 hours. Trub settled out nicely–a long rest might be a good procedure for future beers where I care about clarity.
  • I transferred to the fermenter, chilled to 48°, oxygenated, pitched the yeast, and let the fermenter free rise to 52°.
  • I brewed the beer on 26 December 2019, and fermented at 52° for the first 11 days. The yeast threw off a ton of sulfur in the first few days of fermentation.
  • On January 6 (11 days post-brew), ambient temperature in my garage was 58°, so I moved the fermenter out of the fermentation chamber. Temperatures in the garage were between 55° and 62° for the next three weeks.
  • After 20 days at ambient, I kegged the beer on 26 January 2020. I transferred the beer semi-closed transfer into a CO2-purged keg. I conditioned at 33° for awhile, before moving it on-tap.
  • Final gravity was 1.010, down from 1.045, for 4.6% abv.

Tasting

  • Appearance
    • Light yellow, clear (but not quite brilliant), with persistent, fine white head. Gorgeous! It’s a shame it’s not brilliant, but that would probably just take a bit more time and patience.
  • Aroma
    • Slightly spicy hop aroma, with a lightly sweet malt note. Very nicely balanced between the two.
  • Flavor
    • Slightly sweet, grainy malt character. Firm but not overpowering bitterness.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Moderately dry, smooth finish with a residual bitterness that pleasantly lingers. Moderate carbonation; a bit reduced because I have to do an extended pour thanks to the massive head!
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Yes! This is a delightful beer, which is a darned good approximation of the German pils style using American ingredients. I would be a bit happier if it was brilliant rather than just “vey clear,” but that’s about the only ding on this otherwise great brew. It seems that a decoction didn’t make much difference for clarity here. Even so, the thing I love about pilsners is that they are simplicity in recipe with maximum enjoyability in flavor!
  • Overall
    • 9.5/10

Bierstadt Pils Clone 1.1

I brewed this recipe nearly a year ago, and found the result to be super enjoyable. Why not give it another try? I made a few modifications for hopping rate, and ditched the whirlpool hops, which were apparently a mistake in the originally published recipe (now corrected at the link).

Bierstadt Pils Clone 1.1

  • 9.75 lbs. Barke Pilsner malt (Weyermann)
  • 0.5 lb. Acidulated malt (Bestmalz)
  • 1.25 oz. Hallertauer Mittelfrueh hop pellets (3.0% alpha), first wort hopping, 90 minute boil
  • 1.5 oz. Hallertauer Mittelfrueh hop pellets (3.0% alpha), 70 minute boil
  • 1.25 oz. Hallertauer Mittelfrueh hop pellets (3.0% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Fermax yeast nutrient, 10 minute boil
  • 2 pkg. Saflager lager yeast (W34/70)

Target Parameters

  • 1.048 s.g, 1.007 f.g., 5.4% abv, 34 IBU, 3.4 SRM
  • Infusion step mash with decoction
  • Water built from 8.75 gallons of RO water, with 4.3 g CaCl, 3.4 g gypsum, 2.7 g epsom salts, to achieve -47 RA, 59 ppm Ca, 8 ppm Mg, 89 ppm SO4, 63 ppm Cl

Procedure

  • I mashed in with 12 quarts of water at 140°, to hit 132°. After 10 minutes, I added 3.5 quarts of water just below boiling, to hit 145°. I let it rest here for 30 minutes. Finally, I added 5.5 quarts just below boiling, to hit 158°. After 40 minutes, I pulled 1.66 gallons of thin decoction and boiled it for 10 minutes. I added it back to the mash, which raised the temperature to 164°.
  • Next, I let the mash sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the first runnings. I added the first hop charge to the kettle at this time.
  • Next, I added the remaining sparge water (3.5 gallons) at ~170°, to hit a 164° mash temperature. I let it sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the second runnings.
  • In total, I collected 7 gallons at a gravity of 1.041, for 77% mash efficiency. I added 0.25 gallons of RO water to raise the volume to 7.25 gallons.
  • I brought everything to a boil, adding hops and other ingredients per the schedule.
  • After a 90 minute boil, I chilled and transferred. Gravity at this point was 1.052, a bit above my target. So, I added 7 cups of water heated to near boiling to top up and hit a gravity of 1.049.
  • I chilled in the fermenter down to 48°, before oxygenating and pitching the yeast.
  • I brewed this beer on 14 September 2019, fermenting at 50°.
  • I raised the beer to 60° on 30 September 2019. I cooled down to 50° on 4 October 2019, and down to 35° on 5 October 2019.
  • I kegged the beer on 11 October 2019, with a partially closed transfer. Gravity at this point was 1.010, for 5.2% abv.

Tasting

  • The Basics
    • 1.049 o.g., 1.010 f.g., 5.2% abv
  • Appearance
    • Clear, nearly brilliantly so, light yellow beer, with a fine, white, and persistent head.
  • Aroma
    • Clean, lightly malty aroma, with slight floral hop presence.
  • Flavor
    • Light, slightly sweet, and grainy malt character, with a crisp bitterness against that. The balance tilts slightly towards bitter, but not overly so.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Crisp and light-bodied, with moderate carbonation and a smooth finish.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • This is a great recipe. It’s a really smooth and drinkable beer, and was worth repeating from last time. I enjoy the grainy malt character, and the pleasant German hops alongside that. The head isn’t quite as firm and frothy as I might like (that honor belongs to the last German pils I did), but I’m not sure if that is a recipe flaw or something else. I think it will be worth playing with malts some more to see what happens when I switch those up. This recipe lacks some of what makes my other recent pils great, but in all it’s pretty decent.
  • Overall
    • 8/10

Bierstadt Pils Clone

It’s pils time again, as I continue my exploration of European lagers. The July/August 2018 issue of BYO magazine had a tasty looking clone recipe, for Bierstadt Lagerhaus’ Slow Pour Pils. Its simplicity was beautiful–pilsner malt, acidulated malt, Hallertau Mittelfrueh hops, and lager yeast. Additionally, it gave me a chance to play around with more step mashes and decoctions.

I followed the published recipe pretty closely, adjusting just slightly on my additions to ensure that the bittering hops would still hit my target of ~33 IBU. But, I then saw a correction in a later issue that the whirlpool addition should instead be a late hop addition. I figure this probably won’t mess things up too much, giving a bit more hop aroma, although also leaving slightly more potential for haze. In any case, the official recipe is posted at the BYO website.

Because I don’t have direct-fire capabilities for my mash tun, all of the steps had to be accomplished via infusions. This took a bit of creativity, but I managed reasonably well. As another wrinkle in the process, I tried for the first time a closed-transfer technique. In the past, I found that my pilsners tended to get that honey-like taste of oxidation after 6-8 weeks, which detracted from my overall enjoyments towards the end of the keg. As noted below, my attention to technique paid off pretty well!

Bierstadt Pils Clone

  • 8 lbs. Barke pilsner malt (Weyermann)
  • 0.5 lb. acidulated malt (BEST)
  • 1 oz. Hallertauer Mittelfrueh hop pellets (4.0% alpha), first wort hop and 60 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Hallertauer Mittelfrueh hop pellets (2.7% alpha), 40 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Hallertauer Mittelfrueh hop pellets (2.7% alpha), 10 minute boil
  • 1 oz. Hallertauer Mittelfrueh hop pellets (4.0% alpha), 10 minute whirlpool
  • 2 pkg. W34/70 Saflager lager yeast
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil

Target Parameters

  • 1.048 s.g, 1.011 f.g., 4.9% abv, 33 IBU, 3.4 SRM
  • Infusion step mash with decoction
  • Water built from 8.12 gallons of RO water, with 1.6 g CaCl, 1.25 gypsum, 1 g epsom salts in 3.25 gallons of mash water, and 2.4 g CaCl, 1.9 g gypsum, 1.5 g epsom salts in 5 gallons of sparge water, to achieve -47 RA, 59 ppm Ca, 8 ppm Mg, 89 ppm SO4, 63 ppm Cl

Procedure

  • I mashed in with 2.5 gallons of water at 150° (1.054 quarts/pound of grain), aiming for a protein rest temperature of 131°. Instead, I hit 141°, and stirred frequently to get it down to 136° by the end of the 10 minute protein rest.
  • I next added 1.5 quarts of boiling water to achieve a mash rest of 144°. After 30 minutes, the temperature was down to 140°. I then added 1.5 quarts of boiling water, to hit 152°. This was below my target of 160°, so I added another 2 quarts of boiling water, to finally hit 160°. I let it sit here for 40 minutes before proceeding to the next step. In total, I added 4.5 gallons of water for the mash.
  • Next, I pulled a thin mash of 2.75 gallons, and boiled it for 10 minutes. Next, I added it back to the mash tun, to hit 168°. I let this sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the first runnings.
  • Next, I added 3.25 gallons of water at 180°, let it sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the second runnings.
  • In total, I collected 6.75 gallons of runnings with a gravity of 1.053, for 87% mash efficiency.
  • I brought the runnings to a boil, adding hops and kettle finings per the schedule. To keep bitterness closer to my calculated numbers, I removed the boil hops before adding the whirlpool charge.
  • I chilled the wort to 85°, and then transferred it to the fermenter, where it was further chilled to 49° in my fermentation chamber. I oxygenated with 60 seconds of pure O2, and then pitched the two packets of dry yeast directly.
  • Starting gravity was 1.053, with brewing on 31 August 2018. I fermented at 50°, until 25 September 2018, when I cold crashed to 36°.
  • I did a closed transfer to the keg (under CO2 pressure) on 27 October 2018.
  • Final gravity was 1.012; down from 1.053, this works out to 5.4% abv.
Boiling the decoction

Tasting Results

  • The Basics
    • 1.053 o.g., 1.012 f.g., 5.4% abv
  • Appearance
    • Brilliantly clear, light yellow beer, with a fine, white, and persistent head
  • Aroma
    • Slight spicy hop aroma, with a pleasant and gentle maltiness behind that
  • Flavor
    • Robust hop character nicely balanced against a grainy/sweet malt profile. Really nice!
  • Mouthfeel
    • Moderately dry, with a smooth finish that tilts toward the hoppy end in a gentle yet firm way.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Absolutely! This has matured into a wonderfully drinkable, really delightful beer. I’m pleased with how such a simple recipe can produce excellent results.
  • Overall
    • 9/10