Competition Results: Palaeotis Pils and Take Two Vienna Lager

I submitted my recent Vienna lager and German pils for the 2017 Romancing the Beer Competition, hosted by Thousand Oaked Homebrewers. I was pretty happy with these beers, and was pleased to see that the judges agreed! Take Two Vienna Lager earned an honorable mention in the Amber and Dark Euro Lagers category (out of 15 entries), and Palaeotis Pils placed third in the Euro Lagers category (out of 18 entries).

Let’s take a look at the overall results, and see how they stack up against my own tastings!

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Take Two Vienna Lager

This beer averaged 37.5 (from scores of 37 and 38), falling at the upper end of the “very good” range by the BJCP guidelines.

Overall, the judges thought it hit most of the notes for the style. Hops were noted as nicely balanced against the malt. I was curious to see that the judges were split on mouthfeel–one thought it was pretty much perfect for the style, and the other scored it as slightly thin and watery. Similarly, the judges were split on the maltiness–one thought it was right on point, and the other thought it a bit lacking.

One judge picked up slight estery notes (or possible acetaldehyde). I suspect that this corresponds with a brief period in early fermentation when I lost temperature control due to a power outage.

Based on my tasting, it’s interesting that the recipe doesn’t terribly fit what I like in a Vienna lager (in terms of just a little bit too malty and roasty) compared with what the judges liked in a Vienna lager. I won’t likely brew this recipe again, but I am tempted now to brew something for competition more in line with my preference and see what happens!

Palaeotis Pils

I’m really proud of how this beer turned out. It came across really well on my personal tasting, and was absolutely enjoyable when it was on tap. It may not have won top tier in the category, but the judges comments make me feel like I’m on the right track. The beer averaged 38 (individual scores of 37 and 39), right at the base of the “excellent” score range.

Aroma scored well, although both judges said they were looking for a little more malt character. In terms of the hop aroma, both seemed okay with it (but one noted their perception of a tiny hint of vegetal character and that the overall hop aroma was a bit heavy). Appearance was nailed, and flavor was also pretty solid, with a balance between hops and malt. Interestingly, one judge noted perfect carbonation and the other thought it was a bit low. One thought the finish could be a touch more crisp.

So, if I brew this again, what should I change? I might add a touch of melanoidin malt, or else I might perhaps lengthen the overall decoctions. Another option might be to use a different base malt–perhaps one of the “standard” offerings from Weyermann rather than the Bohemian floor-malted version. I would probably also reduce my late hop just a touch, to about 2/3 or 3/4 of what it was originally. And, I suppose I would reduce the bitterness a tiny bit, too–maybe down to 28 or 30 IBU rather than 34. This would let the malt shine through a bit more. Another alternative (and something I might try) would be to up the overall malt bill and initial gravity a tad. I suppose I could carbonate more strongly or package more carefully, too, but given the split judging assessment, I’m not too worried about it yet.

I’ll be trying a slightly modified version of recipe again soon!

Beer Tasting: Palaeotis Pils

20170128_124227My Palaeotis Pils, falling within the German pils style, has been on tap for a few weeks now, and seems to be reaching a peak in quality. Time for a tasting!

  • The Basics
    • Original gravity = 1.048, final gravity = 1.011, abv = 5.0%, estimated IBU = 34
  • Appearance
    • Pale straw appearance, brilliantly clear, with a tall, fine, white head that settles to a persistent blanket across the top of the beer.
  • Aroma
    • A very gentle malty sweetness with a spicy hop note behind that.
  • Flavor
    • Bready malt profile, with a firm bitterness that lingers after each sip. It’s definitely a bitter beer, but not out of balance for what I wanted.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Carbonation is appropriately high for the style, and it has a crisp, medium-dry finish.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Absolutely! This is an exceptionally nice beer; it nails pretty much every point of the style, and is easy drinking, too. German pils is probably a little hoppier than I would always want in a pale lager, but that’s more of a stylistic thing than a flaw in this particular recipe. The other night, I ordered a glass of Bitburger, often considered a “classic” German pils. Although I didn’t taste them side-by-side, I can say that mine hits many of the same notes as this commercial example. I have my pils entered in an upcoming competition, so we’ll see how my assessment compares to that of the BJCP judges.
  • Overall
    • 10/10

Palaeotis Pils

pilsner_maltOn my continued quest to learn brewing grains in depth, I recently purchased a 55 lb. sack of Weyermann’s floor-malted Bohemian pilsner malt. This is the same stuff I used for my Lithographica Pilsner, and is cool on a scientific level because the grains are malted on floors made of Solnhofen Limestone (more details here).

For my first brew with this sack of malt, I elected on doing a German pils. That’s a new style for me, and also can be brewed with a minimum complexity of ingredients (I’m really gravitating towards those sorts of simple recipes).

The name for the batch honors an important fossil bird from the Messel pits of Germany, around 47 million years old. Palaeotis is potentially an early ratite, a member of the group of birds including ostriches and emus.

Palaeotis Pils

  • 8.5 lbs. floor-malted Bohemian pilsner malt (Weyermann)
  • 0.21 lb. acidulated malt
  • 0.6 oz. Magnum hop pellets (13.2% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 oz. German Hallertau hop pellets (3.2% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Fermax yeast nutrient, 10 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
  • German lager yeast (White Labs WLP830), prepared in 1.7L starter

Target Parameters

  • Double decoction mash, 10 minute rest at 122°, infusion to hit 60 minute rest at 148°, thick decoction to raise temperature to 154°, 10 minute rest, thin decoction to mash out at 168°. Batch sparge.
  • Water built from R.O., to hit 59.1 ppm Ca, 8.2 ppm Mg, 89 ppm SO4, and 62.9 ppm Cl.
  • 1.045 o.g., 1.008 f.g., 4.9% abv, 34 IBU, 3 SRM, 5 gallons into fermenter

Procedure

  • Five days in advance (4 December 2016), I made a 1.75 L starter for my yeast culture. After two days on the stir plate, I cold-crashed the starter.
  • For this recipe, I built my water to match the “Pilsner Water” profile on Braukaiser. For the 3.6 gallons of mash water, I added 1.4 g of gypsum, 1.1 g of epsom salt, and 1.8 g of calcium chlorie. For the 5 gallons of sparge water, I added 1.9 g of gypsum, 1.6 g of epsom salt, and 2.5 g of calcium chloride.
  • I mashed in with 2.25 gallons of water at 134° to hit 126°, and left it for a 10 minute protein rest.
  • Next I added 5.25 quarts of water at 197°, to hit a mash temperature of 149° (after a bit of stirring).
  • After 50 minutes, I pulled a thick decoction of 7 quarts. I heated it to 154°, let it rest for 10 minutes, and brought to a boil for 10 minutes. The decoction addition brought the mash up to 156. I let the mash rest for 10 more minutes.
  • Next, I pulled 1 gallon of wort for a thin decoction, boiled it for 10 minutes, and returned it to the mash. This raised the temperature up to around 168°.
  • I pulled the first runnings, and added the 5 gallons of sparge water. After 10 minutes and a vorlauf, I collected the remainder of the wort. I had around 7 gallons, so added 0.25 gallons of water to bring up the volume to my target.
  • In total, I had 7.25 gallons of mash runnings at a gravity of 1.038, for 84% efficiency.
  • I brought the kettle to a boil, and added the hops and other ingredients per the schedule. I added 0.25 gallons of RO water during the boil, to top things up and keep the gravity from getting too high.
  • After 60 minutes, I chilled the wort down to 70°, transferred the wort while aerating, put the fermenter into the fermentation chamber, and pitched the yeast.
  • Starting gravity was 1.048, a touch above my target of 1.045. I will be fermenting this at 52°. I brewed the beer on 9 December 2016.