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


  • 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.


  • 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

Thumbspike Saison 2.2

The Lake Arrowhead Brew Festival is around the corner, and I’ve promised to bring some beers for my club’s booth. A nice saison seems in order–it’s the same recipe I brought last year, with only a minor change for the pilsner malt variety (Barke instead of Château Pilsen). I really liked this beer, and it went over well at the festival, too. I guesstimated on the hop alpha acid, following that from last year’s laboratory-verified measurements.


Thumbspike Saison 2.2

  • 9.25 lbs. Barke Pilsner malt (Weyermann)
  • 0.75 lbs. Munich I malt (Weyermann)
  • 0.75 lbs. white wheat malt (Great Western Malting Co.)
  • 0.8 oz. Carafa Special II (Weyerman)
  • 1 oz. whole wild hops (est. 5.8% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 0.5 oz. whole wild hops (est. 5.8% alpha), 10 minute boil
  • 1.5 oz. whole wild hops (est. 5.8% alpha), 2 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. French Saison Ale dry yeast (Mangrove Jack’s M29)

Target Parameters

  • 1.056 o.g., 1.003 f.g., 6.9% abv, 25 IBU, 6 SRM, 5.5 gallons into the fermenter
  • 60 minute mash at 150°, batch sparge, 60 minute boil


  • I mashed in with 1.5 gallons of RO water and 2.2 gallons of Claremont tap water (3.7 gallons total) to hit a mash temperature of 150°. I added 1 tbs. of 5.2 pH stabilizer. The mash was down to 147° after 60 minutes. At this point, I batch sparged with 1.2 gallons of water (10 minute rest after addition, vorlauf, collect runnings) and 3.5 gallons of water (10 minute rest after addition, vorlauf, collect runnings).
  • In total, I collected 6.75 gallons of runnings at a gravity of 1.044, for 74% efficiency.
  • I brought the runnings to a boil, adding hops per the schedule.
  • After cooling, I transferred to the fermenter and pitched the yeast.
  • Starting gravity was 1.055, pretty much right on target.
  • I brewed this beer on 7 July 2018, and am fermenting it at 75°.

Kegging Updates: Raspberry Belgian, Thumbspike Saison 2.1

I’ve done a decent bit of kegging this past week, to square away some beers slated for the Lake Arrowhead Brewfest that I’ll be serving with Horse Thief Brewers. The festival is just under a month away, but with a new baby soon to arrive in the household I know that time will be tight. Gotta keg while the kegging’s good!

Raspberry Belgian, transferring to the keg

Raspberry Belgian 1.1, transferring to the keg

My cold storage space is also tight, so I’ve decided to get the beers carbonated and conditioned using a more “traditional” keg priming technique. Not only does it cut down on my CO2 usage, but it also should help to eat up any residual oxygen from the transfer and help the beers stay a bit fresher. Now of course it would be ideal to do the full keg purge with CO2 and closed transfer thing. But as I said…I’m tight for time and not keen on always blowing through my CO2 supply. I also feel that these two beers should hold up pretty well (both are fairly high alcohol and one is quite tart); if it was a delicate lager, crystal malt heavy porter, or hoppy IPA, I would definitely do things differently.

In any case, here are the details on everything.

Thumbspike Saison 2.1

I brewed this beer on June 25, and fermented it at the ambient temperature–around 75° on up. I kegged the batch on 12 July 2017, with 2.75 oz. of corn sugar boiled in 1 cup of water. Around 5 gallons went into the keg. Final gravity was 1.003, down from 1.055. This works out to around 6.8% abv.

Raspberry Belgian 1.1

I brewed this beer on 27 June, fermenting it at around 66°. On the fourth day of fermentation, 1 July 2017, I added around 1L (~4.25 cups) of Vintner’s Harvest raspberry puree. After about a week, I moved it out of the fermentation chamber to finish out at ambient temperature, around 78°.

I kegged the beer on 14 July 2017. The flavor was nice and tart, although at this point the raspberry comes through more in the aroma than in the flavor. I will have to see if that changes when I chill it and serve it carbonated; there might be some minor adjustments required prior to the festival, if that’s the case.

Because I wanted to keep this beer for home use too, I split it between two mini-kegs. Three gallons went into one, with 1.82 ounces of corn sugar boiled in 1 cup water (targeting around 3 volumes of CO2). The remaining 2 gallons or so went into another keg, which I force carbonated to around 2.8 volumes.

Final gravity for this batch was 1.013, down from 1.044. That clocks in at 4.1% abv–a very nice session beer!

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.

Thumbspike Saison 2.0

I’ve only brewed a saison once before, and it turned out pretty decent. Not perfect, but decent. I dry hopped just a touch too much last time, and so the hop aroma overwhelmed the yeast character. Thus, I decided to ditch the dry hops entirely on this batch. My recipe is similar to what I used before, with a few differences on several fronts. First, I added a touch of Carafa II for color, and ditched the honey in favor of a lower mash temperature to dry things out a bit. Also, I had some wild hops left, and a saison seemed like a good place to let those meld with a strong yeast. Finally, I decided to try Mangrove Jack dry yeast, and see what that does for everything.


A view of the brew kettle, just prior to the start of the boil

Thumbspike Saison 2.0

  • 9.25 lbs. floor-malted Bohemian pilsner malt (Weyermann)
  • 0.75 lbs. Munich I malt (Weyermann)
  • 0.75 lbs. white wheat malt (Great Western Malting Co.)
  • 1 oz. Carafa Special II (Weyerman)
  • 1.1 oz. whole wild hops (5.8% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1.15 oz. whole wild hops (5.8% alpha), 10 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
  • 2 pkg. French Saison Ale dry yeast (Mangrove Jack’s M29)

Target Parameters

  • 1.057 o.g., 1.003 f.g., 7.0% abv, 29 IBU, 7 SRM, 5.5 gallons into the fermenter


  • To use up my RO water and thin out the Claremont waters a bit, I added 1.25 gallons with 2.42 gallons of tap water for my mash water. I heated it up to 165°, added the water to the mash tun, and let it slide to 158.3°, before adding the grains. This hit a mash temperature of 148.7°, which was down to 147.1° after 20 minutes. The temperature didn’t drop much beyond this, and was hovering around 147° when I checked 60 minutes later.
  • I aimed for a 75 minute mash duration. After 65 minutes, I added 1.3 gallons of water at 180°, to raise the mash temperature to 150.4°. I let it rest for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the first runnings. I then added 3.3 gallons of water at 165°, let it sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the remainder of the runnings.
  • In total, I collected 6.75 gallons with a gravity of 1.047, for 77% efficiency.
  • I aimed for a 60 minute boil, adding the various hops and finings per the schedule.
  • After 60 minutes, I turned off the flame and started chilling. Once I hit 85°, I transferred to the primary fermenter and pitched the yeast.
  • I plan to have 80° as my base temperature, and let it free-rise from there as needed. I’ll probably leave it in the fermenter for at least 10 days.
  • I brewed this beer on May 12, 2017. Starting gravity was 1.055, just a hair under my target gravity. A successful brew evening all around!