Archive for January, 2012

A Lager from Helles

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

It’s good to get a little reminder from the Brewing Gods once in a while. That’s what happened with this brew, which should have been relatively easy but which, in the end, turned out to be a very long and complicated session. I had planned to make this Munich Helles lager a couple weeks ago and pitch the wort directly on the yeast in the primary where I had fermented a Munich Dunkel the batch before. As brewday approached, I was pretty sure that the Dunkel wasn’t going to be ready to rack on the appointed day, so I brewed last week’s Schwarzbier instead and decided to allow the Dunkel two full weeks in primary. No problem, I could move it to a cooler location to keep it from getting ahead of itself…

This morning, however, I found myself over-sleeping and waking up in a weird place, mentally – what was I brewing? I couldn’t remember, which meant I couldn’t remember what yeast I was using, and in a panic I couldn’t find anything appropriate. Then I remembered, and had to rethink the order in which I set things up – I had to time racking the Dunkel to coincide as closely as possible with the Helles wort being ready, etc. but before I could rack the Dunkel I had to empty a carboy by bottling something else… which meant starting even later.

My brew day usually starts about 7:30 am and is over by lunchtime. Today it was nearly 9:00 when the first kettle went on the stove, and nearly 2:00 when the wort went into the primary. My ordinary machine-like system was thrown off schedule from the beginning, which also contributed to miscalculations – I ended up with nearly 7 gallons of wort which meant a prolonged boil to reduce the volume, except that it was a light beer and more boiling meant darker beer…. and a change in the hop schedule…

In the end, the color is pretty much right, and the OG was what I expected, so I guess all’s well that ends well – I’ll know more when I rack it in a week and a half or so. It may mean I don’t have time to clean the bathroom before dinner, though…:)

This recipe is loosely based on one found in Horst Dornbusch’s “Bavarian Helles“, a great resource.

Spalterbräu Helles Lager

5 gallons, all-grain

Ingredients:

  • 7.5 lbs. Bohemian Pilsner malt
  • 1.5 lbs. Cara-pils malt
  • 8 oz. Melanoidin malt
  • 1 oz. Spalter hop pellets (@5% aa)
  • White Labs Oktoberfest Lager yeast (WLP820)
  • 3/4 cup corn sugar (for priming)

Procedure:

Crush grains. Heat 12 quarts water to 151°F. Mash in grains and hold at 140°F for 30 minutes. Heat another 8 quarts water to 165°F, add to mash and stir gently. Hold at 152°F for another 30 minutes. Heat another 13 quarts water to 170°F. Begin runoff and sparge, collecting 27 quarts sweet wort. Bring to boiling. Boil 45 minutes, or until volume is down to 6 gallons. Add 1/4 oz. Spalter hops. Boil 30 minutes, add another 1/4 oz. Spalter hops. Boil 25 more minutes, add remaining 1/2 oz. Spalter hops, boil 5 minutes and remove from heat. Chill to 70°F, take a hydrometer reading and pitch yeast. Seal and ferment warm three to four days. Move to a cooler spot (50°F) and continue primary fermentation for six to eight days. Rack to secondary, condition cold (40*F) for three to four weeks. Prime with corn sugar and bottle, age warm three days then store cold for six weeks.

O.G.: 1052

IBU’s: 12

Note on yeast: As I described above, I pitched this wort directly on a large quantity of yeast slurry/dregs in a primary fermenter. Fermentation start-up was almost instantaneous. Your mileage may vary.


Black & Light

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Just as I credit Greg Noonan with the “invention” of the so-called Black IPA, I also owe to Greg my appreciation for the style known as Schwarzbier. I guess I was vaguely aware of dark beers as early as high school. In college, dark versions of some of the mainstream continental lagers were around, and our college pub actually had a pseudo-Belgian dark ale on tap from time to time… It was not until I started brewing myself, at the age of about 30, that I realized or wondered about the status of dark lagers – oh yeah, Heineken and St. Pauli and Löwenbraü Dark… they’re lagers! I got it!

As I got more into it, of course, I had to begin sorting and refining what I understood about styles. Writing the Seven Barrel Brewery Brewers’ Handbook with Greg brought it all into focus – there was a difference between a Munich Dunkel and a Continental Dark – a difference born of a focus on either malt or hops, but not really on both. Where a Bavarian Dunkel is malty, sweet, with the hops only there to balance, the Schwarzbier (basis for the northern German dark lagers) is more of a crisp hoppy beer that just happens to be quite dark. Greg referred to the style as a Schwarz-pils, suggesting that it had more in common, taste and bitterness-wise, with a Czech/Bohemian pilsner than with a Munich lager. So that’s how I approach the brewing of a Schwarzbier – it needs to be dark, of course, black, even, but it should also be somewhat light in body and crisp – hoppy like a good pilsner, dark like a porter, and, of course, supremely drinkable.

Triple S Schwarzbier

5 gallons, all grain

Ingredients:

  • 7.5 lbs. Bohemian Pilsner malt
  • 3/4 lb. Cara-aroma malt
  • 2 oz. Carafa I malt
  • 2 oz. black malt
  • 4 oz Melanoidin malt
  • 1 oz. Spalter hop pellets (@5.0% aa)
  • 1 oz. Saphir hop pellets (@5.6% aa)
  • 1 oz. Saaz hop pellets (@4.0% aa)
  • recultured yeast from Arcobraü Zwickel Lager
  • 3/4 cup corn sugar (for priming)

Procedure:

Crush grains. Heat 13 quarts water to 162°F. Mash in grains and hold 60 minutes at 150°F. Heat another 15 quarts water to 168°F. Begin runoff and sparge, collect 26 quarts sweet wort. Bring to boil, add 1/2 oz. Spalter hops. Boil 30 minutes, add Saphir hops. Boil another 15 minutes, add Saaz hops. Boil another 10 minutes, add the other 1/2 oz. Spalter hops. Boil 5 more minutes, remove from heat and chill to 70°F. Take a hydrometer reading and pitch yeast. Seal and ferment at 65°F for two days then move to a cooler spot (50°F) for eight to ten days. Rack to secondary, condition cold (40°F) for three to four weeks. Prime with corn sugar, bottle and age warm for three days, then store cold for six weeks.

O.G.: 1050

IBU’s: 31

Notes on yeast: I had already brewed with this Arcobraü culture a couple weeks ago (a Bohemian Pilsner). When I racked that beer I scooped up a cup or so of the dregs from the bottom of the primary and stored it, refrigerated, in a sterilized glass milk bottle. A few days before brewing the Schwarzbier, I built the yeast dregs up to nearly a quart of slurry by feeding it about 1/2 cup of weak boiled wort (+/- 1020 OG) every other day… When I pitched it the yeast was very active and fermentation began in the primary with about three hours.


Don’t be Afraid of the Dark

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

I often get into conversations with customers about their perceptions of different beers. One of the things I hear the most frequently is “I don’t like dark beers, they’re too heavy…” or words to that effect. That’s when I remind them that a) Guinness Stout has fewer calories, fewer carbs, and is lower in alcohol, than the standard American Light Lager… and b) dark lagers like Munich Dunkels and Schwarzbiers are on the light and refreshing side, perfect for warm weather drinking.

Warm-weather drinking means cold-weather brewing. This morning we got hit with the first real snow of the winter. My wife even had a snow day from school. The house is steamy and aromatic as I brew this winter’s Dunkel, deep reddish-brown, malty but with a nice piney spice note, smooth and clean and thirst-quenching… I will be using the yeast from this batch, leaving it right in the primary fermenter, to make a Munich Helles Lager next week, the light-colored counterpart to the Dunkel. That means I will have to get a couple of batches bottled and empty a carboy or two! Being snowbound, I am more motivated to get indoor stuff accomplished, so that should be doable.

Blizzard Dunkel

5 gallons, all grain

Ingredients:

  • 5 lbs. Bohemian Pilsner malt
  • 3 lb.s dark Munich malt
  • 1/2 lb. 120°L crystal malt
  • 1/2 lb. brown malt
  • 2 oz. Carafa I malt
  • 1/2 lb. Melanoidin malt
  • 1 oz. Mt. Hood hop pellets (@4.7% aa)
  • 1/4 oz. Northern Brewer hop pellets (@12% aa)
  • 1 oz. Hallertauer hop pellets (@3% aa)
  • White Labs Oktoberfest Lager yeast (WLP820)
  • 2/3 cup corn sugar for priming

Procedure:

Crush grains. Heat 13 quarts water to 164°F. Mash in grains, hold at 152°F for 60 minutes. Heat another 15 quarts water to 168°F. Begin runoff and sparge, collecting 25 quarts sweet wort. Bring to a boil, add 1/3 oz. Mt. Hood hops. Boil 15 minutes, add the Northern Brewer hops. Boil another 15 minutes, add the remaining 2/3 oz. Mt. Hood hops. Boil another 15 minutes add the Hallertauer hops. Remove from heat after another 15 minutes (60 total). Chill to 75°F, take a hydrometer reading and pour into a sanitized fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Pitch yeast and seal. Ferment at 55 – 60°F for three days, then move fermenter to a colder spot (40 45°F). Ferment another eight to ten days. Rack to secondary and lager four to six weeks at 40°F. Prime with corn sugar and bottle, condition cold (38 – 40°F) for six weeks.

OG: 1058

IBU’s: 30