A Lager from Helles

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


  • 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)


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.

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