The other day I brewed a light beer. Not a “lite” beer, but a bright golden lager, crisp and semi-sweet, refreshing and thirst-quenching, designed for warm summer evenings to go with whatever comes off the grill. One of a couple of styles I favor in the warmer months, a Munich Helles lager is, to me, what a light beer should look and taste like. Even this beer, though, has a kick to it. When finished, this lager should still be around 6% abv, and will be full-flavored and malty. It just looks light, and doesn’t taste as heavy as the Scotch ales and stouts I’m drinking now during the winter.
There is an excellent book on the subject, part of the AHA Style Series. Written by Horst Dornbusch, “Bavarian Helles” is an excellent resource on the history, variety and process of brewing this style, which is not as well-known as it should be. If you like the golden lagers brewed by Hacker-Pschorr, Spaten, Wurzburger, Paulaner and Löwenbräu, and if you want to try your hand at making your own, you must read this book.
5 gallons, all grain
- 9 lbs. Weyermann Bohemian Pilsner malt
- 1 lb. cara-foam malt
- 1/2 lb. melanoidin malt
- 1 oz. Spalter hop pellets
- 1 oz. Tettnanger hop pellets
- White Labs Old Bavarian Lager yeast (WLP920)
- 3/4 cup corn sugar for priming
Procedure: Crush grains. Heat 13 quarts water to 167°F. Mash in grains and hold 60 minutes at 154°F. Heat another 15 quarts water to 170°F, begin runoff and sparge, collecting 25 quarts sweet wort. Bring to a boil, add 1/2 oz. Spalter hops. Boil 15 minutes, add another 1/2 oz. Spalter hops. Boil 30 minutes, add 1/2 oz. Tettnanger hops. Boil another 10 minutes, add remaining 1/2 oz. Tettnanger hops. Boil 5 more minutes (60 total), remove from heat. Chill to 80°F, take a hydrometer reading, pour into a sanitized fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Pitch yeast, seal and ferment at 60°F for eight to ten days. Rack to secondary, lager at 38 – 40°F for six weeks. Prime with corn sugar, bottle and condition cold (35 – 38°F) for at least six weeks.