My back room is down to the low 40’s. There’s 3 inches of new snow on the ground under a bright blue December sky. Time to make the beer! Or more specifically, time to make the lagers! The brewer’s natural, seasonal calendar tells me that six months from now it’ll be mid-June, there’ll be no snow, and it’ll be much warmer than it is now. Which means I will need an appropriate beer in hand. How about a pilsner? Don’t mind if I do.
A few months ago, the Market started carrying a Bavarian beer called Arcobraü Zwickel Lager. Described on the bottle as a a traditional unfiltered lager, I realized, after the first couple bottles, that there was retrievable and usable yeast in the bottom… Little by little, bottle by bottle, I built up a pint or so of dregs which I fed and cultured to nearly a quart of yeast slurry. It is indeed a tasty beer, so I had to brew an appropriately tasty homebrew in which to pitch the saved yeast. This is not a clone of the Zwickel Lager, although it may end up pretty close.
5 gallons, all-grain
- 8 lbs. Weyermann Bohemian Pilsner malt
- 1/2 lb. melanoidin malt
- 1/2 lb. 30°L crystal malt (or Cara-Hell)
- 8 aau’s Saaz hop pellets
- 1 oz. whole Hallertauer hops
- Arcobraü Zwickel Lager yeast (recultured)
- 3/4 cup corn sugar (for priming)
Crush grains. Heat 14 quarts water to 164°F. Mash in grains and hold 90 minutes at 153°F. Heat another 13 quarts water to 168°F. Begin runoff and sparge, collecting 25 quarts of sweet wort. Bring to a boil, add the Saaz hops. Boil 55 minutes, add the Hallertauer hops. Boil 5 minutes, remove from heat. Chill to 75°F, take a hydrometer reading, pitch yeast. Seal and ferment at 60°F for 48 hours then move fermenter to a 45°F area. Rack to secondary after two weeks (as long as active bubbling has stopped), condition cold (“lager”) for five to six weeks at as close to 38°F as possible. Prime with corn sugar, bottle and age four weeks (one at 60°F, three at 40°F). Serve well chilled.
Further reading: Dave Miller’s “Continental Pilsener” in the AHA style series, although a little dated now, perhaps, has a lot of great information about water, mashing and lagering in general, with several very usable recipes.
Note on style: Zwickel is best translated as “sample” – a zwickel is a small spigot on Bavarian lagering tanks, from which a brewer can pull a sample to test, taste and pass around. The style itself is rare outside of Franconia, Bavaria. It’s undoubtedly more like a Continental Pilsner than a Munich Hell or Bohemian Pilsner.
Note on sparging: This sparge temp is lower than usual, to avoid starch contamination in the wort, which would detract from the color and clarity of the beer.
Notes on yeast: If you can’t or daren’t use the Arcobraü yeast, probably any Bavarian lager yeast will do the trick.