Every once in a while, an old commercial pops up in my cluttered attic of a brain, and it usually takes a day or two to stop re-running the jingle or catch-phrase over and over… sometimes writing it down helps, sometimes not…
When I designed the recipe for this beer I was thinking I needed a strong light-colored lager, hoppy but with some malt body, smooth and slightly toasty in flavor. Basically a jumped-up Bohemian Pilsner, I decided to call it “Imperial”, hopping on a PR bandwagon that really makes no historical sense. That’s when the voices started repeating the closing line from a commercial that must date back some 40 years – “For about what you pay for the King of Beers, you can have Tuborg, the beer of Danish Kings..”. The commercial closed on a gorgeous glass drinking horn full of a clear golden beer, sitting on rocks amid crashing waves, if I remember correctly. The connection was immediate and obvious – here I was going to brew a beer that would outrank either the king of beers or the beer of kings – it was the Emperor of Beers!
There is no such thing, traditionally, as an Imperial Pilsner. The only beer that was brewed specifically for an Emperor, probably, was the Russian Stout style. Over recent years, as styles have been resurrected, the term “Imperial” has been used (overused) to describe a stronger version of an existing style. As long as everyone understands that, no one will get hurt. What I brewed today is an abomination, a monster, a beer that should not exist. Well, I am probably exaggerating, but it is not a beer you will find on many beer-store shelves.
5 gallons, all-grain
- 9 lbs. Bohemian Pilsner malt
- 1 lb. toasted Bohemian Pilsner malt
- 1/2 lb. carapils malt
- 1/2 lb. carafoam malt
- 1 oz. Spalter hop pellets (@5% aa)
- 1 oz. Tettnanger hop pellets (@3.5% aa)
- 1 oz. Saaz hop pellets (@4% aa) recultured yeast from Arcobraü Zwickel Lager
- 3/4 cup corn sugar or 1 cup extra-light DME (for priming)
Toast 1 lb. pilsner malt on a cookie sheet, 15 minutes at 375°F. Crush grains. Heat 15 quarts water to 164°F. Dough in and hold mash at 152°F for 60 minutes. Heat another 14 quarts water to 168°F. Begin runoff and sparge, collecting 26 quarts of sweet wort. Bring to boil, add Spalter hops. Boil 15 minutes, add Tettnanger hops. Boil 40 minutes, add Saaz hops. Boil 5 more minutes (60 total), remove from heat. Chill to 70°F and take a hydrometer reading. Pitch yeast, seal and ferment warm (65°F) for six to eight days. Rack to secondary, lager cool (40 – 45°F) for three weeks. Prime and bottle, age cold (35 – 40°F) for six weeks.
Note on yeast: Yes, this is the same yeast culture I used in my Bohemian Pilsner and my Schwarzbier. For the former, I collected the dregs from several bottles of the actual beer and fed it to build up a sizable pitching slurry. For the latter, I harvested a pint of dregs from the primary fermenter when I racked the Pilsner and again built up a large volume of slurry, a process I repeated again over the last few days leading up to today’s brew.
Note on toasted malt: It is not particularly traditional to include toasted malts in a beer like a pilsner. However, when my wife visited her cousin Janet on Long Island last summer, she brought back a really yummy local brew, Blue Point Brewing’s Toasted Lager. In the back of my mind I have been thinking about a clone of that beer, and that no doubt influenced this recipe.