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You are here: Home --> Forum Home --> Brewing Forum --> Recipe Discussion --> Thursday Recipe Methods and Practices! Category 2: Pilsners

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nickosuave311
Charter Member
Saint Paul, MN
18 Posts


Alright, so in conjunction with /r/homebrewing's Tuesday Recipe Critique and Formulation, I am starting Thursday Recipe Methods and Practices! Rather than focusing on formulating your own recipe, these discussions are focused on techniques you put to use during brew day.

This week, we are going to discuss Category 2: Pilsners. I know Matt, Kevin, and I have done quite a bit of R&D work on our own recipes and have made at least a batch each. I also have seen several threads from (what I hope are) members of this site on /r/homebrewing with inquiries about their own future pilsner batches.

Now, we all know that these styles are bitter and hoppy, but are still balanced and clean with minimal off-flavors. Not only that, but like most lagers, extended cold-conditioning is usually necessary before the beer hits its stride. All of this is a fairly tall order for a beer that hovers around 5% and 35 IBU across the board.

So, what techniques do you use? What have you experimented with? And just as importantly: what doesn't work?




Posted 34 days ago.

nickosuave311
Charter Member
Saint Paul, MN
18 Posts


With my latest pilsner research, I started with a Czech Pils. This was a double-decoction mash that ended up being a bigger hassle than what it was worth. The malt flavor was nice in the end, but it did take some conditioning before it was where I wanted it and the color was a couple shades darker than ideal. While the mouthfeel and body won't be perfect without a multi-rest mash, I decided that the second time around I would be doing infusions.

For this batch, I hopped with a 60 min addition for bittering, a modest 20 min addition for flavor (Saaz), then a hearty knockout addition. I skipped dry hopping for this batch as I wanted a less intense hop aroma than a German counterpart. In the end, the hops weren't enough. Not enough flavor or aroma, especially as it conditioned. It ended up tasting more like a hoppy helles than anything, and while it was very quaffable, it wasn't a pilsner.

Trial #2 saw a slightly altered grain bill (added some biscuit malt), multiple infusions instead of decoctions, more hops during the boil (as well as a third variety, Mandarina Bavaria), a bigger aroma addition (Perle/Saaz), and a dry hop (Perle). This was definitely closer to a German Pils, but wasn't hoppy enough still. The bitterness still wasn't high enough and the hop flavor was better but not intense enough, but the aroma was much better, the malt flavor was just as clean as pleasant as before, and the color is where I want it.

Next time, I'll do the multi-rest infusion mash again, but add more hops all around. I had been shooting for 35 IBU, but I think 40-45 would be much better. I'll also be experimenting with some different strains of yeast: I'm dropping Wyeast 2007 Pilsen Lager because I think it subdues the flavors all around too much for a good German Pils. It was soft, but a bit muddy and lacked true crispness.




Posted 34 days ago.

homebrewdad
Charter Member
Birmingham, AL
2480 Posts


I have nothing useful to add, having never brewed a pilsner, but I'm loving this as a weekly post.



Posted 34 days ago.

uberg33k
Charter Member
The Internet
314 Posts


I didn't think typical German pils was dry hopped at all.  I mean, I guess proof is in the pudding, but historically and even commercially today, they don't dry hop, right?



Posted 34 days ago.

mchrispen
Bastrop, TX
485 Posts


I would be curious what you all are doing for water chem. I have only brewed one Pils - and it came out really nice. Planning another this year.

Only a few truly traditional regional pils are brewed with incredibly soft water, and hence the idea that ALL pilsners should be brewed with distilled or pure RO. Yet when you look at the various regions in Germany and Czech, most of the water has some level of hardness. Just curious.

Martin seems to believe that lager yeasts have evolved or been selected to prefer a low ion content water (low to moderate anyway) so lower levels of calcium are certainly appropriate.

Here in Austin, when Celis moved here, he raved about the water profile as being appropriately mineralized but had to treat for the heavy limestone alkalinity. Celis made a lot more than their white beers... their Pils was awesome. Other notables here in Austin (and they only treat for alkalinity and chlorine via filtering) are Live Oak (GABF winners), Real Ale (GABF winners) and my favorite The ABGB (there's a direct line from both Live Oak and Real Ale through the owner/brewers).

I will try to scratch up the Austin water profile from someone.




Posted 34 days ago.

mchrispen
Bastrop, TX
485 Posts


I think dry hopping is a phenomena of the American IPL. Dry hopping would create serious issues with clarity I would think and filtering would defeat at least some of the purpose. I have had lagers from all over Germany in my visits - I cannot think of any that I would consider to have been dry hopped.




Posted 34 days ago.

ingoogni
nl
314 Posts


Germal Pilsenr, what german pilsner, there is the northern style, fermented bone dry, bitter and some hop flavour. The southern style, less dry, smoother less bitter with less hop flavour and the southwestern style, like the southern style but with some yeast profile. Bitterness has been declining for years now.

Hopping in Germany is FWH, bitter @60 min and a 10 minute one.

If you do a decoction you may wan't to add a percentage undermodified malt, chit malt. It increases foam stability and simulates the slightly undermodified malts of about 330 years ago. Short decoctions 12 - 15 minutes max.

Without decoction no other than 100% pils malt is needed. The variation of malt quality and taste in Germany is quite little. A blend with some pale malt is nice as it doesn't add the sweetness of munich. There is a pale Maris Otter by Thomas Fawcett although I think it is too strong in taste for a 100% pilsner.

Fermentation is generally (too) cold 8 - 10°C or under pressure, the southwestern style is fermented somewhat warmer.

Cold lagering slows all processes and some processes are more influenced by it than others. There is no real need for lagering near freezing point, 10 - 13°C or even warmer will do fine ( a somewhat colder cellar)




Posted 34 days ago.
Edited 34 days ago by ingoogni

uberg33k
Charter Member
The Internet
314 Posts


> Hopping in Germany is FWH, bitter @60 min and a 10 minute one.

Yeah, that's more in line with what I have in my head.

> undermodified malt, chit malt

Who carries chit malt?  I've only read about it, but I can't recall ever seeing it for sale or on a malster's website.




Posted 34 days ago.

mchrispen
Bastrop, TX
485 Posts


Just saw bags of it in a bulk buy. It is sold by a couple of continental malting companies... I believe Best Maltz is the most common over here.

@ingoogni - yeah sort of my point. I have extensively traveled Germany - so yeah the water changes from region to region. The appellation is way to broad - German Pils.

Trying to remember the really wonderful Pilsner that I had in Dresden. Don't recall the brand or the pub, that was 10 years ago. It was dry as you mentioned but still had a sharp bitterness and a slightly floral aroma.

I guess I need to make another trip - focused on beer this time.




Posted 34 days ago.

nickosuave311
Charter Member
Saint Paul, MN
18 Posts


There are quite a few misconceptions that I'd like to clarify:

First Wort Hopping: While it's true that FWH is a German technique, this practice is rarely done now. Back when first discovered, German brewers noticed smoother and cleaner bitterness with FWH and the taste was preferred. However, they soon discovered issues with head retention and hop bitterness with FWH. When the boil is started, the white foam you see during the hot break is albumin. When mixed with hop material retains hop oils and acids. This leads to lower head retention and poor hop utilization. This is why I NEVER add any hops to my German beers before I've boiled before 15-20 minutes. If you're having issues with harsh bitterness, it's more of an issue with the hops themselves rather than how they are used.


Water Profile: It's true that Plzen has some of the lowest TDS values for natural source water, but don't be fooled. Just because the water is nearly pure doesn't mean that brewers didn't treat their water before use. By the time the style was developed, breweries in Germany had already begun using quite advanced techniques to produce a better flavor in their beer. Without them, pale lager styles would have been stuck with poor efficiency across the entire area.




Posted 34 days ago.
Edited 34 days ago by nickosuave311

Matt
Charter Member
Normal, IL
341 Posts


Brewing this style has made me love pilsners. I didn't like them much before, but I've gotten a new appreciation for them. I even wrote this whole big thing, over the top, dramatic beginning of a post out mocking Marshall's love of lagers, but it just doesn't feel honest any more because I've learned to love them (though, not quite as much as Marshall). I might still use it for fun.

I only have experience with BoPils, and my second batch is currently bottle conditioning, split between three different yeasts (which you have all ready about). Thus far, I've learned a few things from brewing pilsners:

  • Let your process do the work, complex grain bills do not equal complex beers by default. 
  • Love your yeast, and your yeast will love you. 
  • FWH is fine, but I don't think it fits here. Most common complaint in the first round of pilsners was that the hops didn't have much of a presence on the palate. They were smooth, but almost smooth to the point of grey. So, toss those noble hops in the boil. 
  • Don't think you can wing a decoction mash, be prepared to miss your temperatures and adjust for future batches. BeerSmith is typically great, but it missed the mark the first time. 
  • Decoction does wonderful things for color. 
  • I'm still on the fence of decoction vs melanoidin, and I don't want to open the argument again, I'm on the side of better beer. I think it is worth trying both, or just using 100% Floor-malted BoPils malt, and then doing step-infusion mashes. 
  • Like Nick, I think aiming for roughly 38-40 IBUs is better than 35. 
Just my two cents on the style so far. I'm only two batches in (if you can't split-batching as separate batches, then 5 batches), and I haven't brewed it enough to really have a strong opinion. I do recommend trying to brew the style though!




Posted 34 days ago.

ingoogni
nl
314 Posts


Theres a much used hopping ratio 20-50-30, so only 20% is FWH, 50% bitter and 30% for the last 20 - 10 minutes. FWH is still very much in use among german home brewers as well as some small breweries.

Only in the northern german style there's hop presence, in the others there very little, also there are only a few brands that go over 30 IBU. In some regions the pilsners and helles are indistinguishable. Now Behemian, or true pilsner is a different thing and actually a very local beer. If you order a 'beer' in Czechoslovakia you'll get something like a helles, just like in Bayern. Pilsn region is the exception.




Posted 34 days ago.

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