One of my goals for 2018 was to branch out a little more as a brewer, especially with respect to styles. I have the things that I like to brew, and the things that I like to drink, but I thought it would be good to do… oh I don’t know, make at least four new-to-me styles.
The first style I picked was a German Pils and thought that I’d do a little Vermont take on it. Hence Grünberg Pils:
To my palate, a good German Pils is about as refreshing a beer as you can get. Crisp and light-bodied, a nice pilsner malt sweetness, and that assertive balancing at the end. Having planned a weekend-after-Cinco-de-Mayo party, and in need of a beer for that party, I decided (after polling some attendees) that this would be on draft. I buttoned up the recipe, selected some Vermont pilsner, and got under way.
As mid-March was still pretty cold, I opted to brew this one in the kitchen rather than “finally” graduate to the garage. I’d taken a tip from a friend and set up the kettle to straddle two burners on the stove, hoping that having “more firepower” would speed things up and/or give me a more vigorous boil.
Using both burners seemed to help, and I was able to shave off not-quite-half of the time otherwise spent waiting for the strike water to heat up. So that was nice.
The other thing I decided to do with this beer, in trying to keep with the style, was to attempt a step mash. I mashed in at 148°F and held it there for a beta rest of about 25 minutes. Meanwhile, I heated the remainder of the mash liquor in a separate pot and when it got to boiling, poured that over for the alpha rest. This had a couple of hiccups (i.e., took longer to heat the second infusion to boiling than I thought) but nothing catastrophic.
Post-mash gravity was 1.043 — right on target.
I got the double-burner action going on the stove for the boil and followed along with my instructions.
Half-ounce Warrior as first wort hop. Half ounce Sterling at 10 minutes, and other half ounce Sterling at flame-out. Got it chilled down to about 64°F before the temperature plateaued. Ran off about 5.4 gallons into the carboy1 and put it in the fermentation chamber to finish chilling to pitching temperatures.
After about four hours in the fermentation chamber, the wort had cooled to about 48°F. I pitched a 1700 ml starter of 2124 and bumped the controller to 50±1°F. I had some visible activity in the blow-off bucket by +46 hours, not to mention some fairly healthy-looking krausen. Another day or so later and I was getting some sulfury smells, but those blew off after another couple days.
Twelve days into fermentation, I took my first gravity reading: 1.007. Two days later I bumped the temperature up to 65±1°F for a diacetyl rest. After two days of that, I took another gravity reading (1.007 still) and proceeded to keg the beer so that I could lager it for a few weeks.
This turned into a case of good news/bad news.
The good news: I had plenty of beer in the carboy. Arguably more than I’d ever had following any fermentation.
So what was the bad news? I failed to notice that the volume of beer exceeded the volume of the keg I’d siphoned it into. Whoops!
Well that was only about a pint and a half that overflowed. No big deal. Easily cleaned up with a towel or two.
But then I purged the headspace with CO₂. Except there was no real headspace to purge. So when I pulled the pressure relief valve, it sprayed me with fine mist of aerosolized pilsner. Sure OK. Clothes can be washed, etc.
And with that, I stuck it into the refrigerator to lager for a few weeks. Then, right before we headed out for a week-long vacation, I stuck it into the kegerator to carbonate while we were gone.
It’s hitting the marks for me. Crisp. That touch of pilsner sweetness. That assertive bitterness to balance it.
AROMA. A moderate amount of grainy-sweet malt. Very light note of honey behind. Floral hop aroma. Clean fermentation profile; no perceptible esters or diacetyl. No DMS.
APPEARANCE. Pale yellow. Very clear, though shy of fully brilliant. White head with dense foam and great retention.
FLAVOR. Grainy-sweet malt with mild cracker and moderate toasty bread behind. Moderate floral hop flavor. Assertive bitterness. Clean fermentation profile (no esters, no diacetyl). There’s a semi-sweetness in the finish but the overall bitterness contributes to the overall dry impression.
MOUTHFEEL. Medium-light body. Moderately high carbonation. Crisp, though I’d like it to be even a little more so. No perceptible alcohol. No astringency.
OVERALL IMPRESSION. A good pils, and one that’s easy to drink. It has enough flavor to be interesting, though there are some areas where it could be a little stronger. The hop character (for example) while within the style guidelines could stand to be a little more pronounced. Otherwise, happy with ingredients here and most changes would be on the process side. Speaking of which…
The first thing that comes to mind for tweaks process wise is to get my system for step mashing dialed in. I need to look at other step mash schedules and compare them with what I did here. Getting that figured out, especially with respect to the beta rest, will probably help get me the fermentability and body I’m after.
An additional ounce of Sterling at flame-out would help to boost the hop character. The other possibility would be to switch from Sterling here to something like Perle.
This beer could also stand to be a little clearer. Fining with gelatin prior to racking to the lagering vessel would probably be enough to get that to where I want it to be.
All that said, with less than a week to go before the party — I’ll be happy to be pouring this one.
The all-grain (BIAB) recipe for Grünberg Pils is as follows:
Starting with the Champlain Water District profile as a base, target Dortmund water in Bru’n Water:
- 2.20 g/gal. Gypsum
- 0.65 g/gal. Calcium Chloride
10 lb. PQM Provenance Pils
- 0.5 oz. Warrior (first wort hop)
- 0.5 oz. Sterling (10 min.)
- 0.5 oz. Sterling (0 min.)
Wyeast 2124 Bohemian Lager (1800 ml starter)
- Collect 18.57 qt. water and heat to 159.5°F. Mash in; hold at 149°F for 40 minutes. After first mash rest, add 7.20 qt. boiling water to raise temperature to 162°F; hold for 30 minutes. No mash out.
- Remove filter bag from water. Squeeze filter bag to extract as much liquid as possible for wort. No sparge. Pre-boil volume should be 5.7 gallons.
- Add first wort hops. Bring wort to a boil. Boil for 60 minutes; follow hop schedule as described above.
- Cool to 64°F as rapidly as possible. Post-boil volume should be approx. 5.5 gallons.
- Aerate wort; place in fermentation chamber and chill to 48°F. Pitch 2124 yeast from starter.
- Start fermentation at 50°F.
Beyond Brew Day
- Allow fermentation to complete (approx. 2 weeks) at approx. 50±1°F.
- Raise temperature to 65°F for two days as a diacetyl rest.
- Rack off the yeast cake into a secondary vessel (carboy or keg). Lager at 40°F for 5 weeks.
- Carbonate to 2.8 vols.
Grünberg Pils, a German Pils auf Vermont by Tilde Gravitywerks
- This is a slight over-simplification. What actually happened was that I forgot to account for the additional boil-off from applying more heat (re: double burners) and so originally I had wort that was a few points high and I diluted down to hit the gravity. To-MAY-to / to-MAH-to… [↩]