Author Topic: That German lager flavor  (Read 64903 times)

Offline beersk

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That German lager flavor
« on: June 21, 2012, 08:19:51 AM »
So I've realized that my palate really lies in German beer after all these years.  I've always liked it, but never really focused on it as my main beer of choice.  So I want to replicate some of those favorite styles of German beer that I love so much.
So, based on your experience (if any), what does one have to do to achieve that distinct German lager flavor found in beers like Spaten Dunkel, Weihenstephaner Festbier, Hacker Pschorr Oktoberfest, etc? Is it anything specific that gives the beer that flavor? Is it the yeast? Is in decoction mashing? Is it specific malts? Hops?  I'm thinking the answer is going to be a combination of all those.  But I've tasted a lot of Oktoberfest beers fermented with Wyeast munich lager yeast I'm sure, that don't taste anything like what I'm after. I want that flavor found in those beers listed above, not just a "clean" flavor. Get what I'm saying?

Anyway, thanks!
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Offline davidgzach

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Re: That German lager flavor
« Reply #1 on: June 21, 2012, 08:33:41 AM »
Most of it definitely lies in the yeast and ingredients.  But I will not discount the process either.  Most all German breweries perform Hockhurz mashes.  Sac rest at 146-148, Dex rest at 158-160 mash out at 168-172. 

Funny enough, I just made two Spaten clones, one with 2308 Munich Lager and the other with 2206 Bavarian Lager.  The 2206 is much closer to the Spaten, but the 2308 came out with a wonderful malt character.  It's not Spaten, but it's really good!

As for the Octoberfest, you definitely need to perform a decoction mash to get it right.  I perform a triple decoction for this style and use the Wyeast Oktoberfest Blend.  It has pleased the crowd at our mountain Oktoberfest Party every year. 

Finally, you have to use Noble German hops.  Nothing but Hallertau varieties or Tettnanger.

For what it's worth, this is what has worked for me so I'm sticking to it!   :D

Dave
Dave Zach

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Re: That German lager flavor
« Reply #2 on: June 21, 2012, 08:35:56 AM »
I've been interested in this subject for awhile, as my tastes have definitely gravitated toward German lagers over the years.  Probably 75% of what I brew now are German lagers.  I know a few other forum members have done a lot of experimentation/research regarding how to achieve that elusive German lager "quality."  Anecdotally (that is to say non-scientifically), I think it is a careful interplay of having the right water profile, using sound yeast management/fermentation techniques, and using quality German base malts.  I've also sort of resigned myself to the notion that like wine, there might be something of a terroir aspect to German lagers, i.e., something that is really unquantifiable that contributes to the uniqueness of the flavor.  Anyway, I'll be interested to follow this thread!  Sorry I don't have much more insight than some non-scientific musings. :-\
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Offline davidgzach

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Re: That German lager flavor
« Reply #3 on: June 21, 2012, 09:18:35 AM »
+1.  I forgot to mention adjusting the water, pitching a huge starter and the mash PH. 

I started to boil my strike water to get the bicarb out of it.  If I make a Dortmunder, I will leave the bicarb in.  Do you have your water chemistry?

I now use 4oz of Acidulated Malt to get my mash PH to 5.2-5.3.  It has definitely made a difference. 

The major difference was making a 1G starter and pitching the correct amount of yeast.  I have been saving the diffferent strains, washing it and pitching the entire amount back in.  My hydrometer samples now taste like I could drink the beer now while before, when I was underpitching, you knew it needed some serious lagering time.

Great thread.  I look forward to seeing additional posts as well.  There is always much to learn!

Dave
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Offline redbeerman

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Re: That German lager flavor
« Reply #4 on: June 21, 2012, 09:30:04 AM »
Through experimentation we have also found that the hop character found in German lagers relys a lot on late hop additons (5 min. and flameout).  Don't be stingy here, it really makes a difference.  Right Ron?
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Offline davidgzach

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Re: That German lager flavor
« Reply #5 on: June 21, 2012, 09:37:52 AM »
I would definitely agree for a Bohemian Pilsner, a little less for a German Pils, but not so much for a Dortmunder and a Munich Helles should really not have any hop aroma.

Disclaimer:  As far as I have read.....

Dave
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Offline redbeerman

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Re: That German lager flavor
« Reply #6 on: June 21, 2012, 10:08:36 AM »
I would definitely agree for a Bohemian Pilsner, a little less for a German Pils, but not so much for a Dortmunder and a Munich Helles should really not have any hop aroma.

Disclaimer:  As far as I have read.....

Dave
The Dortmunders and helles I have had do have some hop aroma, but I'll agree it is nowhere near a pils.  It really does differentiate them from other continental lagers though.  Try a Spaten or Paulaner premium for Helles or a DAB for dortmunder.  If you can get them on tap, the difference is even greater.  The flavor is more pronounced.  This is what I have tasted anyway.  YMMV
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Offline davidgzach

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Re: That German lager flavor
« Reply #7 on: June 21, 2012, 10:24:21 AM »
I love Spaten.  Wish I could find it on tap....
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Offline redzim

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Re: That German lager flavor
« Reply #8 on: June 21, 2012, 10:33:50 AM »
I've been interested in this subject for awhile, as my tastes have definitely gravitated toward German lagers over the years.

I can say the same for myself.... interestingly enough this topic was discussed a couple years back in this thread... http://www.homebrewersassociation.org/forum/index.php?topic=1812.0 and I was just perusing that thread to see if anything could be gleaned from it.

I too have spent a couple years chasing that elusive flavor and while I've made some German Pilsners I'm really proud of, that flavor/aroma is lacking.  If any of you (Pawtucket? Dave?) have recipes that are getting close and would like to share them, please PM me, and if you want, I wouldn't mind sharing my recipes and processes FWIW.

-red

Offline beersk

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Re: That German lager flavor
« Reply #9 on: June 21, 2012, 10:46:31 AM »
So it's not just me...I didn't think it would be.  I just want to know what the variables are.  Seems to me that yeast would play a significant role, as well as hops and malts.  I would think that process would be bottom of the list, but I'm still finding that for myself.  Lagers are tough because there is so much waiting time involved, but I think I am getting to the point where that's really what I want to be brewing and drinking, so the wait would be worth it.
Keep the experiences and suggestions coming guys!
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Offline gsandel

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Re: That German lager flavor
« Reply #10 on: June 21, 2012, 11:04:21 AM »
I am only down the path on only one style (Oktoberfest).  I think the yeast and fermentation management are the keys for that style (let me blaspheme here to say that IMO, water, as long as good quality (neutral) for brewing doesn't matter as much for this particlar style).  The intangibles include being as meticulous and patient as a German brewmeister and noble hops (I use american varients of noble varieties with not much issue, though).  I have never (and likely will never) use decoction method, so while I don't think important, I do not actually know what it could do for my beer.

You wouldn't believe the things I've seen...

Offline davidgzach

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Re: That German lager flavor
« Reply #11 on: June 21, 2012, 11:58:39 AM »
I'm in line with everyone.  That's why I dedicated myself last year to light German Lagers.  I have a chest freezer consistently filled with 4 different lagers at all times.  Oops, except now as I was on vacation last week.  I'll make that up this weekend.   ;)

Red, I'll PM you a few of my favorites but they are simple recipes with slight variations.

gsandel, agreed water will not effect an Oktoberfest nearly as much as a Pilsner.  But you should try a decoction and taste the malt quality and carmelization you get.

beersk, you get such a different beer with a Hockhurz mash versus single infusion at say 152.  This is what gives the German beers their unmistakable malt profile.  Give it a shot!

FWIW all.... :D 

Dave
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Offline redbeerman

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Re: That German lager flavor
« Reply #12 on: June 21, 2012, 12:00:11 PM »
Ron Price brewed a German pils that was one of the best lagers I've had, including commerical examples (freshness helps).  Maybe we can coerce him into posting that recipe when he gets back from the NHC.  The German restaurant down the road from my house has Bitburger pils on tap and it is a world of difference from what I've had in bottles.
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Offline davidgzach

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Re: That German lager flavor
« Reply #13 on: June 21, 2012, 12:01:56 PM »
Ron Price brewed a German pils that was one of the best lagers I've had, including commerical examples (freshness helps).  Maybe we can coerce him into posting that recipe when he gets back from the NHC.  The German restaurant down the road from my house has Bitburger pils on tap and it is a world of difference from what I've had in bottles.

Definitely!  Would love to try and brew it!
Dave Zach

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Re: That German lager flavor
« Reply #14 on: June 21, 2012, 12:40:01 PM »
I would think that process would be bottom of the list, but I'm still finding that for myself.

After spending most of last summer doing various decoction mashes (I think I probably did 7-8), I think you're right.  At least in my experience, I did not perceive a substantial difference (if any) in my single infusion vs. step vs. step decocted beers.  Admittedly, I did not do blind or triangle taste testing.  And I wasn't always brewing the same exact recipes.  I don't have anything against decoction mashing; I actually thought it was fun to do.  I just didn't perceive enough of a benefit to justify doing them regularly.
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