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Bo-pils frustration (saaz problem??)

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Hey -

Not sure if I am looking for help, troubleshooting, hoping to find someone who can relate, or just venting.  I am becoming increasingly frustrated with my Bo-pils.  This is a beer I brewed successfully many times in the past..... basically, right up until 2013.  It has always been a beer that I brewed pretty well, and was a consistent crowd-pleaser.  The last batch I brewed that was "up to par" was a year ago, at the end of 2012.  In early 2013, this beer placed 2nd at Upper Mississippi Mashout, 3rd at KCBM, 1st at Midwinter and 1st at Dredhop (2nd BOS), scoring over 40 multiple times..... So I know this is (was) a good beer.

I had been google searching info in regard to some other light lagers that I will be brewing soon (dortmunder and german pils) and came across a couple different posts on here and HBT in the last year that seemed to be something I could relate to.  Basically, I have brewed this beer 5 times in the last year and each has ended in disappointment...... and the drain for several batches.  It is hard to put my finger on it exactly, but it has just not tasted quite right - leaving the beers ranging from mediocre to bad. There is an off-flavor that I would describe (in general) as "harsh."  Perhaps a bit astringent/vegetal/maybe even a touch metallic...... but, overall, it leaves the beer sort of harsh and unpleasant.

Like I said, I noticed a few other threads that caught my eye, and keeps me coming back to the same thing - Is it possible that the 2012 Saaz hops are not very good?  That is the one thing that was different about all these beers and the last ones - As soon as I opened my new 1 lb bag of Saaz late last winter, my bo-pilsners went to crap.  I have noticed a few other posts of people having trouble pinning down problems they were having with saaz-brewed beers.  Perhaps I am grasping at straws..... But I just don't know what else to bring it back to.  I just tasted pilsner #5 (day 16 in the fermenter)..... it is better than some of the others, but it is not "great" - although it is early on this one, so it seems to have a chance.  Or, perhaps it will go downhill over time.  I have waited on my other pilsners for 16-24 weeks before giving them up for dead.  Have not finished any of the 5 gallon kegs.  A couple were not horrible, but the whole point of a pilsner it is drinkable.... and if it is not, I am not drinking it.

Here is the beer:
Pilsner 87%
Rahr 2 row 7%
Carapils 4%
Acidulated 1.5%

1 oz. Pearle @60
1 oz. Saaz @ 30
1oz. Saaz @20
1-2 ounce Saaz @ 0 (this varies from time to time 0 but the last good batch had 2 ounces)

Czech Pils yeast

Mash @152, Ferment at 50 for 15-18 days.  D-rest for 3 days, Keg, Lager for 8-12 weeks, force carb.

Water -
For the last good batch I used yellow bitter on Brun' water
Ca = 61
Mg = 7
Na = 8
Sulfate = 77
Chloride =29
Bicarb = 62

Projected mash pH of 5.2, Kolbach of +5 to +10 just below dusseldorf on RA chart on B'run Water

My very first thought was the water profile.  So, I have varied this water over some of the recent batches as I was trying to trouble shoot my problems - going with a more typical "pilsn" profile of 100% RO water and just some CaCl to bring up calcium to 30-40.  Still had some of the same underlying off flavor issues to various degrees. 

Like I said, I am kind of grasping at straws and just waiting for my new supply of 2013 Saaz to come in.  My Helles (hallertau) has been coming out fine during this same time frame.  Just wondering if any others have had some frustration/problems with 2012 saaz..... or maybe it is just me and it is something else entirely.  Any thoughts or other ideas?  My only idea at this point is waiting for my 2013 Saaz.....


I didn't use saaz this year but it seems like you might be on to something. Hops are a driving force in the style and if they are off your in trouble. Have you tried getting a few ounces from another supplier to see if it helps? If you don't normally buy organic maybe try ordering a few ounces of organic saaz as they will almost certainly be from a different grower then. If you DO normally brew organic then (shudder) try a few ounces of conventional for the same reason.

I'm skeptical....


--- Quote from: denny on December 30, 2013, 04:51:39 PM ---I'm skeptical....

--- End quote ---

To be totally honest, I am skeptical too Denny.  The hops smelled good....  I have no reason to suspect/confirm that is the issue.  I do think Saaz can be a funny hop and it is easy to overdo them. Just getting frustrated with my all my pilsners are suddenly bad.  Just wondering if others have noticed any issues as I really don't know where else to look, and was taking a stab in the dark.

I did think about getting a different batch to compare.... but I didn't.  They were not organic (that I know of).  They are through a very reputable dealer though..... I don't think that is it.  I was more wondering if the acid levels were different last year or something like that.

Probably not the answer for you, but I have experienced the same disappointment in my 2013 Pilsners.
I order all my years hops in advance and usually from the same supplier. A previously multiple 1st place
German Pils recipe has been most unsatisfactory this year. Brewing my last batch, I was out of the repacked
smaller amts. and went back to the original bag. It was US Saaz not the imported which I have always used in the past. A little brain fade when I ordered I guess, and I just never caught it.


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