Author Topic: Let's talk about German Pilsner  (Read 5352 times)

Offline bluesman

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Let's talk about German Pilsner
« on: March 29, 2010, 10:07:45 AM »
I recently did a blind tasting of six different examples of German Pilsners.

Bitburger
Paulaner
Warsteiner
Brooklyn Pilsner
Victory Prima Pils
Samuel Adams Noble Pils

While all of the beers were good, the German varieties have a distinct taste that I can't quite put my finger on. I want to say it's a hop spicyness but I think it's more than that. I want to say it's in the water. I am going to attempt a German Pilsner in a couple weeks and want to try adjusting my water using CaCO3 and maybe some salts in an effort to get closer to this "distict taste" only found in the German varieties.

Thoughts....opinions?
Ron Price

Offline denny

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Re: Let's talk about German Pilsner
« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2010, 10:08:59 AM »
I've always attributed it to a sulfury quality from the yeast.
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Offline blatz

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Re: Let's talk about German Pilsner
« Reply #2 on: March 29, 2010, 10:15:40 AM »
All nice examples, though Bitburger stopped distributing here, dammit.

First , use Best Malz Pils.  

Going off memory without my notes, I like to keep Ca between 50-75, HCO3 ~100, and keep the sulfates higher than the chlorides, but try not to go over 100ppm.

If you can, get good quality nobles, as fresh as you can get em.  Be careful with them on the hopping schedule.  There's a fine line and once you cross it, harshness can step in.

Due to quality issues, I actually have been steering towards the American versions - Hood, Liberty, Crystal and US Tettnang.  I really feel I get a better flavor and aroma with these.

Finally, I remember reading on a thread somewhere about Victory's hopping - I'll see if I can locate it for you.

*Edit* here it is ( I believe from Zymurgy)

10 lbs german pilsner malt mashed @ 150*F.
1oz tradition @ 60min
1oz tettnang @ 30min
1oz hallertau @ 20min
1oz saaz @ 10min
WL830
« Last Edit: March 29, 2010, 10:23:40 AM by blatz »
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Offline bluesman

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Re: Let's talk about German Pilsner
« Reply #3 on: March 29, 2010, 10:31:11 AM »
I've always attributed it to a sulfury quality from the yeast.

I first discovered this "distict German taste" about a year or so ago. I did a blind tasting of nine different Ofests. The conclusion was the same in that all of the German varieties had that "distinct taste". The American examples just didn't have it. I originally pointed to the yeast but now I'm not so sure about that. Although I can't rule out the yeast I can at least try adapting my water to acheive similiar tastes. So for now I am aiming for the water.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2010, 06:49:07 PM by bluesman »
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Offline bluesman

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Re: Let's talk about German Pilsner
« Reply #4 on: March 29, 2010, 10:34:45 AM »
All nice examples, though Bitburger stopped distributing here, dammit.

First , use Best Malz Pils.  

Going off memory without my notes, I like to keep Ca between 50-75, HCO3 ~100, and keep the sulfates higher than the chlorides, but try not to go over 100ppm.

If you can, get good quality nobles, as fresh as you can get em.  Be careful with them on the hopping schedule.  There's a fine line and once you cross it, harshness can step in.

Due to quality issues, I actually have been steering towards the American versions - Hood, Liberty, Crystal and US Tettnang.  I really feel I get a better flavor and aroma with these.

Finally, I remember reading on a thread somewhere about Victory's hopping - I'll see if I can locate it for you.

*Edit* here it is ( I believe from Zymurgy)

10 lbs german pilsner malt mashed @ 150*F.
1oz tradition @ 60min
1oz tettnang @ 30min
1oz hallertau @ 20min
1oz saaz @ 10min
WL830

I've seen many recipes using water additions similiar to what you're doing. I am planning to use a similiar hop schedule. It sure is a fine line.

I wonder if Kai has any thoughts on this? Being the Imperial Beer Geek that he is. :)
« Last Edit: March 29, 2010, 11:11:53 AM by bluesman »
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Offline Kaiser

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Re: Let's talk about German Pilsner
« Reply #5 on: March 29, 2010, 11:03:20 AM »
I wonder if Kai has any thoughs on this? Being the Imperial Beer Geek that he is. :)

Yes, how to replicate this typical German flavor is very much on my mind as well when it comes to brewing a good Pils. So far I have not figured out what exactly causes this flavor.

A few ideas that worked well for me:

* use fairly soft water. I would not add any bicarbonates or chalk. Add gypsum and some calcium chloride until your calcium is between 50 and 80 ppm. Favoring the sulfate over the chloride sounds like a good idea though I haven’t really played with that
* the resulting water will have an RA of -0 - -50 ppm and would give a pilsner malt mash pH of 5.6-5.7 which is a bit high. I suggest adding 2-3% acid malt to get it to 5.4
* when it comes to hopping you’ll notice that German Pilsners don’t have an in-you-face hop aroma or flavor. That comes from only moderate hop additions at 20-10 min boil time.
* I also suggest that you get the bulk of your bitterness with a high alpha hop like magnum and use the aroma hop for an addition at 15 min or a split 30/10 min addition. This way you get less hop matter into the boil which can lead to increased tannin extraction.

When I come home tonight I’ll have to look at the hop schedule that I used for my past Pilsner attempts and what I have in books.

Kai

Offline bluesman

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Re: Let's talk about German Pilsner
« Reply #6 on: March 29, 2010, 11:17:45 AM »
I wonder if Kai has any thoughs on this? Being the Imperial Beer Geek that he is. :)

Yes, how to replicate this typical German flavor is very much on my mind as well when it comes to brewing a good Pils. So far I have not figured out what exactly causes this flavor.

A few ideas that worked well for me:

* use fairly soft water. I would not add any bicarbonates or chalk. Add gypsum and some calcium chloride until your calcium is between 50 and 80 ppm. Favoring the sulfate over the chloride sounds like a good idea though I haven’t really played with that
* the resulting water will have an RA of -0 - -50 ppm and would give a pilsner malt mash pH of 5.6-5.7 which is a bit high. I suggest adding 2-3% acid malt to get it to 5.4
* when it comes to hopping you’ll notice that German Pilsners don’t have an in-you-face hop aroma or flavor. That comes from only moderate hop additions at 20-10 min boil time.
* I also suggest that you get the bulk of your bitterness with a high alpha hop like magnum and use the aroma hop for an addition at 15 min or a split 30/10 min addition. This way you get less hop matter into the boil which can lead to increased tannin extraction.

When I come home tonight I’ll have to look at the hop schedule that I used for my past Pilsner attempts and what I have in books.

Kai


I need to develop a sound recipe as far as grain, hops and yeast go. I will use this recipe as a constant only varying the water chemistry. This is the thought for now. I am planning to use Magnum for bittering and probably Tettnang and Hallertau for flavor and aroma.

Interesting info. Kai.

I need to get a good water report from Poland as my baseline and go from there.
Ron Price

Offline roguejim

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Re: Let's talk about German Pilsner
« Reply #7 on: March 29, 2010, 06:48:07 PM »
I've always attributed it to a sulfury quality from the yeast.

But if bluesman is using a German strain from Wyeast or White Labs, he should be able to eliminate the yeast from the equation...UNLESS, the German yeast strains from Wyeast and/or White Labs are nothing like the German yeast strains in the samples he drank.

I doubt the hops are a factor, so that only leaves the water and malt, not to mention, uber-brewing technique!

Offline Kaiser

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Re: Let's talk about German Pilsner
« Reply #8 on: March 29, 2010, 07:47:15 PM »
I've always attributed it to a sulfury quality from the yeast.

I don't think it is a sulfury character from the yeast. You only get that in cheap German beer like Oettinger for example. It's more likely something that comes from the hops.

Here is a hopping schedule that I found in the brewing text I was talking about:

- 50% of alpha acids 5-10 min after boil begin and 60 min before boil-end. This addition is mostly done as a high-alpha bittering hops or hop extract. Some of this addition can also come from an aroma hop.
- 25% of alpha acids 30 min before boil end. This is an aroma hop addition
- 25% of alpha acids 10 min before boil end. This is an aroma hop addition.

The total alpha acid per hl (100 l) is about 12g for a Pilsner. This is about 0.4-0.5 g alpha acid per gallon. The use of P45 pellets would be useful since that limits the amount of vegetative matter that gets in the boil, but they are not widely available for home brewers.

Obviously this is not a hopping schedule from a commercially available beer but its a good start.

Kai

Offline bluesman

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Re: Let's talk about German Pilsner
« Reply #9 on: March 30, 2010, 08:20:52 AM »
I've always attributed it to a sulfury quality from the yeast.

I don't think it is a sulfury character from the yeast. You only get that in cheap German beer like Oettinger for example. It's more likely something that comes from the hops.

Here is a hopping schedule that I found in the brewing text I was talking about:

- 50% of alpha acids 5-10 min after boil begin and 60 min before boil-end. This addition is mostly done as a high-alpha bittering hops or hop extract. Some of this addition can also come from an aroma hop.
- 25% of alpha acids 30 min before boil end. This is an aroma hop addition
- 25% of alpha acids 10 min before boil end. This is an aroma hop addition.

The total alpha acid per hl (100 l) is about 12g for a Pilsner. This is about 0.4-0.5 g alpha acid per gallon. The use of P45 pellets would be useful since that limits the amount of vegetative matter that gets in the boil, but they are not widely available for home brewers.

Obviously this is not a hopping schedule from a commercially available beer but its a good start.

Kai

This is interesting stuff Kai. I am thinking the combination of German bred hops scheduled by AA% in a specified ratio of high to low alpha acids in conjuction with the appropriate water chemistry. We might be on to something here.

I found this bit of info in regards to water chemistry.

A survey of beer production around the world will find that softer waters tend to favor the production of lagers and darker ales while harder waters favor the production of paler ale styles with more hop presence.

Here are just a few of the major brewing centers:

Pilzen: With an average of just 7 mg/l of calcium, this is the softest water on earth. The Bohemian Pilsner style tastes very malty, in spite of the higher hopping rates than it's sister, German Pilsner. Widely copied, this style is the gold standard and originator of the whole pilsner family.

Dortmund: The style of Dortmunder is widely misunderstood by brewers and judges alike. With calcium levels second only to Burton-on-Trent this water accents hops and presents a dry maltiness so prized in the Dortmunder style for its balance. Lingering hop bitterness, despite very low IBU's can be directly attributed to the mineral content of the water.

Vienna: While Vienna lager is prized for its malty character, it is also supposed to have a relatively dry finish with a balance of hops. This city also has very hard water similar to Dortmund. As it turns out, nearly the same water profile is available in Mexico, especially Mexico City, where many classic examples of this style continue to be made.

London: Would you be surprised to find out that this city has some very soft water? With calcium levels at about 52 mg/l it has a profile that lowers the acidity of dark malts, leaving porter very round and drinkable.

When geographic differences are lined up, the major factor in brewing styles is water. Water is the one ingredient that can't be imported and yet can be manipulated most by the brewer.
Ron Price

Offline Kaiser

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Re: Let's talk about German Pilsner
« Reply #10 on: March 30, 2010, 09:32:26 AM »
Yes, when brewing lagers you want softer water. You also don’t want to go too high on the sulfates since that can interfere with the noble hop character. Much of what you know from brewing hoppy ales does not apply to brewing a Pils.

Here are a few more things to keep in mind in addition to what I mentioned earlier:

- don’t boil too hard. Aim for a total boil-off of 10-15%. Boiling too hard can burn and darken the wort unnecessarily. If your boil-off is higher, turn down your burner.
- remove the Kraeusen either by skimming or by blowing it off
- use the fast ferment test to determine the attenuation limit of the wort. It should be between 82 and 85%. You want the actual beer attenuation to be within 1 maybe 2%. If the difference is higher than that the beer will have too much residual sweetness

Kai

 

Offline redbeerman

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Re: Let's talk about German Pilsner
« Reply #11 on: March 30, 2010, 09:41:55 AM »
I think that soft water is a key here as well, although the Dortmunder style seems to be more balanced even with using water that is fairly hard (my well water, high in sulfates, mixed with store-bought spring water seems to lend itself to this style).  That flavor that Ron described is also present in Czech pils, but to a much lesser extent and I believe the hop schedule (both timing and amounts) plays a big part in that.  I would think that you certainly don't want to add anything past 5 minutes and may want to keep it more to the 10 minute mark.  This will require much experimentation and tasting. :P
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Offline Kaiser

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Re: Let's talk about German Pilsner
« Reply #12 on: March 30, 2010, 09:53:04 AM »
When having a German Pils, you may also notice that the hop aroma is barely noticeable in many of the available brands. It appears mostly in the finish and when sloshed around after the head has fallen. That’s not necessarily a good thing since it just might be the result of the brewer trying to save some money but it gives you an idea about how much hop aroma to expect in the final product.

Another interesting topic, that I may have touched upon before, is hop oxidation. Many aromatic hop compounds are stabilized by oxidation during the boil. This bears the question of how beneficial it might be to take the hops out of the freezer and out of the bag 24-48 hours before they are used. This pre-oxidation could lead to more stable hop aroma/flavor. I have done this before with no ill effect but not as a side-by-side experiment.

Kai

Offline narvin

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Re: Let's talk about German Pilsner
« Reply #13 on: March 30, 2010, 11:43:25 AM »
Given that many beers brewed with the Munich water profile (moderate hardness) have the same German characteristic, I don't think water is the key.

I would focus on the yeast, malt and hops.

- Using a German yeast in itself won't guarantee success without a healthy fermentation.  You need to pitch enough yeast (at least a 1 gallon starter for an average gravity beer) and control temperatures properly -- pitch below 50, monitor fermentation (not ambient) temperature and keep it around 50 during primary).

- For a beer with only pils malt, using a German malt is going to make a big difference.

- Use noble hops as Kai described.

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Offline bluesman

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Re: Let's talk about German Pilsner
« Reply #14 on: March 30, 2010, 02:17:08 PM »
Given that many beers brewed with the Munich water profile (moderate hardness) have the same German characteristic, I don't think water is the key.

I would focus on the yeast, malt and hops.

- Using a German yeast in itself won't guarantee success without a healthy fermentation.  You need to pitch enough yeast (at least a 1 gallon starter for an average gravity beer) and control temperatures properly -- pitch below 50, monitor fermentation (not ambient) temperature and keep it around 50 during primary).

- For a beer with only pils malt, using a German malt is going to make a big difference.

- Use noble hops as Kai described.



I believe it's a synergism that delivers that "distinct taste" in an authentic "German" Pilsner....and I believe it's the hops as well as the brewing water that makes the synergy. Not that you can lose sight of the grain and the yeast but my effort will focus on the hops and the brewing water. I will craft a recipe and brew my first batch as soon as I can get my hands on some good German Noble hops. Hops Direct is supposed to have them in soon. I also need to get a water report from Poland Spring.

I think I'll give Kai's hop schedule (50/25/25) a try for the first run. I then need to target a water profile and estimate the water additions.

I'm using Weyermann's Pilsner Malt because I have it on hand right now. I am also using WLP830.
Ron Price