Author Topic: Chasing the perfect Munich Helles  (Read 28676 times)

Offline majorvices

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Re: Chasing the perfect Munich Helles
« Reply #105 on: November 12, 2015, 02:37:52 PM »
If it's reliably found in well-kept bottles I think I may know what you're talking about. Thankfully a local shop down here keeps all their beer (800+ different varieties) in a cool room with nice indirect lighting. (No skunking.)

I buy German beer there enough to know what I think is "IT" is not in every six pack, likely due to handling along the trip. (Or at the distributor...) One things for sure, I've not been satisfied with any craft "Kölsch" after enjoying a great sixpack of Gaffel Kölsch.

I thought Gaffel Kolsch was drinkable but pretty insipid. The kolsch you will find on tap at my tasting roomis far better. AND it has that nice Apple/Pear character you shouldn't be finding in a Helles .... just sayin'.

FTR I do not think the style lends itself to bottling (let alone shipping across an ocean) simply because it is so delicate any amount of o2 pick up simply destroys the nuances.

rabeb25

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Re: Chasing the perfect Munich Helles
« Reply #106 on: November 12, 2015, 02:40:32 PM »
If it's reliably found in well-kept bottles I think I may know what you're talking about. Thankfully a local shop down here keeps all their beer (800+ different varieties) in a cool room with nice indirect lighting. (No skunking.)

I buy German beer there enough to know what I think is "IT" is not in every six pack, likely due to handling along the trip. (Or at the distributor...) One things for sure, I've not been satisfied with any craft "Kölsch" after enjoying a great sixpack of Gaffel Kölsch.

I thought Gaffel Kolsch was drinkable but pretty insipid. The kolsch you will find on tap at my tasting roomis far better. AND it has that nice Apple/Pear character you shouldn't be finding in a Helles .... just sayin'.

FTR I do not think the style lends itself to bottling (let alone shipping across an ocean) simply because it is so delicate any amount of o2 pick up simply destroys the nuances.

FWIW, I find Gaffel the worst of them as well.

Offline germanbrew

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Re: Chasing the perfect Munich Helles
« Reply #107 on: November 12, 2015, 02:44:35 PM »
found it...here's what he said:

 Re: That German lager flavor
« Reply #174 on: August 05, 2012, 07:32:38 AM »

    Quote

I read through all the posts here and have a few comments.

I don't think there is any single thing or procedure that causes this German Lager flavor. I believe it is a combination of things and simply a product how Germans brew beer. However, German brewing practices today are very much different from what we think. Most beer is mass produced, especially the big brands like Bittburger, Warsteiner, Radeberger ... Even most of the local brands are produced the same way. Most breweries in Germany are either owned by InBev or the Radeberger Gruppe, which is is part of Dr Oetker, a conglomerate that started out as a baking powder company.

A few month back I got pointed to a very good German TV documentary that highlighted how German beer had lost its way. For posterity, here is the link (http://www.zdf.de/ZDFmediathek/beitrag/video/1656374/ZDFzoom-Hopfen-und-Malz-verloren!#/beitrag/video/1656374/ZDFzoom-Hopfen-und-Malz-verloren) there are a few German speakers on this forum for which that might be useful.

I just came back from a trip through the northern part of Germany and I have to admit that most beers in Germany do taste rather bland these days.

Beers brewed in southern Germany tend to be better. For one, they have a better beer culture down there and there is also a bit more variety. Especially when it comes to Weissbier.

As for the brewing processes that can give this characteristic German flavor, I don't think that decoction has anything to do with it. Most German beers are made w/o decoction and I have made many decocted beers that I would say have that German taste. This is not to say that decoction doesn't make a difference, lets leave this for a different discussion.

Warm vs. cold maturation rest? A few times I have tried the cold maturation rest, i.e. where the beer is slowly cooled after primary fermentation is done. The biggest problem was that I ended up stalling fermentation and the beer did not attenuate as expected. These days I often raise the maturation rest temp to 70 F for a week in order to make sure the beer fully attenuates before cold conditioning. The complete fermentation is more important than doing a cold maturation (a.k.a. diacetyl) rest. When I say complete fermentation I mean getting close to the attenuation from the FFT, especially for a Pilsner. A Schwarzbier can be a few attenuation percentage points off and a Doppebock can show 4%-6% lower attenuation than its FFT. Simply judging complete fermentation by the absence of activity may not be accurate enough. The low fermentable sugar content, that you get when the beer ferments to the attenuation of its FFT, is important to get a very drinkable beer.

One major factor in getting the German flavor is the aroma of the beer. German beers have a very subtle aroma. These days many beers don't seem to have any aroma since brewers skimp on good aroma hops. But even the good examples don't have a strong hop aroma. If hops dominate the aroma, its never like sticking your nose in a bag of hops. Instead the hop aroma is more refined. This comes from the fact that German brewers don't add hops late. Even aroma hops are added with 10-15 boil time to go. According to a number of sources I have come across the hop aroma compounds oxidize in the boiling wort and create less volatile compounds. This leads me directly to FWH. FWH doesn't appear to be common in German brewing, but I have had great success with getting that German hop profile into my Pilsner and Helles by using FWH.

Another important part is smooth bitterness and for that I strongly believe that the Kraeusen should not be allowed to fall back into the beer. I make sure that it blows off. Even if that means I have to add more sanitized wort after I realized that I didn't fill my carboy enough to get a blow-off. When I don't do this the bitterness gets a harsh character.

I also started experimenting with CO2 hop extract. The gooey hop resin that NB sells as the Hopshot. A few years back I bought a 150g can and put it into syringes. I know that the use of hop extract is frowned upon among beer geeks, but hop extract is able to add bitterness w/o bringing vegetal matter into the boil that can lead to increased tannins. I have not done a side-by side between a classic bitterning hop like Magnum and hop extract.

While I do have a number of thoughts on this topic, I haven't found that perfect procedure that will always give you the authentic German taste. There are too many variables that would have to be evaluated. Just be open to experimentation and start trying things that you haven't tried yet. This obviously implies that you can brew a clean beer repeatedly and that you brewing process is not plagued by more straight forward issues.

Kai

I tend to have found the same thing's Kai describes here.  My wife is from Leipzig, Kai is from Halle...so when we visit Germany, we're drinking the same beers.  He's mentioned the exact same brands that my father in law drinks on a daily basis (as well as Bavarian/Frankonian beers)...anyhow, I think my brewing goals are aligned pretty well with Kai's and his experiences. 

I haven't done enough decoctions to have an opinion, but I do agree that German breweries aren't all doing decoctions and that doesn't seem, in and of itself, to deliver 'it'.  I also agree that it's more obvious in lighter beer styles.  My Dunkel is remarkably close to Kloster Weltenberger's, so that says something. 

I don't think it has anything to do with filtering, or necessarily yeast.  Kolsch, Alt, and unfiltered Kellerbier, Zwick'l, Gose, Hefeweizen, unfiltered Pilsner, all have 'it'. 

It's unfortunate (buyer beware) that, at least in my experience, Weihenstephaner original is among the poorest travelers I've come across.  It's very rare that I've had a good bottle of it in the US.  Radeberger seems to do well, Bitburger, DAB, PU in cans.

I agree with Kai about the variability in quality of beers in Germany.  Flensburger (way up north), Stortebecker (also north) leave a bit to be desired. I have a fondness for Radebgerer (Dresden), Ur Kostrizer (Leipzig), Hasseroder (Wernigerode), and others from around Saxony and towards the Czech Republic.  And beers in Franconia like Mahr's, Keesman (anything in Bamberg), Spital in Regensberg.  Then of course Bavaria - take your pick - with my favorites really being the offerings by Ayinger.  There are still some small town breweries that all have their unique takes.  But the prevalence of 'it' can be detected in all of them.  (Stortebecker being the least - it was honestly a beer that made me want American beer instead).  Czech beers all have it, Pilsner Urquell, Budvar, and Polish Lech Pilsner. 

I also agree that it helps to have a very controlled, clean brewing and fermenting process.  If not a creator of 'it', dirty wort going into the fermenter, wrong pH and bad water, just muddies the brew and gets in the way of the clear flavors.
« Last Edit: November 12, 2015, 02:48:57 PM by germanbrew »

Offline germanbrew

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Re: Chasing the perfect Munich Helles
« Reply #108 on: November 12, 2015, 02:46:39 PM »
If it's reliably found in well-kept bottles I think I may know what you're talking about. Thankfully a local shop down here keeps all their beer (800+ different varieties) in a cool room with nice indirect lighting. (No skunking.)

I buy German beer there enough to know what I think is "IT" is not in every six pack, likely due to handling along the trip. (Or at the distributor...) One things for sure, I've not been satisfied with any craft "Kölsch" after enjoying a great sixpack of Gaffel Kölsch.

I thought Gaffel Kolsch was drinkable but pretty insipid. The kolsch you will find on tap at my tasting roomis far better. AND it has that nice Apple/Pear character you shouldn't be finding in a Helles .... just sayin'.

FTR I do not think the style lends itself to bottling (let alone shipping across an ocean) simply because it is so delicate any amount of o2 pick up simply destroys the nuances.

FWIW, I find Gaffel the worst of them as well.


I need to find a way to visit Koln, I've never had a Kolsch I've really enjoyed.  I'd always rather have a Helles or Pils.



Offline homoeccentricus

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Re: Chasing the perfect Munich Helles
« Reply #109 on: November 12, 2015, 02:55:35 PM »
I need to find a way to visit Koln, I've never had a Kolsch I've really enjoyed

I live in Belgium, 150 miles from Cologne. Never had one.  ::)
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rabeb25

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Re: Chasing the perfect Munich Helles
« Reply #110 on: November 12, 2015, 03:08:42 PM »
Can we shift back towards discussing ingredients? Early in the thread there was a well-received suggestion about adding Kolsch / Cologne malt, and another about using German "Pale Ale" malt. I've also found references to the super-light (1.2L) "Best Heidelberg" malt in other threads. And Bryan (Rabeb25) has previously sworn that Chit Malt (NOT flaked barley) was crucial.  I've also seen suggestions of blending in Belgian Pils. I made a Helles with 100% Weyermann Floor Malted Bo Pils and I thought it had a pleasant but assertive graininess (not astringent tannins, but also not soft bread). Can anyone comment about, say, 50% Heidelberg + 50% Weyermann Pale Ale and similarities to fresh commercial examples?

And, to the OP: you mentioned trying Weyermann, Best, and Avangard. But Weyermann makes 3 Pils malts (Pils, Bo Pils, Floor Malted Bo Pils). Which did you try?

And, Re: yeast, the OP said that WLP835 (the Andechser strain) provided the same floral note that the Andechser beer had, but are there important differences between the other strains mentioned? I've seen many posts saying that WLP833 is perfect for malty lagers, while German homebrewers seem to prefer WY2206 for Helles. WLP838 has it's share of proponents too. I'm guessing WLP830 (W34/70) is too attenuative for the 3 beers favored by the OP (Andechser, Augustiner, Weihenstephaner), but might be perfect for drier examples. And what about WLP860? WY2352?

Plus, there's the issue about new vs repitch: Mark V aka S. cerevisiae has said that his beers are best on the 3rd, 4th, 5th generations. German brewers obviously repitch, so maybe that's an important consideration?

Sorry for the long post & barrage of questions. I'm glad to see this thread hasn't died. I had a bottle of Mahr's Hell a long time ago that still brings a tear to my eye...

Floor malt bopils, is too much for me. All beers I have made with it have a signature fresh wet hay, slight apple, I actually find it rather off-putting. Even when cut to 80%.

One has to realize, that all these guys are getting SPECIFIC barley to them.

Malt is in the top 3rd of the Helles pyramid, but its not the top ;) A grain bill would change based on how one mashes, hops, boil, ferments, fines/filters/, etc as well. It's a moving target, and not a 1 size fits all. the picture I posted of the helles I was drinking, is not a recipe you can find "in the achives".

I posted back a page or 2 the guidelines for a helles, I have since went that route.

Yeast is in the bottom 3rd. but I think you are on track think about staying away from anything like 830/34/70, etc. I have been using a blend, of some of the yeasts you mention above. I am seeing good results from that, and only trial and error can get you where YOU want to be. My Helles may be far from your Helles.
« Last Edit: November 12, 2015, 03:11:29 PM by rabeb25 »

Offline germanbrew

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Re: Chasing the perfect Munich Helles
« Reply #111 on: November 12, 2015, 03:13:29 PM »

Yeast is in the bottom 3rd. but I think you are on track think about staying away from anything like 830/34/70, etc. I have been using a blend, of some of the yeasts you mention above. I am seeing good results from that, and only trial and error can get you where YOU want to be. My Helles may be far from your Helles.

I just used 34/70 for the first time this year and find it to be very utilitarian/neutral with little character - great for brewing something like Bitburger.  My best Helles have been with 838 and 835.  I have some fermented with 2308 (same as 838?) lagering now.  833 is also too neutral to really provide unique character.  That said, 833 is a more interesting yeast than 830 (34/70). 

I've really liked beers fermented with 802, 838.  I also have a batch of Pils brewed half with 34/70 and half with 2042 and I'm really liking 2042.

Offline Phil_M

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Re: Chasing the perfect Munich Helles
« Reply #112 on: November 12, 2015, 03:53:23 PM »
It's unfortunate (buyer beware) that, at least in my experience, Weihenstephaner original is among the poorest travelers I've come across.  It's very rare that I've had a good bottle of it in the US.  Radeberger seems to do well, Bitburger, DAB, PU in cans.

+1, I've had it several times, and it's been pretty bland each time. For the record, the Gaffel Kölsch has been the same way, I've bought six packs of it three times. First try was sublime, the last two tries were so crappy I haven't spent the money to try again.

A fresh pack of PU definitely has the character I'm thinking of, and fresh Bitburger as well. Thing is to me any Northern German Pils that isn't fresh to me just tastes like mineral water.
Corn is a fine adjunct in beer.

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Offline germanbrew

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Re: Chasing the perfect Munich Helles
« Reply #113 on: November 12, 2015, 04:21:43 PM »
Can we shift back towards discussing ingredients? Early in the thread there was a well-received suggestion about adding Kolsch / Cologne malt, and another about using German "Pale Ale" malt. I've also found references to the super-light (1.2L) "Best Heidelberg" malt in other threads. And Bryan (Rabeb25) has previously sworn that Chit Malt (NOT flaked barley) was crucial.  I've also seen suggestions of blending in Belgian Pils. I made a Helles with 100% Weyermann Floor Malted Bo Pils and I thought it had a pleasant but assertive graininess (not astringent tannins, but also not soft bread). Can anyone comment about, say, 50% Heidelberg + 50% Weyermann Pale Ale and similarities to fresh commercial examples?

And, to the OP: you mentioned trying Weyermann, Best, and Avangard. But Weyermann makes 3 Pils malts (Pils, Bo Pils, Floor Malted Bo Pils). Which did you try?

And, Re: yeast, the OP said that WLP835 (the Andechser strain) provided the same floral note that the Andechser beer had, but are there important differences between the other strains mentioned? I've seen many posts saying that WLP833 is perfect for malty lagers, while German homebrewers seem to prefer WY2206 for Helles. WLP838 has it's share of proponents too. I'm guessing WLP830 (W34/70) is too attenuative for the 3 beers favored by the OP (Andechser, Augustiner, Weihenstephaner), but might be perfect for drier examples. And what about WLP860? WY2352?

Plus, there's the issue about new vs repitch: Mark V aka S. cerevisiae has said that his beers are best on the 3rd, 4th, 5th generations. German brewers obviously repitch, so maybe that's an important consideration?

Sorry for the long post & barrage of questions. I'm glad to see this thread hasn't died. I had a bottle of Mahr's Hell a long time ago that still brings a tear to my eye...

The closest to a nice Helles I've ever brewed was basically this (brewed in 2013):

90.7% Weyermann Pilsner malt (the regular stuff)
3.8% Acidulated malt
2.7% Carahell
2.7% Carafoam

Mashed at 145F for 30
162F for 45

Bittered with Hallertau Magnum at 12.8 IBU (60)
4.5 IBU Tradition at 40
1.5 IBU Tradition at 15

Water was~ 62ppm Calcium, 67.6 ppm Sulfate, 73.4ppm Chloride, 22.7ppm Sodium, 11.2 Magnesium
I didn't have a pH meter at the time and was struggling with PhastStrips so can't accurately say what pH was

Fermented with WLP838

I brewed it over Christmas holidays and let it ferment slow and cold, then lagered long over the winter.  It turned out very clean, nice touch of malt, not too hoppy, nice balance.  Standing out grilling on a cold night in the snow sipping on this, it tasted like being in Munich.  It had just the right aroma of hops and malt in the glass.  I've been playing around with process and other ingredients, plus trying to brew pilsner for the past 2 years that I haven't done better than this, but simple grain bill with the right yeast and clean fermentation made a really nice beer. (even won silver in my first competition FWIW).

The 838 tasted like ass (sulfur and funk) during fermentation and the first 6 weeks of lagering.  Then it turned a corner into deliciousness.  838 is a unique, but fantastic strain for this kind of beer.  This sold me on upscaling to 10-15 gallon batches because it went way too fast.
« Last Edit: November 12, 2015, 04:24:52 PM by germanbrew »

Offline germanbrew

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Re: Chasing the perfect Munich Helles
« Reply #114 on: November 12, 2015, 04:35:26 PM »
Can we shift back towards discussing ingredients? Early in the thread there was a well-received suggestion about adding Kolsch / Cologne malt, and another about using German "Pale Ale" malt. I've also found references to the super-light (1.2L) "Best Heidelberg" malt in other threads. And Bryan (Rabeb25) has previously sworn that Chit Malt (NOT flaked barley) was crucial.  I've also seen suggestions of blending in Belgian Pils. I made a Helles with 100% Weyermann Floor Malted Bo Pils and I thought it had a pleasant but assertive graininess (not astringent tannins, but also not soft bread). Can anyone comment about, say, 50% Heidelberg + 50% Weyermann Pale Ale and similarities to fresh commercial examples?

And, to the OP: you mentioned trying Weyermann, Best, and Avangard. But Weyermann makes 3 Pils malts (Pils, Bo Pils, Floor Malted Bo Pils). Which did you try?

And, Re: yeast, the OP said that WLP835 (the Andechser strain) provided the same floral note that the Andechser beer had, but are there important differences between the other strains mentioned? I've seen many posts saying that WLP833 is perfect for malty lagers, while German homebrewers seem to prefer WY2206 for Helles. WLP838 has it's share of proponents too. I'm guessing WLP830 (W34/70) is too attenuative for the 3 beers favored by the OP (Andechser, Augustiner, Weihenstephaner), but might be perfect for drier examples. And what about WLP860? WY2352?

Plus, there's the issue about new vs repitch: Mark V aka S. cerevisiae has said that his beers are best on the 3rd, 4th, 5th generations. German brewers obviously repitch, so maybe that's an important consideration?

Sorry for the long post & barrage of questions. I'm glad to see this thread hasn't died. I had a bottle of Mahr's Hell a long time ago that still brings a tear to my eye...

Here's a few of my experiences and thoughts:

I've only used the regular Weyermann pils. Because so many of the lagers have "it" regardless of whether they're a pils or a helles or a marzen and nearly regardless of what brewery they're from, I don't think that there is one and only one base malt that is responsible for the flavor. Weyermann is far too expensive for most German breweries to use exclusively. I think that nowadays they are using stuff more like Avangard.

There are a few caveats with respect to base malt, though. In Der Bierbrauerei volume 2, Narziss does state that many helles are NOT brewed with regular pilsner malt. They are brewed with a malt that is about 0.5 L darker than regular pilsner malt. He says one way to get this malt is to buy "rejected" pilsner malt from several different maltsters what was weeded out for being too dark to produce pils, but is acceptable (and perhaps even preferred) for helles. This advice seems to be targeted more towards smaller breweries which cannot afford to custom order malts from maltsters. A large brewery, or one who malts their own barley, could get this kind of malt very easily. You may be able to simulate this by blending some floor malt, vienna malt, or pale ale malt with regular pils and I think that's exactly what some people have tried. I believe it can bring some interesting flavors to the table, but I don't think it's the sole source of "it" because the brightest pilsners still have "it".

Personally I do not think that yeast choice matters nearly as much as knowing how to work with your chosen strain and get it to produce beer you like. My understanding of the sources of the German strains are:

WY2124 = WLP830 = W34/70 = Weihenstephan 34/70. Used by the vast, vast majority of German breweries.
WY2206 = WLP820 = Weihenstephan 206
WY2308 = WLP838 = Weihenstephan 308
WLP833 = Ayinger
WLP835 = Andechs
WY2352 = WLP860 = Augustiner

They all have their quirks and preferences. Some ferment very nicely down into the 40s, (830) some will stall at 48 and are better at 54. (820, 860). Some produce more sulfur which needs a long time to lager out, but make an excellent final product (838). I also have a feeling that you can manipulate the character that each yeast expresses by changing the relative balance of sugars in your wort composition, so the kind of malt and mash you employ may even change the results you get from a particular yeast.

I agree with Germanbrew that a lot of helles like Weihenstephan Original do not travel well. I'm lucky to be able to buy extremely fresh bottles as well as get it on tap at multiple places where I live. Pilsner Urquell in the new 0.5 L cans is incredible. The old bottles really sucked. Supposedly they are getting really serious about low oxygen packaging, no light exposure, and refrigerated shipping containers for their exports to the US and it really does make a huge difference.

"Weyermann is far too expensive for most German breweries to use exclusively." - yes, keep in mind that Weyermann (as is Best) are tiny malt producers in the grand malt market.  I've seen Weyermann bags stacked at Bayerischer Bahnhof, they were up a flight of stairs so I didn't see what malt, but I'd guess specialty malts.  Weyermann's focus is specialty malts, not pilsner malt production.  And for local breweries, they custom mix and custom roast malts to order.  Delivered pre-blended, in bags, totes (big bags on pallets), or trucks that have separate compartments for each grain.  We have to blend and work with what we've got, but like Techbrau says, most breweries are not buying the same plain old bags of Weyermann Pilsner malt we are.

We agree that 838 is a fantastic yeast.  haha!  Yes.  I am also liking 2042.  But I can't wait to get back to using 838 again.  After my tour of the various strains, I miss 838.  I also want to try 820 sometime.

I agree, too, that even the lightest pilsners have 'it'.  Even aged and shipped to the US, it's still there, even if in minute amounts.  Night and day difference between my beers and from the source.

Offline indevrede

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Re: Chasing the perfect Munich Helles
« Reply #115 on: November 12, 2015, 04:49:03 PM »
Can we shift back towards discussing ingredients? Early in the thread there was a well-received suggestion about adding Kolsch / Cologne malt, and another about using German "Pale Ale" malt. I've also found references to the super-light (1.2L) "Best Heidelberg" malt in other threads. And Bryan (Rabeb25) has previously sworn that Chit Malt (NOT flaked barley) was crucial.  I've also seen suggestions of blending in Belgian Pils. I made a Helles with 100% Weyermann Floor Malted Bo Pils and I thought it had a pleasant but assertive graininess (not astringent tannins, but also not soft bread). Can anyone comment about, say, 50% Heidelberg + 50% Weyermann Pale Ale and similarities to fresh commercial examples?

And, to the OP: you mentioned trying Weyermann, Best, and Avangard. But Weyermann makes 3 Pils malts (Pils, Bo Pils, Floor Malted Bo Pils). Which did you try?

And, Re: yeast, the OP said that WLP835 (the Andechser strain) provided the same floral note that the Andechser beer had, but are there important differences between the other strains mentioned? I've seen many posts saying that WLP833 is perfect for malty lagers, while German homebrewers seem to prefer WY2206 for Helles. WLP838 has it's share of proponents too. I'm guessing WLP830 (W34/70) is too attenuative for the 3 beers favored by the OP (Andechser, Augustiner, Weihenstephaner), but might be perfect for drier examples. And what about WLP860? WY2352?

Plus, there's the issue about new vs repitch: Mark V aka S. cerevisiae has said that his beers are best on the 3rd, 4th, 5th generations. German brewers obviously repitch, so maybe that's an important consideration?

Sorry for the long post & barrage of questions. I'm glad to see this thread hasn't died. I had a bottle of Mahr's Hell a long time ago that still brings a tear to my eye...

Here's a few of my experiences and thoughts:

I've only used the regular Weyermann pils. Because so many of the lagers have "it" regardless of whether they're a pils or a helles or a marzen and nearly regardless of what brewery they're from, I don't think that there is one and only one base malt that is responsible for the flavor. Weyermann is far too expensive for most German breweries to use exclusively. I think that nowadays they are using stuff more like Avangard.

There are a few caveats with respect to base malt, though. In Der Bierbrauerei volume 2, Narziss does state that many helles are NOT brewed with regular pilsner malt. They are brewed with a malt that is about 0.5 L darker than regular pilsner malt. He says one way to get this malt is to buy "rejected" pilsner malt from several different maltsters what was weeded out for being too dark to produce pils, but is acceptable (and perhaps even preferred) for helles. This advice seems to be targeted more towards smaller breweries which cannot afford to custom order malts from maltsters. A large brewery, or one who malts their own barley, could get this kind of malt very easily. You may be able to simulate this by blending some floor malt, vienna malt, or pale ale malt with regular pils and I think that's exactly what some people have tried. I believe it can bring some interesting flavors to the table, but I don't think it's the sole source of "it" because the brightest pilsners still have "it". Narziss also emphasizes that not all helles are brewed this way, only the ones which are intended to be a bit deeper in color and richer in flavor. There are plenty of very bright, highly attenuated helles that are probably 98% pilsner malt and 2% carahell.

Personally I do not think that yeast choice matters nearly as much as knowing how to work with your chosen strain and get it to produce beer you like. My understanding of the sources of the German strains are:

WY2124 = WLP830 = W34/70 = Weihenstephan 34/70. Used by the vast, vast majority of German breweries.
WY2206 = WLP820 = Weihenstephan 206
WY2308 = WLP838 = Weihenstephan 308
WLP833 = Ayinger
WLP835 = Andechs
WY2352 = WLP860 = Augustiner

They all have their quirks and preferences. Some ferment very nicely down into the 40s (830), some will stall at 48 and are better at 52 to 54 (820, 860). Some produce more sulfur which needs a long time to lager out, but make an excellent final product (838). I also have a feeling that you can manipulate the character that each yeast expresses by changing the relative balance of sugars in your wort composition, so the kind of malt and mash you employ may even change the results you get from a particular yeast.

I agree with Germanbrew that a lot of helles like Weihenstephan Original do not travel well. I'm lucky to be able to buy extremely fresh bottles as well as get it on tap at multiple places where I live. Pilsner Urquell in the new 0.5 L cans is incredible. The old bottles really sucked. Supposedly they are getting really serious about low oxygen packaging, no light exposure, and refrigerated shipping containers for their exports to the US and it really does make a huge difference.

techbrau, thanks for the detailed response. I'm a bit confused, though. In the original post you wrote "100% pils: Tastes pretty spot on for Hofbrau, Paulaner, etc. but lacking in intensity compared to Augustiner.". There was no discussion about the elusive "it" that fresh German/Czech lagers have. Did the 100% pils versions that you brewed have "it"?

Offline germanbrew

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Re: Chasing the perfect Munich Helles
« Reply #116 on: November 12, 2015, 04:50:22 PM »
Can we shift back towards discussing ingredients? Early in the thread there was a well-received suggestion about adding Kolsch / Cologne malt, and another about using German "Pale Ale" malt. I've also found references to the super-light (1.2L) "Best Heidelberg" malt in other threads. And Bryan (Rabeb25) has previously sworn that Chit Malt (NOT flaked barley) was crucial.  I've also seen suggestions of blending in Belgian Pils. I made a Helles with 100% Weyermann Floor Malted Bo Pils and I thought it had a pleasant but assertive graininess (not astringent tannins, but also not soft bread). Can anyone comment about, say, 50% Heidelberg + 50% Weyermann Pale Ale and similarities to fresh commercial examples?

And, to the OP: you mentioned trying Weyermann, Best, and Avangard. But Weyermann makes 3 Pils malts (Pils, Bo Pils, Floor Malted Bo Pils). Which did you try?

And, Re: yeast, the OP said that WLP835 (the Andechser strain) provided the same floral note that the Andechser beer had, but are there important differences between the other strains mentioned? I've seen many posts saying that WLP833 is perfect for malty lagers, while German homebrewers seem to prefer WY2206 for Helles. WLP838 has it's share of proponents too. I'm guessing WLP830 (W34/70) is too attenuative for the 3 beers favored by the OP (Andechser, Augustiner, Weihenstephaner), but might be perfect for drier examples. And what about WLP860? WY2352?

Plus, there's the issue about new vs repitch: Mark V aka S. cerevisiae has said that his beers are best on the 3rd, 4th, 5th generations. German brewers obviously repitch, so maybe that's an important consideration?

Sorry for the long post & barrage of questions. I'm glad to see this thread hasn't died. I had a bottle of Mahr's Hell a long time ago that still brings a tear to my eye...

Here's a few of my experiences and thoughts:

I've only used the regular Weyermann pils. Because so many of the lagers have "it" regardless of whether they're a pils or a helles or a marzen and nearly regardless of what brewery they're from, I don't think that there is one and only one base malt that is responsible for the flavor. Weyermann is far too expensive for most German breweries to use exclusively. I think that nowadays they are using stuff more like Avangard.

There are a few caveats with respect to base malt, though. In Der Bierbrauerei volume 2, Narziss does state that many helles are NOT brewed with regular pilsner malt. They are brewed with a malt that is about 0.5 L darker than regular pilsner malt. He says one way to get this malt is to buy "rejected" pilsner malt from several different maltsters what was weeded out for being too dark to produce pils, but is acceptable (and perhaps even preferred) for helles. This advice seems to be targeted more towards smaller breweries which cannot afford to custom order malts from maltsters. A large brewery, or one who malts their own barley, could get this kind of malt very easily. You may be able to simulate this by blending some floor malt, vienna malt, or pale ale malt with regular pils and I think that's exactly what some people have tried. I believe it can bring some interesting flavors to the table, but I don't think it's the sole source of "it" because the brightest pilsners still have "it". Narziss also emphasizes that not all helles are brewed this way, only the ones which are intended to be a bit deeper in color and richer in flavor. There are plenty of very bright, highly attenuated helles that are probably 98% pilsner malt and 2% carahell.

Personally I do not think that yeast choice matters nearly as much as knowing how to work with your chosen strain and get it to produce beer you like. My understanding of the sources of the German strains are:

WY2124 = WLP830 = W34/70 = Weihenstephan 34/70. Used by the vast, vast majority of German breweries.
WY2206 = WLP820 = Weihenstephan 206
WY2308 = WLP838 = Weihenstephan 308
WLP833 = Ayinger
WLP835 = Andechs
WY2352 = WLP860 = Augustiner

They all have their quirks and preferences. Some ferment very nicely down into the 40s (830), some will stall at 48 and are better at 52 to 54 (820, 860). Some produce more sulfur which needs a long time to lager out, but make an excellent final product (838). I also have a feeling that you can manipulate the character that each yeast expresses by changing the relative balance of sugars in your wort composition, so the kind of malt and mash you employ may even change the results you get from a particular yeast.

I agree with Germanbrew that a lot of helles like Weihenstephan Original do not travel well. I'm lucky to be able to buy extremely fresh bottles as well as get it on tap at multiple places where I live. Pilsner Urquell in the new 0.5 L cans is incredible. The old bottles really sucked. Supposedly they are getting really serious about low oxygen packaging, no light exposure, and refrigerated shipping containers for their exports to the US and it really does make a huge difference.

techbrau, thanks for the detailed response. I'm a bit confused, though. In the original post you wrote "100% pils: Tastes pretty spot on for Hofbrau, Paulaner, etc. but lacking in intensity compared to Augustiner.". There was no discussion about the elusive "it" that fresh German/Czech lagers have. Did the 100% pils versions that you brewed have "it"?

I'm going to take the liberty to respond on behalf of everyone on this quest - that while we can brew very nice beers, none of them have 'it'.


100% Best Pils malt, with WLP830 and 30-35 IBU gets you something like Bitburger, but no IT.

RPIScotty

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Re: Chasing the perfect Munich Helles
« Reply #117 on: November 12, 2015, 06:40:06 PM »
I think part of my German beer aversion is the lack of solid examples I have tasted. Besides 2 outliers (a bottle of Weihenstephaner Original fresh from Germany and a nice Ayinger Ur-Weisse) I haven't had a decent exposure.

I do of course love the darker German brews and have had much better examples of the various Dunkels, Bocks and Doppelbocks.

Offline germanbrew

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Re: Chasing the perfect Munich Helles
« Reply #118 on: November 12, 2015, 06:56:26 PM »
I think part of my German beer aversion is the lack of solid examples I have tasted. Besides 2 outliers (a bottle of Weihenstephaner Original fresh from Germany and a nice Ayinger Ur-Weisse) I haven't had a decent exposure.

I do of course love the darker German brews and have had much better examples of the various Dunkels, Bocks and Doppelbocks.

Hey dude...I can understand that.  What do you mostly like to brew and drink?  These light German lagers are super clean, light colored, but not necessarily light flavored.  Typically very rich malt and hop flavor.  Quite decadent and delicious, but often in a more subtle way.  Some are lawnmower beer for the German masses, made with hop extract and considered pretty much along the lines of Bud here.  But they are still much more flavorful and quite well brewed. 

Hmmmm...how to get you some exposure?  I know this sounds cliche, but it wasn't until I visited Germany in 2007 (honeymoon, my wife is German) that it really hit me.  And while there I was drinking stuff like Hasseroder, Radeberger, Freiberger, East German Pilsners that are very hoppy, kind of rough, but still nicely made.  But not the Ayinger, Augustiner and world known beers of Bavaria.  But those East German pilsners have a kind of salty/mineral flavor to them, that compliments the malt.  I dunno, the bug kinda caught.  After a long hiatus (first brewed in 2001), I started home brewing again in 2009 and slowly evolved towards wanting to brew German lagers (several more trips to Germany didn't hurt with that).  Now I'm on a quest to get as nice a beer as I can.

Like any kinds of food or drink, I think there's an event that triggers an eye opening epiphany where we start to really like something.  Like the first time a kid finds they like something they always thought they hated.  Just a matter of creating that right situation.  It's quite possible you'd try something like Jever and be totally grossed out by it and think "WTF are they so uppidy about about this over hopped bitter piss?"  but in the right setting, it's delicious.  Probably same as Belgian beers, I can't wait to visit Belgium and get an appreciation first hand of Belgian breweries.  That said...without proper experience in them, every time I have one I think they are nasty.  I'm positive they are some of the best beers in the world.

Prost!
« Last Edit: November 12, 2015, 06:58:38 PM by germanbrew »

RPIScotty

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Re: Chasing the perfect Munich Helles
« Reply #119 on: November 12, 2015, 07:12:02 PM »
I think part of my German beer aversion is the lack of solid examples I have tasted. Besides 2 outliers (a bottle of Weihenstephaner Original fresh from Germany and a nice Ayinger Ur-Weisse) I haven't had a decent exposure.

I do of course love the darker German brews and have had much better examples of the various Dunkels, Bocks and Doppelbocks.

Hey dude...I can understand that.  What do you mostly like to brew and drink?  These light German lagers are super clean, light colored, but not necessarily light flavored.  Typically very rich malt and hop flavor.  Quite decadent and delicious, but often in a more subtle way.  Some are lawnmower beer for the German masses, made with hop extract and considered pretty much along the lines of Bud here.  But they are still much more flavorful and quite well brewed. 

Hmmmm...how to get you some exposure?  I know this sounds cliche, but it wasn't until I visited Germany in 2007 (honeymoon, my wife is German) that it really hit me.  And while there I was drinking stuff like Hasseroder, Radeberger, Freiberger, East German Pilsners that are very hoppy, kind of rough, but still nicely made.  But not the Ayinger, Augustiner and world known beers of Bavaria.  But those East German pilsners have a kind of salty/mineral flavor to them, that compliments the malt.  I dunno, the bug kinda caught.  After a long hiatus (first brewed in 2001), I started home brewing again in 2009 and slowly evolved towards wanting to brew German lagers (several more trips to Germany didn't hurt with that).  Now I'm on a quest to get as nice a beer as I can.

Like any kinds of food or drink, I think there's an event that triggers an eye opening epiphany where we start to really like something.  Like the first time a kid finds they like something they always thought they hated.  Just a matter of creating that right situation.  It's quite possible you'd try something like Jever and be totally grossed out by it and think "WTF are they so uppidy about about this over hopped bitter piss?"  but in the right setting, it's delicious.  Probably same as Belgian beers, I can't wait to visit Belgium and get an appreciation first hand of Belgian breweries.  That said...without proper experience in them, every time I have one I think they are nasty.  I'm positive they are some of the best beers in the world.

Prost!

Ah, Monk beers. They are my favorite.

I'll keep an eye out for some fresh German examples so, at the very least, I can follow along with your discussions.