With spring hopefully on its way, the brewing mind turns to Pilsners. As is probably the case with many homebrewers, I’ve never been able to achieve that great crispness of even run-of-the mill Bohemian Pilsners that are a dime a dozen over in Germany, never mind something stellar like Pilsner Urquell. One might ask, why bother to even try to match them; they’ve had almost 2 centuries of head start, and I’ve only done 3 or 4 batches of German and Bohemian Pils. But I’d like to give it a shot and get better beer.
Last summer my Pilsner attempts were consistently too “sweet” and “bready”. I might also be tasting diacetyl, but I did do diacetyl rests on these beers, and anyways I don’t really know what diacetyl really tastes like, when it comes down to it…. (is there some commercial beer that has diacetyl issues…. I’d buy some just to learn what it tastes like !) I’ve narrowed it down to 3 things to improve on, and would love some suggestions…
1) Malt. I brewed both JZ’s “Myburger” (1.054 to 1.009) and BoPils (1.057 to 1.014) recipes last year with Crisp Euro Pils as the base malt, because that is what I can get cheap from my local brewpub. Would paying almost twice as much for something like Weyermann make a huge difference? I’ve done other lagers (Maibock and Helles come to mind) using this Pils malt as the base and got good results, and even placed in some competitions (the Helles took a gold, and the Maibock a silver, at New York State Fair last summer)…. The breadiness is not so out of place in those styles.
2) Yeast. I brewed both these Pilsners with S-189 dry Swiss lager yeast which has good recommendations from people like Denny… I would love to keep using dry yeast – would W-34/70 be better? I’ve heard nothing good about S-23 though. Unless you all tell me that I will NEVER make a decent Pils without a liquid yeast and a monster starter…. I started brewing that way but just kind of slipped over to the quick and easy “pitch dry yeast into the fermenter and hit it with the mix-stir” method (with encouragement from folks like MullerBrau) and never looked back
3) Water. This is the one I don’t really want to deal with, but will if I have to. I’ve never modded my water, and get good ales, stouts, as well as good amber and dark lagers. So I guess I may be on to something, I just don’t know how to fix it. Here’s my water profile: pH 7.4. Na 14ppm, K 1ppm, Ca 54ppm, Mg 9ppm, Total Hardness 173ppm, Chloride 25ppm, Carbonates <1ppm, Bicarbonates 166ppm, Total Alkalinity 136ppm. From my limited research it seems this is not good Pilsner water… what can I do to fix it?
I know this is a pretty involved query, but if anyone has ideas on even part of my question, I’d appreciate it. Or if you need more info, let me know.