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Pilsner brewing

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redzim:

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.

-red

majorvices:
1) Grain bill should be simple. 100% pils malt. Anything more than that is most likely unecessary (with the exception of acidulated malt and perhaps cara-pils) . I like Best German Pils but Rahr makes an exceptional substitution.

2) The S-189 is a decent lager strain. I prefer the liquid lager strains though. Regardless, in either case, are you pitching enough yeast? You need (at least) 2xs the amount of yeast for a lager as for an ale. See the pitching calc at www.mrmalty.com. You need to aerate longer as well. Are you cooling to pithcing temps before pitching? Pitching warm and starting fermentation off, then cooling, is not an ideal way to make a lager.

3) Water is going to be essential. As is pH. You must have soft water and you must check pH. In the case of your water I would start with RO water and add some calcium back in. You will want about 50ppms of calcium in your brewing liquor.

Pilsners, Helles', and Kolsches are very difficult to brew. But it you dot all your t's and cross your i's you can do it. Errrr.... I mean the other way around. ;D

denny:

--- Quote from: redzim on January 12, 2011, 02:11:31 PM ---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


--- End quote ---

S-189 is a great dry lager yeast, but probably not the best choice for pils (although not terrible either).  34/70 would be better if you want to stay with dry yeast.  I'm using WY2124 this lager season and I think it's really a great pils yeast.

Pawtucket Patriot:
I just brewed a N. German Pils last weekend. I used 99% German pils and 1% melanoidin. Any problem with that grainbill?

denny:
Doubtful there's anything wrong with that!  Most of the time I go all pils, but every once in a while I'll throw in about 5-10% Munich.

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