There comes a time in every brewer’s life, where he (or she) decides it is time to brew their first pilsner. This moment is (or at least should be) approached with trepidation. The style tolerates little error, with off-flavours laid bare by a clean malt bill and an unforgiving style guideline. For me, that moment came last month.
I’ve been reading a great deal about sour and funky beers recently, itching to undertake my first mixed fermentation. However, I wished to prove to myself (and Sophie) first, that I could brew a truly clean beer, before I turned to the fathomless world of funk, where off-flavours could be seen as on-trend.
Having found others inspired by Jamil Zainashef’s ‘Brewing Classic Beer Styles’, I picked up a copy some months ago, and have been really enjoying learning how an award-level example of each beer style could be brewed. I had already sketched up a basic plan for my pilsner, keeping things extremely simple – initially I only planned pilsner malt for the grist, and Czech Saaz for the hops. That being said, Zainashef points out quite rightly, that “while crisp and clean like other Pilsener-style beers, Bohemian-style Pilesner has a nice, rich, complex malt and spicy hop character. Bohemian-style Pilsener usually has a bit more malt sweetness than German-style Pilsener, which helps counter the substantial hop bitterness, making a more balanced, well-rounded beer”. Zaianashef mashes high (67 °C) and adds CaraPils malt to achieve the body and residual sweetness that I joyously recall from my many pints of Pilsner Urquell in Prague.
As implied, I based my recipe around Jamil’s excellent version – see below.
No Funk For Now
Batch Size (L): 22
Total Grain (kg): 5.78
Anticipated OG: 1.052
Anticipated SRM: 4.2
Anticipated IBU: 41
Brewhouse Efficiency: 65%
Wort Boil Time: 90 minutes
94.1% 5.44 kg. Gladfield Pilsner Malt
5.9% 0.34 kg. Gladfield Gladiator Malt
20.00 g. Magnum (NZ) (Pellet, 11.80% AA) @ FWH.
30.00 g. Czech Saaz (Pellet, 3.00% AA) @ 10 min.
35.00 g. Czech Saaz (Pellet, 3.00% AA) @ 0 min (flameout).
Fermentis SafLager W-34/70
Profile: Bru ‘n Water PseudoBohPils
Ca 31 | Mg 2 | Na 6 | SO4 16 | Cl 31
Mash pH: 5.31
Sacch Rest – 60 min @ 67 °C
Brewed 16/4/19 by myself.
All salts added to mash to bring calcium level above 40, preventing beerstone formation
Accidentally added more strike water than intended, so added less sparge water
Intended strike water temp was 73.8 °C, though added 74.7 °C water instead
– mash-in temp settled at 68.5 °C (67 °C was intended), only dropped to 68 °C by end of mash (60 mins)
Cooled to 32.2 °C via pump recirculation and immersion chiller
2 x yeast packets added to 2L of wort in Erlenmeyer flask – accidentally did not cool prior, hence added to 32.2 °C wort! Then placed on magnetic stirrer
Wort and trub all into fermenter – not aerated as using vitality starter.
14.6 Bx OG (post-boil) via refractometer = 1.058 (measured 1.055 on Tilt)
Yeast added to starter at 1214hrs on brew day at 32.2 °C
Wort (main brew) cooled to 13.3 °C by 2030hrs same day, starter pitched. Temp set to 10 °C
17.4.19 2130hrs = pressure in airlock though no bubbles
18.4 0945hrs = bubbles in airlock though relatively slow
22.4 1730hrs = SG 1.022 on Tilt (>50% of attenuation) hence ramped to 12.5 °C, bumped by 5 °C every 12 hours to max of 18 °C
28.4 = 7.4Bx (1.013 FG) with no off flavours, crashed by 5 °C every 12 hours, set to 1 °C at lowest
30.4 1830hrs = fined (temp was around 3 °C)
1.4 2200hrs = kegged at 1.1 °C
OG 1.058, FG 1.013, hence 6.3% ABV
The brew tree really cut down on brew day time – from 6 hours to 4 hours total! Unfortunately I added more strike water than planned, and hit slightly higher strike temp, all through unfamiliarity with the system.
Despite a higher mash temp than planned, and pitching the yeast into a 32 degree starter (!!), the final product turned out wonderfully! Ultimately, it’s everything I recall from Pilsner Urquell.
Fresh pilsner malt on the nose with a hint of Saaz though could have more of the latter.
Clear! Around 4 SRM as planned though maybe closer to 5. Lovely pure-white head that lingers.
Fresh, fresh pilsner malt. Could this incredible fresh malt flavour be attributed to my use of a vitality starter without pre-oxygenating the wort? Sweeter finish though cut through by the carbonic bite of the CO2.
Full, a level of sweetness, though carbonation cuts through. I would prefer a drier finish, however I believe this is true to style.
Easy drinking, would be easier if drier. ABV limits sessionability, though can’t taste the alcohol.
If you haven’t brewed a pilsner yet, good luck – it’s certainly not as daunting as I once thought.