Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Brewday: Helles Other People

I've got an Oktoberfest going. And I want to build up my lager yeast from the Oktoberfest for a project I have planned. And it's summer, and it's going to be hot by the time a lager is finished. And I wanted another light, low alcohol beer after I broke my "nothing bigger than 5% rule" with my IPA. After a Beer Week chat at Naked City over some tasty beers with Kevin of Chuckanut Brewery, I decided I'd brew a Munich Helles, somewhat aimed at Chuckanut's own excellent version.

The Helles is Munich's response to Pilsner, and a recent one at that. Despite claims to the contrary, most versions appeared as recently as the 1990's. The beer is yellow, malty and light, with a much diminished hop profile compared to a Czech or even German Pilsner. The main difference probably lies in the water as well, Munich's high carbonate profile is very different from the water used in other Pilsner-brewing areas. Hence, the city's fame for darker lagers, Oktoberfests, Dunkels, etc.. So I was shooting for something in the 1.048-50 range, fermented dry, malt forward, with restrained German hop character. Here's what I did.

Helles Other People
All Grain, 5.25 gallons
O.G. Estimate: 1.048, O.G. Actual: 1.044
Est. F.G. 1.010-1.011
IBU: 21
SRM: 5
Est. ABV: 4.8%, Act. probably about 4.4%
  • 7.5 lbs German Pilsner (I wanted Weyermann but only found Best. No one carries Weyermann anymore, what a pain. Yes, it's expensive. But it's GOOD.)
  • 0.5 lbs Munich Malt (again, only Best)
  • 1 lb Carahell (It's true, I loves me some Carahell.)
Mash in at 150 for 90 minutes. Infusion to 168 before sparge.

Mash water modifications for 2.8 gallons: 3 gm Calcium Chloride, 2 gm Epsom Salts, 1 gm Baking Soda. Sparge Modifications for 7.5 gallons: 0.7 ml lactic acid, 8 gm Calcium Chloride, 5 gm Epsom Salt, 3 gm Baking Soda.

If you haven't noticed yet, this is a bit weird. My thinking is this: Seattle is basically rain water. There's nothing in it. Munich has high carbonate water, which is fairly hard to duplicate actually. Too much chalk and the residual alkalinity and calcium levels go too high. Too much baking soda and the sodium level gets too high. And it's supposed to be a malty beer, which the calcium chloride will accentuate. But given that Seattle water has 2, count 'em 2 ppm sulfate, adding a bunch of calcium chloride would make the chloride/sulfate ratio monstrously out of whack. The solution was to build my 100 ppm calcium, add some chloride, and lower the RA using Calcium Chloride. Then add Epsom salts to get at least some sulfate in there, and get the magnesium levels up to help the yeast out. Finally, use baking soda to up the carbonates, but restrain it to keep sodium below 30 ppm. The result is a water profile that is as if a Munich brewery added Calcium Chloride to its water, except that the sodium is much higher and the residual alkalinity is only half that of Munich. Anyhow...

90 minute boil
  • 1.25 gm German Hallertau leaf hops @ 3.8% AA @ 90 minutes
  • 0.5 gm Hallertau @ 30 min
  • whirlfloc at 15
  • 0.25 gm Hallertau @ flameout.
Cool to lager temps and lager with yeast cake of Wyeast Bohemian Lager yeast from the Oktoberfest.

Brewday went spot on, but the gravity ended up 4 points low. Not sure why. May move my grain mill rollers a bit closer. The water from my new Rain Barrel cooled the beer, but only to 66. So I moved it into the fridge to crash it (I needed to rack off the cold break anyway). Fortunately, this time around I finally have a replacement Stopper Thermowell. Unfortunately, I had some issues getting the probe in the well and broke the very tip off the probe. But some swearing quick work with sandpaper narrowed it just enough and it finally slipped right in. I set the thermostat to my pitching temp of 47, hopped on my bike and went to Miro Tea. So it's cooling away as I sit here writing this. Thermowells really illustrate the power of water's heat retention. Hopefully after I come home from checking out the newly opened Noble Fir it will be cool and I'll pitch. But it could be much, much later tonight. Next time I'll get more ice for the cooling water.


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