Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Results: The Great Classic American Pilsner Off

Back in February I brewed two Classic American Pilsners. One to a traditional cereal mash and 6-row malt, the other with a single infusion, flaked corn and 2-row. The object was to see whether the extra effort added anything to the brew, and whether it was worthwhile overall. Well, the last keg has kicked and the results are in.

The two beers were brewed just two days apart, using two packets of Saf-23 dry lager yeast. They were fermented for two weeks at 48, rising to 50ish. Then three days of 60 degree diacetyl-rest. They were then lagered for six weeks, kegged, carbonated for a week, and served.

I brought a growler of each to my homebrew club meeting that month and explained the experiment, doing it as a blind tasting. I'd say about 2/3 correctly identified which was which, but the group was pretty well split as to which they preferred.

The Traditional 6-Row Cereal Mash. Most noticeably this one somehow developed an unfortunate phenol, vaguely plasticky, bandaidy. My theory is that since I'd lost my Thermowell in the move I didn't cool it as well as I should have, and it started fermenting a little hot. So really, it wasn't a truly fair comparison. But the beer still had some things to recommend it. It poured a nice, very pale straw color, with a lasting white head. Slightly cloudy, chill haze from the 6-row no doubt. Just a bit sweet, somewhat corny. Floral hop in the nose, just a bit too much hop flavor and bitterness I think. Probably would scale back on the hops for both recipes, and swap out the domestic Hallertau for something else, maybe Sterling or Czech Saaz.

One thing I discovered, while out doing some work in the garden, was that this beer seriously benefited from the Green Bottle Effect. Just a few minutes in the sun brought out a hint of skunk, and though it sounds off-putting it really brought a nice balance to the beer. Next time I'd even consider putting the whole carboy out in the sun for 15 minutes or so before kegging.

The Modern 2-Row with Flaked Corn. This one fermented out much cleaner. It was a shade darker, and much clearer. That's the 2-row for ya. It was more malty, and more dry. The hops came out more clearly, and I wasn't happy with the profile. Again, I'd probably drop the IBUs down a bit and switch out for a cleaner hop. I won't be using US Hallertau for a while, maybe ever again. This one was my favorite of the two, but a lot of it was due to that weird phenol in the 6-row. It was much easier to brew too, so I guess this one was the winner.

In the future. Due to their being lagers, the experiment took several months. I'm thinking I'll try it again, but quickly this time, as simple Cream Ales for the short, hot Summer. Maybe put them on Nitro this time...


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