SMaSH Pilsners – Recipe Inspired by Pivo Pils

Lately I’ve been drinking a lot of Firestone Walker’s Pivo Pils. This beer delivers a terrific hop punch set against a modest amount of alcohol and absolutely dry fermentation character. An immensely drinkable beer during the dog-days of summer. Firestone Walker classifies this beer as a ‘hoppy pilsner’; a short and simple sub-title, but perhaps a bit light on providing a comprehensive description of the beer. In many ways, this beer reminds me of a fresh German pils, mainly due to its austere dryness. If you take a classically lean German pils and then beef it up with late kettle and dry hopping as well as a bit firmer bittering, you’ll likely get pretty close to the character of Pivo.

Intrigued by Pivo, I set out to design a beer that captures this malt character, and then use it as a platform for testing out a couple of different German hop varieties. With a little research from Firestone Walker’s website, and an interview with Matt Brynildson during a podcast on The Brewing Network, a few key recipe spec’s could be ascertained:

Original Gravity: 1.048 SG (calculated from terminal gravity and ABV)
Terminal Gravity: 1.005 SG (from TBN podcast)
Attenuation: 88% (calculated)
Alcohol: 5.3% ABV (from Firestone Walker website)
Bitterness: 40 IBU (from Firestone Walker website)
Color: 4 SRM

Other Key Points:

  • 6 week turn-around time (from TBN podcast)
  • 100% Weyermann malts (from TBN podcast)
  • Mash Regiment: 122° > 145° > 155° > 168° (from TBN podcast)
  • Calcium Chloride water treatment (from TBN podcast)
  • Wyeast 2124 yeast (from TBN podcast)
  • Magnum bittering (from TBN podcast)
  • Spalter Select mid-boil addition (from TBN podcast)
  • Saphir dry hop (from TBN podcast)

With these details in mind, I set out to formulate a recipe that captures the spirit of Pivo Pils. I selected two German hop varieties which symbolically depict the tradition of German hop growing and the direction it may be heading. Hallertau Mittelfruher is about a classic as it gets in the German brewing world, where-as Mandarina Bavaria is a new cultivar bred by the Hop Research Institute in Hull which has a Cascade hop lineage and is described as having tangerine and mandarin orange characteristics.

In determining the bittering levels for each beer, I used the Hallerau Mittelfruher beer as my base, and then scaled down the amount of hops used on the hot-side of the Mandarina Bavaria beer to achieve a comparable amount of hop bitterness.

SMaSH Hallertau Mittelfruher / Pilsner Recipe

Recipe Specifications:
Size: 3.25 gal
Efficiency: 68%
Attenuation: 88%

Original Gravity: 1.048 SG
Terminal Gravity: 1.006 SG
Color: 4.26 SRM
Alcohol: 5.53% ABV
Bitterness: 28.0 IBU (does not take into account bitterness achieved during whirlpool)

Grist:
6.75 lb (100.0%) Weyermann Pilsner Malt

Water Treatment added to Strike Water:
Soft NYC Water
4g Calcium Chloride
1g Gypsum

Mash Regiment:
0m – 122° F – Mash in at 122° F and immediately ramp up to next step
50m – 145° F – Beta Amylase Rest
10m – 155° F – Alpha Amylase Rest
5m – 168° F – Mash Out

Hopping:
60m – 20 g Hallertauer Mittelfrüher (4% AA)
30m – 20 g Hallertauer Mittelfrüher (4% AA)
Whirlpool 20m – 80g Hallertauer Mittelfrüher (4% AA)
Dryhop 3 Days – 26 g Hallertauer Mittelfrüher (4% AA)

Kettle Additions:
15m – 0.5 ea Whirlfloc Tablet
10m – 0.5 tsp Wyeast Nutrient

Yeast:
White Labs WLP833 German Bock Lager – 1400ml starter on stir plate

Fermentation:
1. Chill to 46° F and let rise to 48° F
2. Ramp temperature as fermentation slows up to 58° F for diacetyl rest
3. Crash to 32° F
4. Keg and lager at 32° F for 4 weeks.

SMaSH Mandarina Bavaria / Pilsner Recipe

Recipe Specifications:
Size: 3.25 gal
Efficiency: 68%
Attenuation: 88%

Original Gravity: 1.048 SG
Terminal Gravity: 1.006 SG
Color: 4.26 SRM
Alcohol: 5.53% ABV
Bitterness: 28.0 IBU (does not take into account bitterness achieved during whirlpool)

Grist:
6.75 lb (100.0%) Weyermann Pilsner Malt

Water Treatment added to Strike Water:
Soft NYC Water
4g Calcium Chloride
1g Gypsum

Mash Regiment:
0m – 122° F – Mash in at 122° F and immediately ramp up to next step
50m – 145° F – Beta Amylase Rest
10m – 155° F – Alpha Amylase Rest
5m – 168° F – Mash Out

Hopping:
60m – 12 g Mandarina Bavaria (7.2% AA)
30m – 12 g Mandarina Bavaria (7.2% AA)
Whirlpool 20m – 44 g Mandarina Bavaria (7.2% AA)
Dryhop 3 Days – 26 g  Mandarina Bavaria (7.2% AA)

Kettle Additions:
15m – 0.5 ea Whirlfloc Tablet
10m – 0.5 tsp Wyeast Nutrient

Yeast:
White Labs WLP833 German Bock Lager – 1400ml starter on stir plate

Fermentation:
1. Chill to 46° F and let rise to 48° F
2. Ramp temperature as fermentation slows up to 58° F for diacetyl rest
3. Crash to 32° F
4. Keg and lager at 32° F for 4 weeks.

Berliner Weisse Review

Berliner WeisseAfter nearly six-months, my Berliner Weiss with Brett Trois is ready for review. Utilizing sour-mashing techniques, my intention with this beer was to quickly turn-around a clean, refreshing, brightly acidic beer with a minimal investment of time. In the end, the finished beer meets my expectations, but the timeline ended up being much more protracted than I initially intended.

For many months, this beer was a pain in the ass. My initial plan was to ferment the beer cleanly down to a reasonable finishing gravity (1.007 or so) and then bottle condition with Brett Trois. Unfortunately, after primary fermentation with a clean ale yeast was complete, the beer finished at 1.010 SG. I suspect the Saccromyces strain (WYeast 1007) was impeded by the high acidity that the beer exhibited after the initial sour mash. Rather than bottle with Brett and risk bottle-bombs, I opted to add the Brett at secondary and hope for some further attenuation. After a couple more months, the Brett knocked a couple more points off the beer to the point that I was comfortable bottling. The caveat being, that I would not add any priming sugar as I suspected that there were still some carbohydrates in the beer that the Brett could work on. This turned out to become another source of frustration, as the carbonation came to life at a painfully slow pace.

Tasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP Category 17A Berliner Weiss

Aroma (8/12):
Bright lactic acidity up front which pair nicely with some mellow pear-like ester. Quite fruity. Low crackery malt note. No hops, DMS, or diacetyl.

Appearance (3/3):
Hazy gold. A vigorous pour presents a fluffy white head that quickly dissipates to a ring in around the glass.

Flavor (12/20):
This beer presents with quite a lot of lactic acidity. The acid is somewhat tangy and slightly yogurt-like. At the same time, it is soft and round, especially when compared to sharper acids (like acetic). The bright acid gives way to a nice round crackery malt character that lingers on the finish. The malt is perhaps just a touch sweeter than the style would dictate. Hop flavor is absent, and there is barely a whisper of bitterness. There is a hint of papery oxidation on the finish.

Mouthfeel (1/5):
Low to medium-low body. Medium (2.5 volumes or so) carbonation. The carbonation is improving, but continues to not be nearly as effervescent as the style calls for. The lack of champagne-like carbonation is a big detraction in this beer.

Overall Impression (6/10):
After many months, this beer is getting to be really nice. The biggest problem is the lack high carbonation that would help the beer become even more bright and refreshing, and cut some of the slight residual malt sweetness that is present. Surprisingly, I am not picking up any of the typical Brett flavors that could be attributed to the Brett Trois addition. My instinct is to drink this beer now at its current carbonation level rather than risk increasing the low oxidative notes that are beginning to develop.

Three Brett Saison Varieties Reviewed

Back in July 2013, I brewed a saison heavily hopped with American varietals, and split them into three separate secondary vessels inoculated individually with Brettanomyces Lambicus, Brettanomyces Bruxellensis, and a mixed culture of ‘bugs’ cultured from a bottle of Crooked Stave Surette. These cultures were added to the main beer after a short initial fermentation using Wyeast 3724 which (as expected) dropped early and left a lot of residual sugar (1.025) for the secondary cultures to work on. The beers were allowed to age with the mixed cultures for 5-months before being bottled for consumption.

Reviewing the Brett Saisons.

The goal of this experiment was to evaluate the impact that different secondary cultures can have on a base beer. It was amazing to taste how the different secondary cultures caused dramatically different transformations of the base beer. As expected, the two Brett strains were the most similar, with the Crooked Stave culture being clearly cut from a different cloth. Terminal gravities between the three samples were also slightly different:

Brett Lambicus: 1.004 (92.7% Apparent Attenuation)
Brett Brux: 1.002 (96.3% Apparent Attenuation)
Crooked Stave Culture: 1.006 (89% Apparent Attenuation)

Flavor and Aroma Notes:

Brettanomyces Lambicus (White Labs WLP653)
Overall, this beer has the mellowest level of Brett funk and fruity esters. The Brett character is medium in intensity and reminiscent of horse, hay, and earth. A touch of band-aid like phenol is present, but not overly offensive. There is a nice bready pilsner malt character that shines through the funk.

Brettanomyces Bruxellensis (White Labs WLP650)
This beer had by far the most pronounced Brett character. There is a moderately-high level of horsey / musty funk. The ester profile is really nice with slight hints of ripe pineapple and other fruit. There is a low level of band-aid phenol that is slightly higher than what was found in the Brett Lambicus sample. Again, there is a nice round bready malt character in both the Brett beers that somehow manages to shine through despite the high levels of attenuation.

Crooked Stave Surette Culture
By far the fruitiest sample. There is a round fruity ester reminiscent of tart pie cherries. This beer developed a nice level of bright lactic acidity. Not quite puckering, but pleasantly tart which helps reinforce the fruit notes. There is a light banana ester present which is a bit out of place. I am quite surprised with this beer’s lactic character given the high level of hopping and lacto’s typical intolerance to hop compounds. This makes me hypothesize that the strain of lacto Crooked Stave is using is more tolerant to high hopping than other commercially available strains. Funky Brett notes are present, but subdued. The nice malt character found in the previous two beers is well hidden beneath the big fruit character of this beer.

Final Thoughts:

Part of my goal with this beer was to evaluate how Brett strains meld with American hop varietals. While there was a bit of citrusy hops still present in the beers, it for the most part has oxidized and dissipated. For the next version, I think it is imperative to dry hop a beer like this after extended aging and prior to packaging to allow the volatile hop aromatics to survive in the final beer and meld with the Brett derived flavors and aromatics.

Spawn of Duvel Goes to Michigan

Brewday went nearly perfectly --- gravity was spot on at 1.061.

Brewday went nearly perfectly — gravity was spot on at 1.061.

I’ve had some good luck in the first round of this year’s National Homebrew Competition. Both my Vienna Lager and Belgian Blond ended up taking first in their respective categories. I’ve always thought that placing 30% of your entries in a competition of this size is a great average, so I was pretty stoked to have pushed through half of my entries.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have any additional fresh bottles of either ready to go, so re-brews were in order. My biggest concern brewing this beer is that the Duvel strain (Wyeast 1388) can be a bit finicky. The krausen almost always drops early, followed by a slow period of 5-10 days in which CO2 continues to be produced and the beer continues to dry out. Additionally, this yeast seems to produce a lot of banana ester early which dissipates and becomes much more mellow after a period of lagering at near freezing temperatures. I am a bit apprehensive that both of my second round entries will be younger than I would like.

As a Belgian Blond, my Spawn of Duvel recipe is well below the low end of gravity for the style. That said, it still tastes like a great version of the style. For my re-brew, I’ve slightly bumped up the gravity in hopes that it can stand-up to the higher gravity beers it will be competing against in the second round.

Spawn of Duvel 2.0 Recipe

Recipe Specs:
Size: 3.25 gal
Efficiency: 68%
Attenuation: 78.0% (anticipated)
Brew Date: 4/19/14

Original Gravity: 1.061 SG
Terminal Gravity: 1.015 (measured)
Color: 6.09 SRM
Alcohol: 6.04% ABV (calculated)
Bitterness: 22.8 IBUs (calculated)

Grist:
7 lb (85.5%) Belgian Pils – Dingemans
.5 lb (6.1%) Pale Wheat Malt – Weyermann
4 oz (3.1%) Belgian Biscuit – Dingemans
3 oz (2.3%) Acidulated Malt – Weyermann
4 oz (3.1%) White Table Sugar – Added to Boil

Mash Schedule:
60m Saccharification Rest – 154 °F
10m Mashout Rest – 168 °F

Hopping:
23 g Hallertauer Mittelfrüher (4.0% AA) – 60 m
0.5 oz Saaz (3% AA) – 15 m
0.5 oz Saaz (3% AA) – 20m Whirlpool
1.25 oz. Hallertauer Mittelfrüher (4.0% AA) – 20m Whirlpool

Kettle Additions:
0.5 ea Whirlfloc Tablets – 15 m
0.5 tsp Wyeast Nutrient – 10 m

Yeast:
WYeast 1388 Belgian Strong Ale™ (1400ml starter on stir plate)

Fermentation:
1. Chill to 62°F and keep at 66°F until activity slows.
2. Raise temp to 74°F until CO2 evolution stops.
3. Crash to 32°F 5 days.
4. Bottle condition. Once carbonated, store cold 2-3 weeks.

Vienna Lager 4.0 Homebrew Recipe

Vienna Ready to BRewYou can probably tell by my history of posting Vienna Lager recipes, that I love brewing (and drinking) the style. It is a great sessionable lager, and a lot of fun to brew. With that said, brewing this batch had ulterior motives.

My last batch of this beer turned out great. Judges tended to agree as it placed in both Homebrew Alley 8, and the first round of the National Homebrew Competition. Unfortunately, the bottles I have left are starting to show their age and will be well past their prime when the second round of the NHC occurs this June. With that in mind, I decided to brew up another batch. The recipe below was brewed on 3/30/14. This is pushing the time frame that I would normally be comfortable turning a lager of this strength around in. With careful yeast management and temperature control, it should be just enough time for the mid-June second round of the competition.

Recipe

Recipe Specs:
Size: 3.24 gal
Efficiency: 68%
Attenuation: 74%
Brew Date: 3/30/14

Original Gravity: 1.052 SG
Terminal Gravity: 1.014 SG
Color: 13.97 SRM
Alcohol: 5.07% ABV
Bitterness: 24.1 IBUs

Grist:
3.75 lb (51.3%) Vienna Malt – Weyermann
1.25 lb (17.1%) Pilsner Malt – Weyermann
2 lb (27.4%) Munich TYPE II – Weyermann
4 oz (3.4%) Carafoam® – Weyermann
1 oz (0.9%) Carafa® TYPE II – Weyermann

Water Additions (in Mash):
Soft NYC Water
4g Calcium Chloride

My recipe employs a single step decoction mash.

A quick single decoction enriches the malt character… and it’s a lot of fun.

Mash Regiment:
20m – 144°F Beta Rest
Decoct to Alpha Rest
20m – 156°F Alpha Rest
Direct Fire to Mashout
5m – 168.0°F Mashout Rest

Hopping:
24g Hallertauer Mittelfrüher (4.0% AA) – 60 m
14g  Hallertauer Mittelfrüher (4.0% AA) – 10 m

 

 

Kettle Additions:
0.5 ea Whirlfloc Tablet – 15 m
0.5 tsp Wyeast Nutrient – 10 m

Yeast:
White Labs WLP833 German Bock Lager – 1800ml Starter on Stirplate

Fermentation:
1. Chill to 46°F and keep at 48°F until activity slows.
2. Raise to 58°F for diacetyl rest 24 hours.
3. Cool 6°F / day until back down to 32°F.
4. Rack to corny keg and lager at 32°F 3-4 weeks.