Sunday, October 07, 2012

(Belated) Brew Day: Hail Shaft Pilsener

So, I just realized that I never got around to posting about my last brew day. Three weeks ago I brewed one of my favorite styles: Pilsener. Yeah, some people think Pilseners are boring. I suppose it's true that there are plenty of mediocre ones out there--and that's not even counting beers like Miller Lite that call themselves Pilseners but are anything but. Nonetheless, a well-brewed Pilsener is a thing of beauty, and if certain breweries want to dismiss it as "fizzy yellow beer" (I'm looking at you, Stone) then that just means more for me.

Anyway, I suppose one of the reasons I had forgotten to post about the brew day is that nothing too crazy happened. I did a rather simple step mash, starting at 130°F for a half hour and then using direct heat to raise the temp up to 148°F. After another half hour, I mashed out at 168°F (though I initially overshot by a few degrees; hopefully I didn't leach any tannins).

A quick note about the step mash... The last time I did direct heat to raise a mash temp, I ended up scorching the mash (which oddly enough left a smoky flavor that was actually quite similar to what you get with smoked malt). Using direct heat, you need two burners (one for your mash tun and one for your brew kettle), and that time I used my old burner which was clogged on one side, which meant all the heat was being applied to roughly a third of the bottom of the kettle. Since then I bought a new second burner and, with the heat evenly applied, I didn't have any scorching issues while raising roughly twenty pounds of grain at a rate of roughly 2°F per minute.

Usually I do a 90-minute boil for brews that are heavy on the Pilsener malt, but after talking to several brewers familiar with Best Malz Pilsener malt (including Doug Hurst of Metropolitan Brewing, who brews the excellent Flywheel Bright Lager) I decided to go with a 75-minute boil this time. I did my usual method of spreading out the bittering hop additions, adding hops at both 75 minutes and 60 minutes, as well as late hop additions at 5 minutes and flame-out. At some point I'd like to make a hopback for aroma hops, since I find that with a plate chiller I get little hop aroma even at flame-out. For now, though, I added a whole ounce of Tettnang for each of the late-hop additions so I'm curious to see how it turns out.

A couple final notes... I forgot to write down my O.G., but I seem to recall that it was within a point of my target of 1046, so I'll assume that's what it was. Also, I jokingly called it a "Chicago-style Pilsener" on Facebook, and here's why... First of all, people often fuss with their brewing water, but Pilsener is a good example of how, traditionally, the water informed the style and not the other way around. With German-style Pilseners, you get harsher, hoppier Pilseners up north because their water is harder. Unless I'm specifically trying to emulate a Czech-style Pilsener (like I did last year), I just use Chicago city water and allow that to help define the flavor profile of my beer. The second thing that makes it Chicago-style is that I was a little short on Pilsener malt, so I ended up using a grain bill that included Munich malt (10%), Carafoam (5%) and wheat malt (5%). None are completely out of place in a Pilsener (well, I suppose technically the wheat is) but it's the random inclusion of all three that leads me to declare it something other than a German-style Pils. So Chicago-style it is!

And with all that said, it's time for me to keg the Pilsener. Prost!