Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Munich Helles - Brewday and Tasting Notes

The first batch of lager I made with the accelerated fermentation schedule was a Munich Helles.

Before brewday, I created a spreadsheet to help me keep track of the fermentation activity and set point changes. I updated with readings and compared my schedule with the proposed:

The percent of total attenuation is based on a starting gravity of 1.049 (49 Points) and an anticipated terminal gravity of 1.010. The total expected change is 39 points (49 - 10), so 50% of the total expected change is attained after a gravity drop of about 19 points, or 1.030.

The beer was kegged 11 days after brewday. The first carbonated sample was exceptionally clean (I tested for diacetyl by heating the sample in the microwave). It was quite cloudy at first, but has since dropped fairly clear after a month in the kegerator. I suspect the cloudiness was suspended yeast, so in future batches I will fine with gelatin or isinglass to further reduce conditioning time.

Munich Helles

Brewday: 08/04/13
Batch Size: 5.5 gal
Estimated Mash Efficiency: 56.7%
Est OG = 1.047

12 lbs Weyermann Pilsner (90.6%)
1 lbs Weyermann Munich I (7.5%)
4 oz Melanoiden (1.9%)

1.25 oz German Hallertauer (Hop Union)

Wyeast 2206 – Bavarian Lager. 2 packs in 3L starter, O2 to start (no stir plate)

Kroger RO + 80ppm CaCl2 


Mash in with 5.3 gallons H2O at 162F

12:10 – Mash in, T = 152F, pH 5-5.3 (via strips, at mash temp)
12:34 – Stir, T = 150F, pH 5-5.3
12:50 – Pulled 0.8 gal decoction (medium thickness) – held at 158F for 10 min, boiled for 10 min
14:00 – added back to main mash (T = 146F to T = 150F) – decoction took too long, may have let sacch rest drop too much – too dry/watery?

14:10 – started runoff

Sparged with 3.5 gallons H2O at 168F, pH = 5-5.3 (water and mix)

Collected 7.3 gallons at 1.048 (71% efficiency – need to adjust)


15:10 – started boil
15:40 – Added 1.25 oz (35.4 g) Hallertauer Hops. OG = 1.054
16:30 – OG = 1.060 (13% evap rate)
16:40 KO – extrapolated OG from last reading = 1.062

Added 1.5 gal H2O at KO to bring OG to 1.049 (Target 1.047, not enough water left).

SG = 1.049

Cooled to 90F and set fridge to 80F (will step down temp slowly to reduce strain on fridge compressor).

Pitched yeast at 55F.

A bit of Krausen in 24 hours (no airlock activity).

OG = 1.031. Krausen, lots of sulfur, even outside fridge. Set ferm temp to 58F (no heating).

Temp up to 58F (~ 7 AM).
23:00 – Set fridge cooling to 62F (no heating)

06:45 – Temp at 61F
Evening – 62F

OG = 1.014
Raised temp SP to 64F (used belt after temp reached 63F)

Raised temp to 65F

Kegged. FG = 1.009. (5.2%) Into kegerator at 60F. Decreased kegerator temp 5F/day until 50F for conditioning.

Samples were cloudy for awhile - also harsh. I attributed both of these to suspended yeast. The sample cleared after heating in the microwave, but did not return after chilling. I did not use cold-side finings but will in the future.

Tasting notes:

Very light aroma – took a few minutes to pick out anything specific. Initially white bread / saltine cracker, maybe some light fruity ester (or maybe I’m imagining/looking for it!).

Flavor is also light, with a touch of bread crust and saltine. CO2 bite is evident; I initially over-carbonated this beer. Some bitterness lingers on the palate.

My wife enjoys the light-flavored nature of this beer, but I would like to taste more Munich malt character. I also want the beer to linger just a little longer, possibly by increasing mash temp for a FG of 1.011. A bit more calcium chloride may enhance the malty flavors.

The beer is very clean despite the accelerated fermentation schedule. I want others to confirm, but I could not discern (with any certainty) fruity esters or fermentation flaws in the flavor or aroma.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Lager Fermentation Experiments - Intro


In a recent episode of The Brewing Network's Sunday Session, the traditional, low-and-slow method of lager fermentation was compared to a more accelerated schedule championed by Mike "Tasty" McDole.

The two fermentation styles were executed on a split batch of wort and compared side by side. Though a riff existed on the overall favorite, the Brewcasters could not discern any fermentation flaws in either sample.

I love lagers. Pils, Marzen, Doppelbock, Helles, Baltic Porter, Altbier, etc.; great beers, but with the coddling required to ferment and condition, I don't often commit to brewing them myself. In light of the above experiment, I decided to give the "Tasty Lager Method" a try.

The Method

McDole starts with plenty of healthy yeast slurry, preferring WLP833 - German Bock Yeast (the Ayinger strain). He pitches at 55F and keeps a close eye on the progress of the ferment.

After the gravity drops 50% of the way to terminal gravity, he raises the temperature to 58F.

After the gravity drops 75% of the way to terminal gravity, he raises the temperature to 62F.

After the gravity drops 90% of the way to terminal gravity, he raises the temperature to 66F and holds until fermentation is complete.

Though it goes against the traditional method of lager fermentation, this procedure parallels a normal, healthy ale fermentation. After the initial growth phase, a slow. steady rise in temperature towards the end of fermentation helps yeast attenuate properly and clean up fermentation byproducts. Since the vast majority of esters we want to avoid in crisp, clean lagers are produced during the initial growth phase, it makes sense to reel in the temperature initially, allowing the yeast an increasingly warmer environment to complete fermentation.

(Nearly all the information in the above paragraph on healthy fermentation was taken from Yeast by Jamil Zainasheff and Chris White. If you are interested in brewing GOOD beer, read it.) 

Application in the SHPB

I brewed two lagers in succession with this method: a Munich Helles and a German Pils with sweet corn.

I kept tabs on each fermentation, taking a gravity sample each day and adjusting the temperature as needed.

Both brews are currently kegged and on tap. I will post recipes and tasting notes later this week, hopefully after receiving some critical input from more experienced tasters. Results, so far, have been promising (not to mention delicious!).