Attempting to mansplain the stylistic DNA and categorical waypoints of this month’s homebrew project will look to some (many?) like an exercise in cerevisiphilic insufferability: it’s a black version of a pale hoppy ale that was based on a misunderstood concept of what 19th century export beers were like, but which today bear even less resemblance to the first beers formulated around that fictionalized history—and it’s fermented with a lager yeast.
But wait, there’s more! It’s going to use ingredients from four countries on three different continents (plus the Australian tectonic plate).
Do you even India Black Lager, bro?
What makes it tick?
As with the Black IPA we did a while ago we want lots of roasted malt color and aroma without any roasted malt bitterness or astringency, along with a high level of pungent hop aroma and flavor.
To achieve all that in the glass, we’ll revisit some of the techniques from that brew day—specifically, cold-steeping some de-bittered/de-husked roast malts and gaining most of our IBUs in a hop stand instead of during the boil.
To ensure that our India Black Lager remains obnoxiously cosmopolitan, we’re going to lovingly pluck the juiciest, grainiest, yeastiest brew-fruits of America, Chile, Germany, and New Zealand.
The base malts will be Minnesotan two-row plus a good slug of white wheat for texture; color will come from Bavarian CARAFA® and Perla Negra grown in the Chilean latitudes between the Atacama Desert and Antarctica.
Hop-wise, it’s going to be a fruit basket—wild berry and bitter grapefruit pith from Comet, lime and peach from Wai-iti, a bit of apricot and papaya out of Idaho 7, while the tangerine quality of Mandarina Bavaria combined with the roasted malts might evoke a Terry’s Chocolate Orange.
For fermentation, I’m calling for a steam-style California lager yeast for ease of use—that way we won’t need to spend a sizable portion of the optimal hop-character window on VDK reduction or waiting for it to drop bright.
International India Black Lager
Target OG: 1.065, Target IBU: 40–45 (nominal)
- 10 pounds Rahr Pilsner
- 1 pound Rahr White Wheat
- 8 ounces Patagonia Perla Negra (bag & mill separately!)
- 8 ounces Weyermann CARAFA III (bag & mill separately!)
- 2 ounces Comet
- 1 ounce Mandarina Bavaria
- 1 ounce Wai-iti
- 1 ounce Idaho 7
- Wyeast 2112 California Lager (or equivalent)
- Mesh bag for cold-steeping the roasted malts
Key points for key pints
Yeast starter. North of 1.060 and a cool ferment, so we’re going to need a bunch of cells.
Cold steeping. The Pilsner and wheat malts will get mashed together, while the Perla Negra and CARAFA will be cold-steeped for 24 hours prior to brew day (this is just like brewing cold press coffee) then strained, and the resulting inky liquid added to the kettle during the last few minutes of the boil. This will create a great chocolate-and-coffee roast malt character and deep color with minimal harshness.
Hop standing. Adding the lion’s share of the hop charge after the boil is shut down but before the wort is cooled, brings a big dose of fragrant hop oils and resin, which would otherwise be lost in the heat and agitation of the boil (as well as some IBU contribution). Lots of flavor and aroma, mild bitterness.
To the homebrewery
Note: These steps are general guidelines and assume you’re already familiar with the all-grain brewing process. Refer to the instructions for your brew system and adjust as needed based on experience with your own particular equipment.
24 hours prior to brew day
1. Make a yeast starter—2 liters of water, 8 ounces DME, a pinch of yeast nutrient; boil, cool, and inoculate with yeast.
2. Mill the Perla Negra and CARAFA, or have it done for you at the shop (remember to keep it separate from the base malt).
3. Cold steep the Perla Negra and CARAFA. Put both of these milled, roasted malts in the mesh bag and soak it in 2 to 3 quarts of cold or room-temp brewing water.
1. On brew day, collect strike water (I use 1.3 quarts per pound, YMMV) and heat to approximately 165°F.
2. Mill the Pils and white wheat, or have it done for you at the shop.
Mash & sparge
1. Add the Pils and white wheat to strike water and mix to achieve a uniform temperature of 151–153°F. Rest the mash at this temperature for 60–90 minutes.
2. While the mash rests, collect and heat sparge water.
3. When the mash rest is complete, heat it to 170°F for mashout.
4. Sparge and collect the wort in the boil kettle.
1. Bring the wort to a boil and refrain from attempting to mansplain the stylistic DNA of this month’s recipe in polite company. Add 0.5 ounce Comet hops when the wort begins to boil, and boil for 60 minutes.
2. While the wort boils, remove the bag of Perla Negra from the steeping liquid—use a colander to let it drain and collect the liquid. The grain can now be discarded.
3. 10 minutes before the end of the boil, add the reserved cold steeping liquid to the boil kettle.
4. Perform the hop stand: When the boil is finished, turn off the burner. Add 1.5 ounces Comet, 1 ounce Wai-iti, 1 ounce Mandarina Bavaria, and 1 ounce Idaho 7 to the hot wort. Cover the kettle and let rest for 20 minutes prior to using the wort chiller.
5. Proceed with cooling the wort.
Fermentation & beyond
1. Transfer the cooled wort to a sanitized fermenter, aerate well, and pitch yeast.
2. Aim for fermentation temp of around 60–62°F. Given a good healthy population of yeast cells and adequate oxygen, the wort should be at or near terminal gravity within about 8–10 days.
3. If you can, cool the finished beer to encourage the yeast to drop and allow another week or two to condition before packaging. The hop flavors will only diminish with time, so enjoy this one fresh!
Until next time: Drink it like you brewed it.