Key Points for Key Pints:
Pils malt: choices are easy. Back in the day, when a beer was named for the town it was brewed in, and brewed with a type of malt that was also named for the town where the barley was grown and the beer was brewed, the decision of what to brew, which ingredients to use, and what to order at the pub was so much simpler. Globalization has made things way more complicated, but you still can’t make a proper Pilsner without pils malt. For this recipe, opt for a good German malt like those from Weyermann or Best.
Strain selection: choices are complicated. Depending on your particular fermentation environment and personal preferences, my yeast suggestion would be either Wyeast 2124 Bohemian Lager or Wyeast 2042 Danish Lager. 2124 will be a bit more user-friendly, with a more generous attitude towards fermentation temperature and a tendency to clarify a bit more readily; 2042 will require a cooler basement or (better still) a temp-controlled fridge for primary and is a powdery son of a gun, but rewards us with terrific hop character, a snappy dry finish and very low diacetyl production.
Fermentation: turns out it’s important. Homebrewed lager is made or broken in fermentation, no matter how well-crafted the wort is. To focus on good fermentation, we will keep our mash and boil regimen simple, and prepare a starter culture 24-48 hours before brew day: dissolve 8 oz of dry malt extract and a pinch of yeast nutrient in 2 liters of water, boil briefly and then cool. Pour into a sanitized flask (or equivalent), add the yeast, cover with sanitized aluminum foil, and incubate at 70°F.
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.
Make a yeast starter prior to brew day—this is a big beer and will need lots of yeast!
On brew day, collect strike water (I use 1.3 quarts per pound, YMMV) and heat to approx. 163°F.
Mill the grains, or have it done for you at the shop
Mash & Sparge
Add all grains to strike water and mix to achieve a uniform temperature of 149–151°F. Rest the mash at this temperature for 60–90 minutes.
While the mash rests, collect and heat sparge water.
When the mash rest is complete, heat it to 170°F for mashout.
Sparge and collect the wort in the boil kettle.
Bring the wort to a boil and practice your umlauts. Add 0.75 oz of hops (Motueka, Pacifica, or a blend—brewer’s choice) when the wort begins to boil, and boil for 60 minutes.
Add 0.5 oz of your hop of choice 40 minutes before the end of the boil.
Add 0.5 oz of hops 20 minutes before the end of the boil.
Fermentation and beyond
Transfer the cooled wort to a sanitized fermenter, aerate well, and pitch yeast.
Using either strain, aim for a primary fermentation temp of around 48–50°F.
If using 2124, plan on a diacetyl rest as fermentation begins to slow—just allow the temp to warm to about 58–60°F once CO2 in the airlock slows and the krausen subsides, and leave it for a couple days to encourage the cells to clean up after themselves.
If using 2042, I generally maintain a steady temp throughout since this strain tends to be a low diacetyl producer.
With either strain, don’t be alarmed by sulfury aromas coming through the airlock—sulfur dioxide is a normal byproduct of many lager strains, and it will dissipate on its own over the course of fermentation.
After primary fermentation, rack the green beer to a secondary and lower the temp to 35–40°F for 3–4 weeks for the lager phase. Viel spass!
The beer will be ready to package roughly 6–8 weeks after brew day and will drink well as soon as carbonated. Pils is best when fresh, so don’t cellar it!
Until next time: drink it like you brewed it.
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