#13 Pivo Pilsner

Eureka, its time for yet another recipe from the past. This time a Pilsner style beer.

Fig 1: Charles bridge in Prague very early in the morning before other tourists crowded the bridge

All started with a study trip to Prague and České Budějovice (aka Budweis) in 2008. I don’t want to write a trip journal here but if you have the opportunity to visit Prague, just go for it. It is such a nice place to visit.

České Budějovice, in the south of the Czech Republic, is very well-known for the Budweiser Budvar Czech Premium Lager. The trip was not about beer though but a friend of mine and me visited a local pub in our descover-the-city-time and enjoyed a freshly poured Czech Budweiser instead. What a treat. I can’t tell you much about the city though…

Fig 2: Drinking Czech beer in an Australian bar in Prague

After our one day stay in the south of the Czech Republic, we traveled north and stayed in Prague for several days. We both attended the city tours organized by our school and spent our spare time in different bars again… The beer was very cheap and really good. I am not into Pilsner style beers anymore but I would still order a Pilsner Urquell directly poured from a cask. Just amazing!

I went home with a lot of beer, a headache and decided to give this particular style a go to replicate a Pilsner Urquell. The recipe is a slightly changed version from SIOS (recipe in German) and brewed it in 2010.

Recipe: Pivo Pilsner
Numbers: Volume [L] 22 (5.8 gal)
Original gravity 12.7°P
Terminal gravity 5.5°P
Color Around 4.1 EBC (measured 3.3 EBC)
ABV 3.6 %
Grains: Pilsner malt (4 EBC) 4.3 kg
Carapils (5 EBC) 0.3 kg
Acidified malt (4.5 EBC) 0.1 kg
Hops: Hallertauer Nugget (12% AA) 23 g and boil for 75 min
Saazer (5% AA) 19 g and boil for 15 min
Saazer (5% AA) 19 g and boil for 5 min
Yeast: #2278 Czech Pils
Water: Burgdorf Mash: 12 L (3.2 gal), sparge: 20 L (5.3 gal) @78°C (172°F)
Rest: Mash in @48°C (118°F), 5 min @48°C (118°F), 10 min @53°C (127°F), 45 min @63°C (145°F), 10 min @73°C (163°F), 10 min @ 78°C (172°F)
Boil: Total 75 min
Fermentation: Primary 24 days @15°C (59°F) in plastic fermenter
Secondary None
Maturation: Carbonation (CO2 vol) 2.5
Maturation time 3 weeks

Fig 3: PLC and stirrer are preparing the water for the mash in

05/13/10: Brew day number 13 begins. It is so cold outside that I did this batch in my garage. PLC and stirrer did their job wonderfully, iodine test was negative after the last rest at 73°C (163°F). Then transferred the mash into my lautering bucket and begun to sparge. Then boiled the wort for 75 min with the additions of the hops according to the protocol above.

Fig 4: Surface of the boiling wort (not yet boiling)

Then cooled the wort down to 18°C (64°F) and added the yeast. Due to the very cold weather, I hoped the temperatures outside would stay low to cool down my cellar. Unfortunately for the beer, the weather changed and the temperatures in the cellar rose to 15°C (59°F). I therefore had to ferment the beer at a higher temperature than originally planned. The fermentation went not that well. My original gravity was 12.7°P and the gravity was still at 12.4°P after seven days… The gravity dropped to a final 5.5°P. A pretty slow fermentation although fermented at relatively high temperatures for a lager fermentation.

06/06/10: Bottled the beer after a primary fermentation of 24 days to a level of 2.5 vol. I then left the beer carbonate for nearly two weeks and left it mature at 15°C. Luckily, I bought myself a refrigerator in the summer of 2010 and so the maturation of the beer could take place at lower temperatures.

10/05/10: Tasting

Fig 5: Pivo Pilsner meets glass

Aroma: Very hoppy aroma. Bready, sweet and honey aroma. DMS!!!

Appearance: Yellow, clear with a white foamy head on top.

Flavor: Hint of hops, some sweetness and nice bitterness. Again, DMS detectable.

Mouthfeel: Light body, lively carbonation level, short bitter and malty aftertaste.

Overall Impression: Despite the DMS, the beer was not that bad. Nevertheless, the DMS made it pretty hard to enjoy and I dumped the last remaining bottles in 2012.

Changes and things I would consider important for a next batch: First, get enough viable yeast and ferment it at the appropriate temperature. I now own a temperature controlled fermentation chamber for such reasons. Second, increase the boil to a full length of at least 90 min to thrive of any DMS precursors. And chill the wort immediately after the whirlpool to minimize the DMS formation. Third, adapt the technique. Maybe go for a decoction mash, use an appropriate water profile, Premium Pilsner malt or even floor malted barley instead of normal Pilsner malt and use very fresh whole hops. Maybe even mature the beer or some of it in wooden vessels (as done by Urquell).

To summarize, brewing lager beers is not that easy. There are a lot of things to consider and taken care of. If you have a flaw (such as DMS) it will be easily detectable since theses beers are rather subtle in the aroma and flavor. On the other hand, it is very rewarding if you can brew such a beer (been there). Once again, I am not very into lager beers and such anymore but tasting a freshly well made Pilsner beer is very different to the ones you buy in bottles. Stay tuned!