Day 4 of European Vacation

Day four of our 2017 summer vacation saw us leaving Munich on a train to Plzeň (Pilsen) in the Czech Republic (Czechia).

Pilsen is the birthplace of Pilsner beer.

In the weeks prior to our trip, on my weekly Wednesday beer nights with former co-workers, I would see this sign posted in the men’s room and start thinking about my upcoming trip to Pilsen!

Pilsner Urquell Sign

I would see this and get excited thinking “I’m going to Pilsen – and I’m going to go to Pilsner Urquell!!”

The train ride from Munich took around four hours and had six scheduled stops:  Landshut, Regensburg, Schwandorf, Cham (Oberpf), and Furth Im Wald in Germany, and Domazlice in the Czech Republic before we arrived in Pilsen.

I took the unopened bottles of beer I had purchased at the Lidl grocery store and the beer store in Munich  with me on the train.

Once we arrived in Pilsen, we walked from the train station to our AirBnB on Americká – a street that is the continuation of Šumavská street that runs past the train station.  Our lodging was on the fourth floor of a building just east of the Radbuza River.

The first thing we did after we checked in was to go walk back towards the train station to go to the nearby Tesco to pick up some extra towels, some toiletries, and some food for breakfast and snacks.  In the grocery section of the store, I was interested in seeing the beer selection.

Some Tesco Beer

Some of the beer available at Tesco. Note that a two liter bottle cost about 26 crowns – about one dollar!

Our purchases made, we headed back to the flat we were staying in to figure out our dinner plans.  I decided to drink one of the beers I brought with me from Munich.

Perlebacher Premium Pils

Perlenbacher Premium Pils

I purchased this at the Lidl grocery store.  There was nothing to indicate that this beer is apparently Lidl’s own brand that is produced by contract brewers for sale in their stores.  Since it is brewed under contract, the product won’ show up on the brewery websites, though the Franfurter Brauhaus does have links connecting to information about their contract brewing services.  According to Untappd, Lidl has over thirty different beers that are contract brewed for them.

We then headed out to dinner at Restaurace Žumbera for dinner.  There were five beers on tap.

Restaurant Žumbera draft beer list

Restaurant Žumbera draft beer list

The first beer I ordered was the unpasteurized Gambrinus lager…

Gambrinus nepasterizovarý ležák

…followed by a dark Kozel lager…

Kozel černý

…and a beer that was being advertised in the restaurant on table tents.  Master Divoký Ležák.

Master Wild Lager

Roughly translates to “Only in July. Wild lager made with Kazbek hops originating from the harsh Caucasus mountains.

I’m not sure if the hops were wild Kazbek hops, or what the intent is here – something is obviously lost in translation.

The translation of the description of the beer on Untappd was as follows:

The Lower Caucasus is considered to be the home of hops, where hops are still growing today. An unusual combination of this robust, wild Caucasian hops with a noble Czech has created a variety named after Mount Kazbek. She gave our lager a harsh spicy aroma with delicate notes of citrus.

So it appears I’m not too far off on my translation.

Master Divoký Ležák

I was surprised and interested in trying this beer since I had already purchased ingredients to make a Czech Pilsner with Kazbek hops after I got back from vacation.

After dinner, we took a walk around Pilsen to get our bearings before we returned back to our flat for the night.  I had another of the beers I brought with me from Munich: Maxlrainer Zwickl Max.

Maxlrainer Zwickl Max

 

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Posted in Commercial Beer, Czech Republic, Gambrinus nepasterizovarý ležák, Kozel černý, Lidl Lidl Deutschland, Master Divoký ležák, Perlenbacher Premium Pils, Pilsen, Pivovar Velké Popovice, Plzeňský Prazdroj, Schlossbrauerei Maxlrain, Vacation Beer, Zwickl Max | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Batch 147 – All-Grain Dortmunder and Gelatin Fining

I had good intentions of brewing every month in 2018.  That lasted until February.  I ordered ingredients for making my Dortmunder export from More Beer! on February 13, 2018, but didn’t get around to making the batch for six more weeks.  And little did I know I would be expanding my homebrewing skills by using gelatin fining for the first time!

I have been ordering mostly online over the past couple years.  This is mostly because the homebrew store owner either doesn’t stock what I’m looking for, doesn’t stock enough of what I need, or makes some other kind of mistake that frustrates me (like the time I bought ten pounds of grain, told him to mill it, and hadn’t realized he did not mill it until I was about ready to pour it into the mast tun!!).

One thing I like about online ordering is that I can try ingredients that my homebrew store won’t stock.  For example, I tried and really liked the Weyermann Barke Pilsner and Munich malts that were available at a few online stores in 2016 and most of 2017. I had previously ordered these malts online from Rebel Brewer, Homebrew Supply, and Northern Brewer.  Of those stores, only Northern Brewer still seems to carry it, but I stopped ordering from Northern Brewer when they disappointed me twice by screwing up my shipments and causing me to miss my brew days.

And don’t suggest I try Midwest Supplies, because I understand that they are also owned/operated by the same company as Northern Brewer.  No thanks.

I still had half a pound of a half pound of Barke Pilsner Malt left over from a previous batch as well as some Aromatic Malt left over that I could use and not order.  So I ordered 8 pounds of Weyerman German Pilsner Malt and a pound each of of Carafoam malt and Light Munich Malt.  I usually use some Honey Malt in this recipe, but MoreBeer! doesn’t allow orders in fractions of pounds and since I didn’t feel like ordering a pound of Honey Malt just to use a few ounces in this batch, I left it out.

Batch 147 - Dortmunder ingredients

Dortmunder ingredients – including some inventory items I wanted to use up.

I also use Saaz hops in this recipe.  One of my gripes with ordering hops online is that I frequently order more than I need because I just don’t know what alpha acid level I am going to get.  I have had instances, such as the last time I made this recipe, where the alpha acid content on the hops I ordered online were so miniscule (I had 2% and 3.2% acid Saaz hops that came with that online order), that I ended up using 5 ounces of hops to get to 22 IBU.

My NEW gripe with ordering on line has so far been specific to MoreBeer!.  They have two warehouses they ship from: one in California and one in Pennsylvania.  When I was ready to check out with this order, I noticed I had a really high shipping cost.  As I looked closer at the website, I say that MoreBeer! was able to ship all but the Saaz hops from their PA warehouse.  Apparently, they were out of Saaz hops in their PA warehouse and had to ship the Saaz hops separately from their CA warehouse – doubling the nearly $10 shipping charge.

Sorry, but it doesn’t make sense for me to pay nearly $10 in shipping for a few ounces of hops!!

In order to reduce my shipping costs, I decided to replace the Saaz hops with Spalt hops.  I had some left over, unopened Spalt hops in my chest freezer that I had ordered as a hedge against getting too low alpha acid hops.  As it turned out, those hops were ridiculously low in alpha acid!  A 2 ounce package of Spalt hops had a 1.7% alpha acid content and a 1 ounce package of Spalt hops had a 2.4% alpha acid content!

I ordered two more ounces of Spalt hops hoping that they would have high alpha acid content and all the hops combined would be enough to get to my desired IBU target.  I had to jigger around with my recipe and so if I boiled my inventory Spalt hops, along with some 4.6% Mt Hood and 3.2% of Saaz hops I had in inventory, that I might end up close to my targeted 21 IBU.

When my order came, the 2 ounces of Spalt hops came in at 6.1%.  Rather than have to re-re-adjust the recipe, I opted to just keep those hops for another batch and use up my inventory Spalt hops.

So this batch of the Dortmunder went forward with a revised recipe consisting of:

  • 8.5 pounds of Pilsner Malt
  • 1.0 pound of Light Munich Malt
  • 8.0 ounces of Weyermann Carafoam Malt
  • 4.0 ounces of Aromatic Malt
  • 1.0 ounce of Mt Hood Hops (4.6%)
  • 2.0 ounces of Spalt Hops (1.7%)
  • 1.0 ounce of Spalt Hops (2.4%)
  • 0.5 ounces Saaz Hops (3.2%)
  •  2 packs Saflager W-34/70  Yeast

Targets for this batch, based on BrewPal were as follows:

  • Original Gravity:  1.063
  • Final Gravity:  1.014
  • 6.4% ABV
  • 5.6ºL
  • 25 IBU

My targets using BeerSmith were much different:

  • Original Gravity:  1.054
  • Final Gravity:  1.013
  • 5.1% ABV
  • 5.3ºL
  • 29 IBU

The grain crush was very fine – it took quite a while during vorlauf to not have a shitload of smaller bits get pulled through with the wort.

Vorlauf runnings or barley porridge?

Vorlauf runnings or barley porridge?

I was disappointed that I ended up being well below my BrewPal estimated target gravity (1.050), but it wasn’t too far below that estimated by BeerSmith.

My difficulties with not concentrating the wort down to five gallons during the boil continued.  Despite an extremely vigorous and rolling boil, I ended up with six gallons in the brew pot at the end of the boil.  I put 5½ gallons into the fermenter and tossed the rest.

Three weeks in primary got me slightly below my targeted final gravity.  The beer measured out at 1.012.  I transferred the beer to a carboy for a planned month in secondary fermenting/lagering so the beer would be ready by Memorial Day weekend.

As the beer was in secondary fermentation, I started to thinking about when, and more importantly, how I was going to filter the beer.  I have used three different kinds of filter set-ups in the past.  A plate filter, a cartridge/cannister filter (both requiring disposable filtering media), and re-usable steel mesh filter.  I have been disappointed in the performance of the last two and have always returned to the plate filter for when I make a batch that I want to be bright.

I had been reading various mentions of using unflavored gelatin to clear and brighten beer and skip the step of filtering.  And though I like brewing gadgets as much as the next homebrewer, I also like to simplify my processes if I can get a roughly equivalent (or better) result.

So I decided to try out gelatin fining.

From the information I have found on gelatin fining, the process is pretty straight forward.

You get some unflavored gelatin…

Gelatin fining - step 1

A teaspoon of unflavored gelatin.

…and dissolve it in a half cup of water in a Pyrex measuring cup or other microwavable container. Note that the gelatin-water mixture will be a little murky at first, even after it is dissolved.

Gelatine mixture - not fully dissolved

Gelatine mixture – not fully dissolved

Heat the water-gelatin mixture in 10-15 second bursts until it reaches 160° (I have to confess I got distracted and let the mircowave run too long; my mixture was up to 175° after I pulled it out of the microwave with a yell of “OH, SHIT!!!”.

The mixture was much clearer after heating.  I let the gelatin cool to about 120° and poured it directly into the carboy I was using for secondary fermentation.

This is how the beer looked prior to fining after three weeks in secondary fermentation.

Dortmunder before fining

Dortmunder after three weeks in secondary prior to fining

 

And this is how it looked a week later.

Dortmunder after one week of gelatin fining

Dortmunder after one week of gelatin fining – the carboy carrier straps are visible on the far side.

This was probably the clearest beer I have ever taken a final gravity reading.

Dortmunder final gravity reading

Dortmunder final gravity reading after fining

Amazing clarity after gelatin fining

This sample of the Dortmunder was amazingly clear after gelatin fining.

I was really pleased at how bright the Dortmunder came out.  I was prepared to filter if I was not  happy, but I was extremely happy!!  The nice thing about gelatin fining is that I can use it on darker beers, like my Doppelbock, which I normally don’t filter because sparking clarity is not as big a concern.  It is a passive way to clarify beer without having to go through the step of filtering.

The first draft of the Dortmunder:

First Draft of the Dortmunder

First draft of the Dortmunder – easy to see the label on the other side!

Posted in All-grain Brewing, Dortmunder, Dortmunder Export, Filtering, Gelatin Fining, Homebrewing | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Batch 146 – Doppelbock – All Grain

I made an ambitious start to 2018 by brewing a batch two weeks after the previous batch!  I wanted to put up a Doppelbock in time for Starkbier season (Lent).  This recipe was a little different from the Doppelbock I made a little more than three years ago.

Batch 146 - Dopplebock Ingredients

Batch 146 – Dopplebock Ingredients

The ingredients were all ordered from Morebeer.com.  Well, all except the Pilsner Malt and the Carafa II malt.  I brain farted and forgot to order the Pilsner Malt, so I picked that up at the local home brew store.  I had left over Carafa II malt from the brewing of Hnedý Medveď, so I used that as well.

The recipe consisted of:

  • 6.0 pounds of Weyermann Pilsner Malt
  • 5.0 pounds of Weyermann Light Munich Malt
  • 5.0 pounds of Weyermann Dark Munich Malt
  • 8.0 ounces of Weyermann Carafa II Malt
  • 8.0 ounces of Briess Caramel Munich Malt(60ºL)
  • 2.0 ounces Hallertau Mittelfruh Hops (4.2% alpha acid)
  • White Labs Bock Yeast WLP 833

The predicted specs for this beer (using BrewPal) were as follows:

  • Original Gravity:  1.086
  • Final Gravity:  1.023
  • 8.2% ABV
  • 21 IBU
  • 26ºL

When I first started using the propane burner instead of the stove for my all-grain brewing, I had a slight issue with boiling off too much wort and having to top off the cooled wort with water to reach five gallons in my fermenting bucket.

I fixed this by increasing my sparge volume so I end up collecting about 7½ gallons of wort prior to starting the boil.  While I have learned to become cautious to avoid early boil overs, I still manage to get a good rolling boil going and keep it going for most of the hour of boil time.

This time however, I had a bit of a snag.  I ended up with 5¾ gallons to go into the fermenter.

Extra Doppelbock Wort

Extra Dopplebock Wort

Normally if I have a little more than five gallons at the end of the boil, I just throw that into the fermenter because, Hooray!! Extra Beer!!  But trying to fit almost six gallons into a Cornelius keg for carbonating just doesn’t work.

This batch got me mulling over whether I needed to reduce my sparge water and the initial pre-boil volume of wort I produce.  Since I ended up with so much additional wort, my original gravity was below target, coming in at 1.082.

After two weeks of primary fermentation, I transferred the beer to a glass carboy for secondary fermentation and lagering.  The measured gravity during the transfer was 1.030 – closing in on the target final gravity, but not quite there yet.  So I kept the carboy at my primary fermentation temperature (about 52° in my keg fridge) for another week before putting it into my chest freezer to lager at 34°.  I finished up with a final gravity of 1.026, which put me right at about 7.3% alcohol by volume – about a full percentage point lower than where I should have ended up.

Since I really wanted a Doppelbock in time for Lent, I cut short the lagering time by quite a bit!  I lagered the beer for only two weeks before kegging and force carbonating it.

It came out very well, despite not being lagered for two months (which is about what I usually aim for when I lager).

Batch 146 - First Draft

First draft of the Doppelbock – a little over carbonated, but still great!

At the end of March, I did an unscientific taste comparison between my Doppelbock and Weihenstephaner Korbinian.  Testers included my wife and two daughters.

Korbinian versus my Doppelbock

Korbinian versus my Doppelbock

The consensus was the flavor was very close to each other, but my Doppelbock did not have the burning/solvent taste that can come with higher alcohol beers.  Maybe missing my target ABV by almost a point was a factor, but the beer still came out very good, very drinkable and was gone very quickly!!

Posted in All-grain Brewing, Doppelbock, Homebrewing | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Batch 145 – Hnedý Medveď Brown IPA – All Grain

This is another extract and grain recipe that I converted to all-grain.  I had not made this beer in a while (nearly four years!) and New Year’s Eve in 2017 seemed as good a time as any to turn it out again.

The ingredients, purchased from the local home brew store, consisted of:

  • 8 pounds Pilsner Malt
  • 1/2 pound Carafa II
  • 1/2 pound 80° Crystal Malt
  • 1/2 pound Caramunich Malt
  • 24 ounces honey
  • 1 ounce Centennial hops (9.7% alpha acid)
  • 1 ounce Nugget hops (13.3% alpha acid)
  • 1 ounce Columbus hops (17.0% alpha acid)
  • White Labs British Ale Yeast (WLP 005)
Batch 145 Ingredients

Honey Brown IPA – also known as Hnedý Medveď (Brown Bear)

My targets, based on my brewing software, are:

  • Original Gravity:  1.061
  • Final Gravity:  1.010
  • ABV:  6.6%
  • 106 IBU
  • 23° Lovibond

First runnings came out pretty dark…

Hnedy Medveď- more like Čierny Medveď

Hnedý Medveď? More like Čierny Medveď!

 

…but ended up being diluted some during the sparge.  It was a nice, dark brown when I it was time to keg it about four weeks after the brew day.

Batch 145 - pre-kegging sample

Batch 14 – pre-kegging sample

I hit the original and final gravities, too!  All in all, everything came out great!!

First draft of Hnedy Medved

First draft of Hnedý Medveď

 

 

 

Posted in All-grain Brewing, Hnedý Medveď | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Batch 144 – Dampfbier (All-Grain)

Entering Fall of 2017, I had put up two batches of beer for the Oktoberwe’en party and had to decide about putting up a third batch to have on tap.  With only a couple weeks left before the party, I had to consider doing something with a quick turnaround.  I considered going with the Schwarzeweizen, but decided to do an all-grain version of the last extract and grain recipe I made before taking the all-grain brewing plunge:  my Dampfbier recipe.

I had to adjust the previous recipe for all-grain brewing.  The revamped recipe included the following ingredients purchased online from Rebel Brewer:

Batch 144 - Dampfbier Ingredients

Batch 144 – Dampfbier Ingredients

My targets (using BrewPal) were as follows:

  • Original Gravity:  1.052
  • Final Gravity:  1.013
  • 5.1% ABV
  • 9ºL
  • 14 IBU

The wort seemed to be a little on the dark side when I was pulling the runnings during the vorlauf.

First runnings

First runnings of the wort during vorlauf

The fermentation was a little vigorous, as I have come to expect with Hefeweizen yeast.

Dampfbier fermentation

Dampfbier fermentation foam around the airlock.

This batch’s starting gravity (1.044) was a bit below my target starting gravity of 1.052, but it finished with a final gravity of 1.012, pretty much right at the target final gravity of 1.013.

The beer was kegged, unfiltered, and force carbonated so it was ready to drink that evening and be served the next day at the Oktoberwe-en party.

Dampfbier Draft

One of the first pours of the Dampfbier.

 

Posted in All-grain Brewing, Dampfbier | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Batch 143 – Oktoberfest Märzen (all-grain)

A month after brewing the latest batch of Festbier, it was well past time to brew my Oktoberfest Märzen for Oktoberwe’en .  Just like the previous batch, this recipe included the following ingredients purchased at the local homebrew store:

  • 9.5 pounds of Munich Malt (10°)
  • 0.5 pound Cara-Pils Malt
  • 0.5 pound Cara-Munich Malt
  • 2 ounces Aromatic Malt
  • 2 ounces Biscuit Malt
  • 1.0 ounces Hallertau Hops (3.8%)
  • 0.5 ounces Tettnang Hops (6.1% alpha acid)
  • WLP 820 Oktobefest Märzen yeast

I was surprised by two things when purchasing the ingredients:  the high alpha acid content on the Tettnang hops, and the fact my homebrew store had the liquid yeast in stock!

Batch 143 Ingredients from the local homebrew store.

I was disappointed that despite my request the homebrew store owner ground my grains too fine for my liking.

First runnings had lots of fine grain pieces.

Despite carefully working to compact my grain bed, the grain pieces were still too small and were easily pulled through the false bottom in my mash tun.  This is probably the most grain pieces I have ever had in my brew pot.

Too many small pieces of grain in the brew kettle

The predicted specs for this beer (using BrewPal) were as follows:

  • Original Gravity:  1.055
  • Final Gravity:  1.017 (BeerSmith had the final gravity at 1.019)
  • 5.0% ABV
  • 14ºL
  • 23 IBU

Brew day was at the end of August 2018.  I was just a bit below the target original gravity…

I hit pretty close to my targeted starting gravity

…but I pretty much nailed the final gravity.

I also pretty much hit my targeted final gravity.

The primary fermentation lasted about a month.  Due to the late brew day, I had only limited time for the secondary fermentation and lagering – about three weeks – before I had to filter, keg and carbonate the beer in time for our party.

Still, it came out great!

First draft of the Oktoberfest beer!!

Posted in All-grain Brewing, Homebrewing, Marzen, Märzen, Oktoberfest | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Batch 142 – Festbier (all-grain)

After our return from vacation in Europe, it was time to turn my attention back to brewing for our upcoming Oktoberwe-en party.  I went with the tried and true recipes for Festbier that I have made the last few years.

The ingredients, which – except for the Honey Malt – were purchased from Rebel Brewer, include:

  • 9.5 pounds of Barke Pilsner Malt
  • 1.0 pound Cara-Pils Malt
  • 1.0 pound Munich Malt (10°)
  • 0.5 pounds Honey Malt
  • 2.0 ounces Mittelfruh Hops (3.8%)
  • 1.0 ounce Saaz Hops (3.2% alpha acid)
  • 2 pack SafLager 34/70 Dry Lager Yeast
Festbier Ingredients

Festbier Ingredients, including Honey Malt from inventory

 

The brew day was uneventful aside from a small boilover a the start of the boil.  The beer spend about a month in primary before being transferred to secondary.  I did a color check when transferring to secondary – it seems to have come out a little lighter his time around.

Batch 142 - Festbier

Color of Festbier during transfer to secondary

I lagered the beer for six weeks before filtering, kegging, and force carbonating at 25 psi for 2:30.

 

Festbier in time for the Oktoberwe'en Party

Festbier after one day in the keg

 

Posted in All-grain Brewing, Fest Bier, Homebrewing | Tagged , , | 1 Comment