Batch 152 – Tmavý Ležák (Czech Dark Lager) – All Grain

This was my second attempt at making a Czech Dark lager, with things going much more smoothly than the first time.

Because of the great experience I had with Atlantic Homebrew Supply when I ordered the ingredients for the Festbier, I decided to order the ingredients for this batch from them as well.  Once again, I was pleased with their service, responsiveness in my asking about the alpha acid content of the Saaz hops, and timely shipment and delivery of my order.

The ingredients were largely the same as the last batch, with some slight differences in the amount of hops (due to a different alpha acid content) and foregoing the Wyeast 2000 Budvar Lager strain of yeast that caused me such problems previously in favor of the White Labs 802 version of the yeast.

The following ingredients were purchased:

  • 7.5 pounds of Barke Pilsner Malt (1.5-2.2°L)
  • 2.5 pounds of CaraMunich Malt (46.0°L)
  • 8 ounces of Carafa II (375-450ºL)
  • 3.0 ounces Saaz Hops (3.0% alpha acide)
  • 2 packages of White Labs 802  Czech Budejovice Lager Yeast
Batch 152 - Czech Dark Lager ingredients

Batch 152 – Czech Dark Lager ingredients

The recipe was tweaked slightly from the previous batch of Tmavý Ležák.  I was hoping for a slightly sweeter beer, much more in keeping with examples like Bernard rather than a pronounced roasted malt bitterness, which gave the previous batch more of a porter flavor. In continuing to research the style of Czech Dark Lagers, one suggestion that I found was to not include the darker Carafa II malt for the entire mash schedule, but rather to add for the last 10 minutes of the mash.  I incorporated this into the mash schedule.

I again had problems with the valve on the mash tun clogging with grain.  I’m thinking I’m going to have to make an adjustment, such as lining the bottom of my mash tun false bottom with mesh, such as that used for the brew-in-a-bag technique.  It is clear that the grinding of the mash is finer that my false bottom can readily filter.

Batch 152 - first runnings with lots of small grain pieces

Batch 152 – first runnings with lots of small grain pieces

Targets were:

  • Original Gravity: 1.054
  • Final Gravity: 1.012
  • Alcohol by Volume: 5.5%
  • IBU: 23
  • Color: 27°L

My original gravity measured prior to fermentation came in around 1.056.  The beer was in primary fermentation for two weeks.  Similar to the Oktoberfest Märzen I made two weeks previously, the gravity when I transferred the beer to secondary was again a point  higher (1.022) than the targeted final gravity (1.012).  After four weeks lagering time, I fined the beer with gelatin, let it sit for three days, and kegged/force carbonated it on the same day as the Festbier and the Märzen.  I let it sit another 12 days before I tapped it to try it.

Batch 152 - first draft

Batch 152 – first draft

Holding the Carafa II malt out of the mash until the final 10 minutes seemed to cut down a lot on the roasted malt bitterness, though it was still present.  I think this beer was probably a bit young when I kegged it, since it seems to have improved a bit in the month since I tapped the keg.

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Batch 151 – Oktoberfest Märzen – All Grain

About two weeks after brewing the latest batch of Festbier, the next batch up to brew was my Oktoberfest Märzen.  The recipe was consistent with the previous batch though with some slight adjustments because of hop and yeast availability, and included ingredients purchased from 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
  • 3.0 ounces Hersbrucker Hops (2.2%) (remaining from the Festbier batch)
  • WLP 823 Oktobefest Märzen yeast
Batch 151 Ingredients

Batch 151 Ingredients

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

  • Original Gravity:  1.053
  • Final Gravity:  1.014
  • 5.1% ABV
  • 14ºL
  • 22 IBU

I again had issues with the grain crush being too fine and clogging my mash tun valve.  Once that was fixed, lots of small grain pieces were pulled through.  In frustration, I didn’t bother regulating the sparge water flow into the mash tun – I drained the hot liquor tank into the mash tun.  This seemed to help compact the grain bed because the small pieces stopped coming though the valve into the brew pot shortly afterwards.

Other than that and a small boil over at the start of the boil, the brew day was uneventful.  Starting gravity was a bit higher than predicted at 1.058.

After two weeks in primary fermentation, the beer was transferred to secondary fermentation.  The gravity at this point was still a bit high, at 1.024.  I left the secondary fermenter sit out in my kitchen overnight, and put it in the chest freezer for lagering later that afternoon.

I let the beer lager for six weeks.  I checked the final gravity before putting the gelatin finings in  – it didn’t budge from 1.024. I let the beer sit on the gelatin for three days before kegging and carbonating.

Despite the high final gravity (or maybe because of it), the beer came out really well – the first time since I had been making the Festbier and the Oktoberfest together where I preferred the Märzen to the Festbier.

Batch 151 - Oktoberfest

Batch 151 Oktoberferst Märzen. I’m really pleased with the color and flavor of the beer!

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

Batch 150 – Festbier – All Grain

Coming into July, it was time to start preparing beer for any Oktoberfest or other fall party we might through.  First up was a redo of the Festbier recipe.

I tried another different online homebrew supply store for this recipe.  The ingredients for this batch, ordered from Atlantic Homebrew Supply.  I was happy with their prices, and with their quick processing and shipping of my order.  In addition, I was pleased with their quick responses to my emails about the current alpha acid content of the hops I wanted to purchase.

As I have stated previously, buying hops online is kind of a crap shoot.  A ‘typical’ alpha acid (or range) is usually shown, but I have had enough experiences in receiving hops with significantly lower alpha acid content than those shown when I placed my order.  My work around has been to order more hops to be safe, but then I can end up with an inventory of partially used or unused hops.

When I placed my online order, I requested information about the current alpha acid content of the Hallertau and Saaz hops I ordered.  They responded promptly via email with the information, and added two more ounces of Hallertau hops to my order.  They went even further in customer service by including the two additional ounces in my order so it could ship on schedule, and offered me a work-around to pay for the additional hops, which I happily did.  Moreover, I noticed that they took the time to consider my suggestion of providing ‘real time’ information of the alpha acid content of their hops – I noticed later that they changed the generic range shown for the hops to a ‘current alpha acid content’.

Given some of the past headaches I had with other online suppliers, I was tremendously pleased with the experience!

The ingredients for this batch were:

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°)
  • 6 ounces Honey Malt
  • 3.0 ounces Hersbrucker Hops (2.2%)
  • 1.0 ounce Saaz Hops (3.0% alpha acid)
  • 2 pack SafLager 34/70 Dry Lager Yeast
Batch 150 Ingredients

Batch 150 Ingredients

For the second batch in a row, I had a problem with the grind of the grain being so fine that pieces were pulled through the false bottom in my mash tun and clogged the valve, not permitting the wort to flow out during the initial stages of the vorlauf.  I had to blow back through the tubing running from the mash tun to the brew pot to clear it and get the wort flowing.  But seeing as how the grain was from a different supplier leads me to conclude that either the crush of the grain I’m getting from multiple suppliers is too fine in general, or there is a problem with my connection between the false bottom and the output valve.

Batch 150 first runnings

Batch 150 first runnings – after unclogging the valve.

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

  • Original Gravity:  1.061
  • Final Gravity:  1.013
  • 6.3% ABV
  • 5.7ºL
  • 24 IBU

My actual starting gravity came in at 1.064.  After two weeks in primary fermentation, I transferred the beer to secondary with a gravity of 1.018.  Approximately 8 weeks were spent in secondary, and in the beginning of Oktober, I fined the beer with gelatin and let it rest at around 34º for three days, when I kegged and force carbonated the beer.

I didn’t get as good a result as I have gotten previously from the gelatin fining.  The beer was still a bit hazy upon pouring.

Batch 150 - Festbier Draft

One of the first drafts of the Festbier – hazy despite the gelatin fining.

Posted in All-grain Brewing, Fest Bier, Gelatin Fining | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Batch 149 – Hefeweizen – All Grain

As usual, spring leads to summer, and brewing falls by the wayside as yard work takes over.  It was July 4th weekend when I finally had a chance to brew again.  I decided to make one of my favorite beers to have around during the summer month – a hefeweizen!

It is strange, but looking back through my brewing log, I noticed it had been over two years and 19 batches since I last made a hefeweizen.

The ingredients were purchased from the local homebrew shop and included:

  • 5.0 pounds of Pilsner Malt
  • 5.0 pounds Wheat Malt
  • 0.5 pound Rice Hulls
  • 1.0 ounces Hallertau Hops (3.8%)
  • White Labs 380 (Hefeweizen IV yeast)

While my preferred hefeweizen yeast is White Labs 351 (Bavarian Weizen Ale yeast), the homebrew store, of course, did not have that in stock on the day I went in to purchase ingredients.

Batch 149 Hefeweizen Ingredients

Batch 149 Hefeweizen Ingredients

My targets, based on Brew Pal, are:

  • Original Gravity:  1.054
  • Final Gravity:  1.012
  • ABV:  5.4%
  • 13 IBU
  • 3.9 Lovibond

After ten days in primary, the gravity had dropped to 1.017 when I transferred it to secondary fermentation in a glass carboy.

After a week in secondary, I kegged and force carbonated the beer at 25 psi for 2:30.  The final gravity hadn’t dropped below 1.017.

First draft of Batch 149 Hefeweizen

First draft of the hefeweizen.

To me, the beer finished a bit too fruity, with very little noticed of the banana and clove esters I prefer in my hefeweizens.  However, that is entirely consistent with what White Labs described about the yeast.

My neighbor tried some and really appreciated the fruity elements of the flavor profile, and I have to admit, it grew on me, too!

The keg of this batch took just under two months from carbonating to running empty.


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Batch 148 – Konfrontational Kölsch – All Grain

Back to a more or less monthly brew schedule in April 2018, another batch of Kölsch seemed appropriate for the upcoming summer months.  This is another run using the same recipe as the previous two batches, only this time with ingredients (except for the hops) ordered from Adventures in Homebrewing.

  • 7.0 pounds of Schill Kölsch Malt (4.5° L)
  • 3 .0 pounds of Pilsner Malt (2.2° L)
  • 2.0 ounces Spalt Hops (6.1%)
  • Wyeast 2565 (Kölsch Yeast)

For this batch, I used the hops I purchased when i ordered ingredients for the Dortmunder I had just made less than a month before this brew day.

Batch 148 - Kolsch Ingredients

Batch 148 – Kölsch Ingredients

When I was cutting the tape on the box the order was delivered in, I managed to slice open one of the bags of grain.  So I had to transfer it to a container until the brew day arrived.

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

  • Original Gravity:  1.053
  • Final Gravity:  1.013
  • 5.2% ABV
  • 5.9ºL
  • 28 IBU

I collected about 7½ gallons of wort and even trying to keep a more rolling boil than usual, I ended up with about an extra half gallon of wort in the brew pot.  I was also very disappointed in my measured original gravity, which at 1.044 was well under the target original gravity of 1.053.

The beer spent three weeks in primary fermentation, and the gravity measurement at transfer was 1.010.

Kolsch gravity

Kölsch gravity during transfer to secondary fermentation.


After one month in secondary/lagering, I fined this beer with a teaspoon of gelatin in 1/2 cup of water.  I kegged and force-carbonated it four days later.  It was very good!!

Konfrontaional Kolsch

A very good batch – l ran out within a month of kegging it!




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

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


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 , , , , , , , | 1 Comment