Batch 138 – Tmavý Ležák Czech Dark Lager (all-grain)

This is the beer that almost didn’t get made.  Or seemed to not want to be made.

Tmavý Ležák literally translates from Czech to English as “Dark Lager”.  A hard to find style in the United States, it is prevalent throughout the Czech Republic.  Perhaps the best known version in the U.S. is the Czechvar (U.S. Brand Name for Budweiser Budvar) version.

I had been researching this beer and recipes for similar beers online since the summer of 2015.

My version of the beer included the following ingredients:

  • 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)
  • 4.5 ounces Saaz Hops (with the low alpha acid content of 2.0%)
  • 2 packages of Wyeast 2000 Budvar Yeast
Tmavý Ležák Ingredients

Tmavý Ležák Ingredients

The predicted specs for this beer were as follows:

  • Original Gravity:  1.053
  • Final Gravity:  1.014
  • 5.2% ABV
  • 26ºL
  • 32 IBU

The ingredients were obtained mail order.  I won’t say who, but again, they disappointed me in their inability to meet their shipping commitments. I placed the order on January 27, but the order did not ship until five days later on February 1.  On this order, I opted to not pay extra for expedited shipping because when I did that the previous time I used this company, they did not make the expedited shipping date and I had to reschedule my brew day.  I was hoping they would make the front end of the shipping window for this order, but they did not.  So my brew day once again had to be rescheduled.

I was also disappointed by the low alpha acid on the hops, but there isn’t much anybody can do about that.  I got around that by buying way more than I needed (8 ounces!) so I’d be able to hit my IBU targets regardless of how low the alpha acid on the hops turned out to be. I really have to remember to have the mail order places email me with the alpha acid content of their hops prior to shipping so I can adjust my order if additional hops are needed to hit my desired IBU.

What turned out to be the most disappointing was the yeast.

My preferred yeasts for lagers is SafLager W-34/70.  I just like the way it works, and how well the beer turns out when I use it.  When I can, I try to use specific yeast strains that match the beer style I’m brewing.  Over the years, I opted for the convenience and overall performance of the White Labs yeast.  I had found that the only Wyeast strain I prefer over the White Labs is the Kölsch yeast.

I would have preferred to use the White Labs #WLP802 Czech Budejovice Lager yeast for this batch, but the supplier I used didn’t carry it, so I settled on the Wyeast 2000 version.

The order was placed at the end of January 2017 and the packages of yeast that arrived had packaging dates of October 25, 2016 – about four months prior to the brew date of February 20.  I activated the packs in the morning prior to starting my brew day, and left them on the kitchen table.

They did not swell much by the time the brew day was over…

Wyeast 2000 Yeast

Wyeast 2000 Yeast – not swell!

I was a little irritated at this point, and blamed (right or wrong) the mail order supplier for the late shipment and for sending me crap yeast.

I pitched the yeast anyway, and noticed no activity taking place.  So I did something that I was given no choice: I ordered more yeast – but from a different mail order house – and paid for overnight shipping!  So in addition to paying $6.99 for the original two packs of yeast (part of an order that totaled $66.84 including shipping that missed my brew day), I paid an additional $8.99 for two more packages of yeast, plus $32.50 to get next day shipping – a total of $117.32 for the ingredients alone!

At that price, this beer better be pretty fucking good!

The two packs of yeast that arrived were packaged on November 18, 2016 and December 7, 2016.  I activated the yeast when I got home from work, and one package pretty quickly swelled up.  The other…not so much!

More Wyeast 2000

Some swell, some not so swell.

The pack that swelled was the December 7, 2016 package.  I went ahead and pitched that one and let the other sit overnight to see how much more swelling would occur.  It turned out to be “not much!”

Wyeast 2000 - not swollen

Oh Wyeast 2000!! Why must you torment me so??

At this point I pitched the yeast and figured I would take my chances.

I transferred the beer to secondary on March 19, 2017.  The gravity read 1.016 at about 56 degrees.  I figured it would finish up a few more points closer to the target gravity over the next six weeks it spent in secondary/lagering.

I used the Clarifier to filter this prior to carbonating.  That was a nightmare.  It literally took hours and wasted too much CO2.  I was beginning to think getting the Clarifier was a mistake.

The final beer came out great though.  I did a side-by-side comparison against the Czechvar version, and it looked great.  The flavor didn’t quite match up, but I wasn’t trying to clone the Czechvar, so that was ok with me.

My Tmavý Ležák next to Czechvar's

My Tmavý Ležák next to Czechvar’s

I went through this pretty quick, too.  The keg was out by mid-June.

I will definitely make this again, but hopefully at a lower cost and definitely with the White Labs yeast!

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