Batch 141 – Czech Pilsner with Kazbek Hops (all-grain)

In anticipation of our vacation to Europe, which would take us to Munich, Pilsen Prague,  and Budapest in June and July 2017, I ordered ingredients from Home Brew Supply to make a Czech Pilsner.  I had decided I wanted to use Kazbek hops, which are described as having been bred from a crossing of Saaz hops and a wild variety of hops from the Caucasus mountains.  The other ingredients included:

  • 9.0 pounds of Weyermann Pilsner Malt
  • 8.0 ounces of Weyermann Light Munich Malt
  • 8.0 ounces of Weyermann Carafoam Malt
  • 2.0 ounces of Dingemans Aromatic Malt
  • 4.0 ounces Kazbek Hops
  • 2 packs White Labs WLP800 Pilsner Lager Yeast
Batch 141 - Czech Kazbek Pilsner

Ingredients for the Czech Kazbek Pilsner

I really liked Homebrew Supply – I ordered from them for this batch and for the Dortmunder I had made a few weeks earlier.  It is unfortunate that since both of those orders, whenever I have checked out their site prior to ordering ingredients there is much that they no longer carry or are out of stock.  For example, on the grain bill for this batch, the only grain they have in stock as I am writing this (mid February 2018) is the Aromatic malt – but it doesn’t appear to be Dingemans Aromatic malt.

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

  • Original Gravity:  1.053
  • Final Gravity:  1.013
  • 5.2% ABV
  • 4.2ºL
  • 38 IBU

Brew day was in the beginning of May 2017.  It went pretty smoothly and I came pretty close to hitting the target original gravity…

Original Gravity Reading - Batch 141

Hitting the target original gravity

…but after two weeks in primary, the beer seemed stuck at 1.026 and was not near the final gravity of 1.013.

Some progress after two weeks

1.026 two weeks into primary fermentation

I left it in primary for three more weeks, and it seemed to finish up a little better than my target final gravity.

1.010 Final Gravity

1.010 final gravity when transferring to secondary/lagering

I was really pleased with how it finished.  It was definitely much lighter in color than any other beer I have made.  I transferred the beer to secondary fermentation a few weeks before we left for vacation, figuring that when we got back in mid-July, it would be a good time to keg the beer.

It turned out that filtering and kegging didn’t take place for a couple more months .  It was early September before I packaged the beer in a brand new keg I had purchased from Adventures in Homebrewing for $69.99 at the end of July.

By the beginning of September the beer had not budged from the previous final gravity.

Final Gravity at kegging

Final gravity measurement (1.010) at kegging

As I mentioned, was extremely light in color and had settled very clear – almost to the point where I almost decided to not filter it.

Czech Kazbek Pilsner sampe

Light color and beautiful clarity!

The first draft was pulled on Labor Day weekend of 2017, and the keg hung around until just after Christmas.

Czech Kazbek Pilsner

First draft of the Czech Kazbek Pilsner

It turned out great, and I’m looking forward to maybe brewing it again this spring.


Posted in All-grain Brewing, Czech Pilsner, Czech Pilsner, Homebrewing, Light Beer is for Lightweights and Women | 1 Comment

Day 3 of European Vacation

Day three of our vacation found us taking a day trip from Munich to Nuremberg.  The weather was chilly, overcast and damp.  I wasn’t feeling very well having had a rough night trying to sleep.  While we enjoyed the many sights, I was not enjoying the day as much as I hoped I might.

After visiting the Imperial Castle, we stopped for lunch at a restaurant near the St Sebaldus church.  The beer they had on tap were three varieties of Neumarkter Lammsbrau:  Edelpils, Urstoff, and Helles Weissbier.  I ordered the Edelhell, hoping I’d feel better after lunch to try to the Urstoff next.

Though I would like to think that I didn’t enjoy this much because I was feeling under the weather, I thought it was below average, and that the hop finish tasted a little stale.  So I decided to pass on having any other Lammsbrau.

We continued wandering Nuremberg, all of us very tired, and we decided to head back to the train station to see if we could catch an earlier train back to Munich.  One place we walked through was the Handwerkerhof area.  Very neat, but also with touristy things for sale.  That’s where I found this:

Tucher bier – What the fuck is this?

It was a shame, really, that the trip to Nuremberg wasn’t longer or that I didn’t feel better when I was there.  There were several beer venues I wanted to visit and beer I wanted to try, including the Barfüßer Brewpub, and the Hausbrauerei Altstadthof, among other places.

We caught an earlier train back, after catching some friendly grief from the lady working the counter at the Nuremberg train station, and had dinner at another one of the restaurants near where we were staying.

Schlossberg Dachau Helles Naturtrüb

The Schlossberg Dachau beer is a kellerbier.  It is brewed by Spaten-Franziskaner and not in Dachau, which was a little disappointing.  It was also served in a stoneware mug, so I didn’t include that in the picture.  I thought it was below average.  This article describes how it is a brand that was “commissioned” in Dachau, but isn’t brewed there.  There is no mention of the beer to be found on the Spaten website either.

I haven’t quite been able to figure out the point of this beer.  The website doesn’t really explain what makes this different from other Franziskaner weizens – the most I can find about it is that it is a special recipe that changes annually, but the most recent version I can find online is for the second Royal version from 2012 – which it appears they have kept the same in the intervening five years.

In any case, it was average and not very interesting.

Posted in Franziskaner Royal Jahrgangsweissbier, German Helles Lager, Germany, Hefeweizen, Kellerbier, Munich, Nuremburg, Schlossberg Dachau Helles Naturtrüb, Vacation Beer | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Batch 140 – Dortmunder Export (all-grain)

Next up in Spring 2017 brewing was a re-make of my fifth solo all-grain batch – my Dortmunder Export.  This recipe was revised somewhat from the last batch, and I tried another online retailer to compare the alternatives to my local homebrew store.

The revised recipe consisted of:

  • 8.5 pounds of Weyermann Barke Pilsner Malt (2.0°L)
  • 1.0 pound of Weyermann Light Munich Malt (10ºL)
  • 8.0 ounces of Weyermann Carafoam Malt
  • 4.0 ounces of Dingemans Aromatic Malt
  • 2.0 ounces of Honey Malt
  • 5.0 ounces Saaz Hops
  • 2 packs Saflager W-34/70  Yeast

You will notice the alpha acid for the Saaz hops are missing from the ingredient list.  I ordered 3 ounces of hop pellets, and once again received substantially lower alpha acid content (2 percent) than the range listed on the website (3.0 – 6.0 percent).  I ended up cobbling together 3.5 ounces of 2.0 percent Saaz hops and 1.5 ounces of 3.2 percent Saaz hops (a total of 11.8 AAU) to get approximately close to the 12 AAU used (4 ounces of 3.0 percent Saaz hops) in the previous batch.

Batch 140 - Dortmunder Ingredients

Batch 140 – Dortmunder Ingredients

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

  • Original Gravity:  1.063
  • Final Gravity:  1.014
  • 6.4% ABV
  • 5.9ºL
  • 22 IBU

My mash seems to be a little thicker than normal, and I noticed a lot of grain pieces getting pulled from the mash tun into the brew kettle, similar to the results I get from the grain crushed by my homebrew store, whose settings are too fine for my liking.

I did manage to hit a sparge rate of about one quart per minute, which made me happy!

I was a little under (1.060) my target original gravity (1.063), but also was a little lower (1.012) than my target final gravity (1.014).

After two weeks of primary fermentation at 55°, I transferred the beer to secondary fermentation and lagered at 35° for 11 weeks (I had too much other beer to drink before I wanted to keg this!).

Three months after the brew day, I filtered the beer with my plate filter, kegged and force carbonated by rolling the keg for 2½ minutes with the gas set to 25 psi.

Batch 140 - First Draft

Good carbonation, very clear, and delicious!!

I ran out of this within two months of kegging.  Looking forward to making it again this spring!



Posted in All-grain Brewing, Dortmunder Export, Homebrewing | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Batch 139 – Konfrontational Kölsch (all grain)

As Spring 2017 approached, I decided to make another batch of a beer that came out very well last year – my Konfrontational Kölsch!

I followed the same recipe, once again using mail order all the ingredients, which consisted of:

  • 7.0 pounds of Schill Kölsch Malt (4.5° L)
  • 3 .0 pounds of Pilsner Malt (2.2° L)
  • 2.0 ounces Spalt Hops (3.2%)
  • Wyeast 2565 (Kölsch Yeast)

As I have previously mentioned, what I consider the biggest drawback to mail ordering brewing ingredients is not knowing definitively about the alpha acid contents of the hops.  These were no excpetion.  The website I ordered from shows the Spalt hops have an alpha acid range of 2.5 to 5.5 percent.  That’s a pretty big spread.

For example, my recipe may call for the equivalent of one ounce of five percent alpha acid hops.  If I order one ounce, assuming I will receive five percent alpha acid hops, but I receive a single ounce of 2.5 percent alpha acid hops, I won’t attain the desired bitterness/aroma.

Lately I have been hedging my bets when I order hops, increasing the amount I purchase.  In theory, I will end up with sufficient hops that I can use in my kettle, usually having some left over (which generally go to waste).

In this instance, I purchased a one ounce and a two ounce quantity of hops (three ounces total) for a recipe that is based on two ounces of 3.2 percent alpha acid hops to achieve 6.4 Alpha Acid Units (AAU).  What I received was one ounce of 2.4 percent alpha acid hops, and two ounces of 1.7 percent alpha acid hops.  Combined, these hops totaled 5.8 AAU, which still left me short of my target of 6.4 AAU!

I ended up going to the local homebrew store, hoping they still had Spalt hops in stock like they did last year.  I was able to pick up two ounces of 3.1 percent alpha acid hops (which is the same alpha acid content of the hops I purchased in April 2016.  This leads to more questions about my homebrew store and their stock:  are their hops fresh and are their labels accurate?  I have noticed on other batches that the hop alpha acid content is remarkably consistent, even if I there has been several years between making batches requiring specific hops.

Batch 139 Ingredients

Batch 139 – Konfrontational Kolsch ingredients

My targets, based on Brew Pal, are:

  • Original Gravity:  1.053
  • Final Gravity:  1.012
  • ABV:  5.4%
  • 22 IBU
  • 5.9° Lovibond

I was a little low on the original gravity, coming in at 1.050.  My final gravity was pretty close (1.013).  The beer spent two weeks in primary fermentation at about 56°.  I transferred it to secondary and lagered it in the mid-30’s for about seven weeks.

When it came time to filter, keg, and carbonate the beer, I decided to give the Clarifier one more try.  But since past experience showed that I couldn’t trust it to do its job, and since I wanted my Kölsch to be sparkling clear, I hooked it up in series with my plate filter.

Clarifier and Plate Filter

Using the Clarifier and Plate Filter in Series

I started filtering at 5:40 PM, setting the gas pressure to push the beer out of the keg at 3 psi. As before, the problem I immediately had was that I would push liquid out of the delivery keg to the “in” side of the cartridge filter, but would get foam on the “out” side of the filter.

The Clarifier...

Beer into the clarifier… really sucks!

…foam out of the Clarifier.

With foam leaving the Clarifier, it would somewhat re-liquify in the tubing prior to entering the plate filter, but would exit the plate filter and enter the receiving keg as partly/mostly foam.

By 7:00 PM, I had the pressure up to 15 psi.  By 7:30 PM, the pressure was up to 30 psi.

I finished pushing five gallons of beer through the filters at about 9:00 PM.  That is about 3-1/2 hours of filtering!  It also consumed a crap ton of CO2 gas.  There wasn’t much that appeared to be caught by the Clarifier, though the plate filter did its usual good job.

Fuck the Clarifier!!

I carbonated the beer by rolling the keg for three minutes with the gas set to 25 psi.

I can’t really complain with how clear the beer turned out though!

That's a clear beer!

That is a clear beer!!

Simply Beautiful!

Like I said, that is a clear beer!!

I did a comparison of my Kölsch to Reissdorf’s Kölsch.

Comparison of Reissdorf Kolsch and Konfrontational Kolsch

Kölsch Komparison – Konfrontational Kölsch is on the right

Overall, I was very pleased with how this came out.  I had emptied the keg within a month of carbonating!


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

Day 2 of European Vacation

Day 2 of our vacation found us looking at other sights in Munich.  Most of these were in and around the Marienplatz and the Munich Residenz palace.

For lunch , we stopped at Spatenhaus an der Oper, where we went to dinner our first night in Munich ten years ago.  I had more popular beers that were on the menu.

Spaten Pils vom Fass!

Franziskaner Dunkelweizen

After a day of heavy tourist activities that included seeing paintings by DaVinci and Raphael at the Alte Pinakothek and lots and lots of walking (10.2 miles!), I went to a beer store near where we were staying where I picked up a bunch of beer that I can’t find in my part of the United States.  Most of these were Kellerbier/Zwickl beers.

I also could not resist picking up his Rothaus beer that I see advertised during certain Bundesliga soccer matches (I think it is for Freiburg home matches).

Another authentic kellerbier.

We ate dinner at an Italian restaurant near where we were staying – we had a taste for pizza – and I had the Franziskaner Kellerbier.  My check in on Untappd indicated I didn’t like it as much as the other kellerbiers I had that day!

Posted in Franziskaner Dunkelweizen, German Pilsner, Germany, Kellerbier, Munich, Naturtrubes Kellerbier, Pils vom Fass, Vacation Beer | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

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!

Posted in Homebrewing | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Batch 137 – Rauchbier (all-grain)

This was a re-do of the previous Rauchbier batch that I made in September 2014 as my first all-grain batch with my then new equipment.  This was the first batch I made in 2017.

I purchased the ingredients at the local homebrew store, which this time had the actual Rauch malt I wanted in stock.  But this time, they didn’t have the Spalter hops I used last time, so I substituted 3.0 percent Saaz hops instead,.

The ingredients were:

  • 4.5 pounds of 2-row Pilsner Malt (2.0ºL)
  • 4.1 pounds of Rauch Malt (9.0°L)
  • 2.o pounds of Munich Malt (10.oºL)
  • 3.0 ounces Saaz Hops (half added at 60 minutes and half at 15 minutes remaining in the boil)
  • Saflager W 34/70 Yeast
Rauchbier Ingredients

Rauchbier Ingredients

The rest of the brew day was pretty uneventful.  Here is what the beer looked like as I was putting it into the fermenter.

Rauchbier - pre ferrmentation

Rauchbier – pre-fermentation

The predicted specs for this beer were as follows:

  • Original Gravity:  1.056
  • Final Gravity:  1.012
  • 5.7% ABV
  • 7.2ºL
  • 24 IBU

At the time I transferred the beer from primary to secondary, about three weeks after the brew day, I hit the 1.012 final gravity.

After about six weeks in secondary at lagering temperatures, I filtered the beer to try out the two micron Clarifier I had purchased from MoreBeer.  I had tried the cartridge filter on previous batches (with disposable cartridges), but was not satisfied with the results (basically, nothing was filtered).  I liked the idea of a reusable filter to go into my cartridge filter.

Filtering set-up with the Clarifier

Filtering set-up with the Clarifier

The end result was similarly disappointing.  In addition to taking vastly more time, which uses more CO2 gas to push the beer through the filter, the beer went into the receiving keg foamy.  There also wasn’t anything noticeable removed by the filter, which explained why the beer wasn’t clear when I poured the first drafts.

Rauchbier - first pour

Not very clear – Clarifier FAIL!

By the time I drew the last of this batch of beer almost two months later, it had cleared up nicely.  I just wanted it to look like this from the start!

Last of the Rauchbier

Eventually clear – waste of time using the Clarifier.


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