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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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.


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O’ zapft is! (Annual Oktoberfest Post)

To think I was in Munich less than three months ago!  Wish I could be there again for Oktoberfest!


Some good reasons to go to Oktoberfest!


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Day 1 of 2017 Summer European Vacation – Munich

We had the opportunity to take a vacation to Europe this summer.  I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to write about some of the different beer that I would drink while on vacation.

My oldest daughter played a big role in the planning of our vacation – partly because we had to leave her in Budapest in the middle of July so she could participate in a three week research project in Szeged, and partly because she had the time and enthusiasm to assist in planning after her college graduation.  Between the two of us, we developed an extensive list of places we wanted to see.  Part of my research included different places where I could drink beer.  Part of her research was finding places to stay on either AirBnB or HomeAway.

To start our vacation, we flew into Munich, Germany at the end of June.  We took the train to the place we reserved on HomeAway and dropped off our bags.  Our lodging was located northwest of central Munich near the Westfriedhof U-Bahn (subway) station. This was the first of many good choices we had made in our lodging. It was a beautiful place that comfortably housed the four of us – much nicer than any chain motel would be.  It was also quiet, away from all the tourist traffic, but because we were close to the Westfriedhof U-Bahn station, we could get down to the center of Munich in about 15 minutes.

We took the U-Bahn to Sendlinger Tor, and walked up Sendlinger Strasse towards the Marienplatz, taking in a number of sites along the way.  Since it was around lunch time locally, and since we were all hungry from our flight, we went to the restaurant we have visited the most on my three visits to Munich – Wirsthaus Ayingers.  It is near the Hofbräuhaus München, but across the Platzl from that horrific tourist trap.  The Wirsthaus food is great, and Ayinger beer is always great!

There are a few Ayinger beers that I can get where I live, so I opted for the beer I can’t get at home.

Ayinger Kellerbier at the Wirsthaus am Platzl

While I would have liked to stay and have a few other beers that were on offer at the Wirsthaus, our tourist plans required seeing other sights, so off we went.

That evening we went to a restaurant near our lodging.  Since restaurants in Europe are generally affiliated with the breweries whose beer they serve, while others such as this one was an Augustiner tied-house. This restaurant had a range of Augustiner beers available.  I chose to sample the draft versions (“vom fass” means “from the barrel”) of Augustiner beer that are available back home, and those that are not.

Posted in Augustiner, Augustiner Dunkel, Augustiner Lagerbier Hell vom Fass, Augustiner Pils vom Fass, Ayinger, Ayinger Altbairisch Dunkel, Ayinger Kellerbier, Beer, German Helles Lager, German Pilsner, Germany, Kellerbier, Munich, Munich Dunkel Lager, Vacation Beer | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Batch 136 – Majestic Walrus Porter (all-grain)

Just before Christmas 2016, I was determined to make a quick turnaround beer that would befit the holiday season and the coming winter months.  I didn’t have enough time before Christmas to put together my Weihnachtsbier, so I opted to revisit my porter.

The recipe consisted of the following:

  • 8.0 pounds of Pale Malt (2.1°L)
  • 12.0 ounces of Crystal Malt (60ºL)
  • 6.0 ounces of Black Patent Malt (470ºL)
  • 2.0 ounces Kent Goldings Hops (5.8% alpha acid)

Once again, I had to adjust to the local homebrew store not having the yeast I had used on the previous batches (White Labs British Ale Yeast WLP 005).  I had to purchase a yeast that was in stock (White Labs Dry English Ale Yeast WLP 007) for this batch.  Annoying, but I figured it would be close enough for my purposes.

Batch 136 Ingredients

Majestic Walrus Porter (Batch 136) Ingredients

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

  • Original Gravity:  1.058
  • Final Gravity:  1.017
  • 5.4% ABV
  • 32ºL
  • 31 IBU

I give the homebrew store owner a list of the grains I want and he weighs them out and mills them for me.  I never double check the total weight of the grains.  Maybe he made a mistake when he weighed the grains.  Who knows?  For whatever reason, I didn’t hit my target gravity.  I ended up at 1.042 with about 5½ gallons of wort going into the fermenter.

After ten days in primary, I transferred this to secondary for about five days.  After that,  it became the first beer I kegged and carbonated in 2017.

The final beer came out to 3.7% ABV, but it turned out really well – and it certainly met my needs to make something that would go from brewpot to keg in a short time!

Majestic Walrus Porter

2017 Majestic Walrus Porter!

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Batch 135 – Dunkelweizen / Schwarzeweizen (all-grain)

This batch was something I looked forward to with anticipation and trepidation based on how the previous version of this beer came out.  What I wanted to get was something similar to this

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Wonderful, delicious Hacker-Pschorr Dunkle Weisse

which is part of this YouTube review of the Hacker-Pschorr Dunkle Weisse that I was aiming for.  The last time I made this batch, I ended up with a 8.0 percent beer that looked something like this:

2015_11_25_iPhone 211

8.0 percent Schwarze Weizenbock

While the beer ended up being excellent, my conclusion at the time was that the homebrew store owner had made a unrepeatable error in putting together the grain bill I had given him.  This batch was an experiment to determine if the batch could be repeated or if it was actually my recipe that needs to be tweaked.

As last time, the recipe contained:

  • 5.0 pounds of Pilsner Malt
  • 5.0 pounds Wheat Malt
  • 1.0 pound Rice Hulls
  • 0.5 pounds Munich (10°)
  • 0.5 pounds CaraMunich (45°)
  • 1.5 ounces Chocolate Malt (350°)
  • 1.5 ounces Hallertau Hops (3.8%)

Since I wasn’t using the remaining yeast from a hefewizen (on the way via a dunkelweizen to a weizenbock as I had done in previous years), I used fresh yeast.  Unfortunately, the local homebrew store did not have any of my preferred White Labs 351 Bavarian Weizen yeast, so I had to substitute White Labs 380 Hefeweizen IV yeast instead.

My targets, as last time, were based on Brew Pal:

  • Original Gravity:  1060
  • Final Gravity:  1015
  • ABV:  5.8%
  • 18 IBU
  • 10° Lovibond

My starting gravity was a little low at 1058 (instead of 1072 last time!), but I hit the final gravity exactly.

Since I made this batch over Labor Day weekend, I multi-tasked by firing up my smoker while I was brewing.

Batch 135 multi-tasking

Mmmm. Ribs.

Batch 135 - Ribs!!

Look at that glorious smoke ring!

The dunkel/schwarzeweizen fermented for four weeks when I kegged and carbonated it.  Here’s the end result:

Batch 135 - First draft

First draft of the dunkelweizen from Batch 135.

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Batch 134 – Barke Munich Dunkel Lager (all-grain)

This beer was a departure from the previous Dunkel Lager I had made.  Instead of using a combination of Pilsner, Munich, Crystal, CaraMunich and Chocolate malts, I exclusively used Weyermann Barke Munich malt.  I had never made a beer with 100 percent Munich Malt before, but I liked the idea of using the Barke Malt for my first effort.

The ingredients include:

  • 11.0 pounds of Barke Munich Malt
  • 2.0 ounces Hallertau Hops (2.7%)
  • SafLager W34/70 Yeast remaining in Märzen fermenting bucket
Batch 134 Ingredients

Batch 134 Ingredients

I bought the ingredients from Northern Brewer, largely because they had the Barke Munich malt that I wanted.  I ordered it and paid extra for two day shipping, which would have let me brew the upcoming weekend.

Except I didn’t get the two day shipping I paid for.

Northern Brewer, to their credit, did a good job of making this up to me.  They not only refunded the two-day shipping, but also ended up refunding my whole order cost.  A very nice gesture that somewhat made up for upending my brewing plans.

But definitely a strike against them…they bought themselves a second chance.  Time will tell what the future holds…

I was very pleased with the runnings – looked great!

Batch 134 - runnings before the sparge

Batch 134 – clear runnings before the sparge!

When it came time to cool this batch, I put my new wort chiller into action!  My original wort chiller was suitable for extract and grain batches where I seldom had to cool more than three gallons of wort at the end of the boil.  But it was undersized for cooling five plus gallons of near boiling wort.  So I decided to go with a bigger chiller with larger diameter copper pipe and a longer run of coils.

New wort chiller

Behold! The new, bigger, better wort chiller!!

The brew pot under the chiller was the five gallon pot I used for extract and grain batches.  You can see how much bigger this cooler is!  Works great, too – even with the warmer tap water in the summer, it gets the temperature down quickly.

I filtered this immediately following filtering the Märzen, and again was disappointed by the lack of performance of the cartridge filter.

Cloudy Dunkel Lager

Cloudy Dunkel Lager at the Oktoberfest gathering

And  just like with the Märzen, this cleared up nicely after a month in the keg.

Dunkel Lager - one month on

Dunkel Lager – one month on! Why can’t it be this clear out of the cartridge filter?

By the time I pulled the last draft of the keg at Christmas, it was really clear, and still really delicious!

The last of Batch 134

The last of Batch 134 – and no, that’s not me to the right!


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