Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Hell Camino: Municher Helles

Since I have a stir plate and a temperature controlled chest freezer I finally decide I should brew a lager. I thought a Municher Helles would be a good start. I’ve wanted to brew a lager for a while but have honestly always been a little intimidated by the process. This might sound strange since I have no problem diving right into barrel aging and using bugs, but for those beers I can get away with being lazy and they are my favorite styles. Like most people lagers were the first style of beer I tried and like most people I didn’t really like them. Eventually I moved on to other stuff and had essentially sworn off of lagers, but I think there is a point in every beer nerd’s journey where you go back to where you started. I’ve been gaining a new found appreciation for lagers, which is in part because I can find good, fresh, domestic sources (not BMC, but domestic craft). I have started to revert back to enjoying beers at 5% ABV or below that are easy to drink and complex enough to hold my attention. Lagers fit the bill along with pale ales and session ales. 

In order to brew a good lager you need to have more equipment then the average home brewer (especially if you live in a warm climate). Lager yeast if fermented too warm will start to produce a lot of off flavors, generally DMS, and by warm I mean over 55oF. However, if not fermented correctly they can also produce a lot of diacetyl, which smells like butter popcorn. To prevent this you must perform a diacetyl rest. This involves slowly raising the temperature so is not to cause off flavor and yet keeping the yeast active so that they will clean up any diacetyl. Then they must then be “lagered” or stored at close to freezing temperature for conditioning for extended periods of time, usually 6-8 weeks or more depending on the starting gravity. On top of that if you read anything about brewing a German style lager or a Pilsner you will notice the complex mash schedules that are used. Most people will tell you that you don’t need to conduct a decoction mash for a lager since most malt available to homebrewers is highly modified, but I like a challenge. I decided that if I was going to brew a German style lager then I might as well use a decoction. I did,  however, modify the schedule a little to fit my needs. 

Decoction mashes were created prior to proper temperature control for mashing. So the only way to estimate your temperature increases was to add boiling mash or water, since you knew the temperature of the boiling mash. Another reason was due to the Reinheitsgebot, which prevented you from using acid in the mash, so Germans utilized an acid rest for lowering their mash pH. For my mash I utilized a Hochkurz decoction mash, which I found information from courtesy of Braukaiser, since it gave me what I needed for my beer, without having to go through three decoctions. A Hochkurz mash uses two infusions, one for a protein rest and the other to raise the mash to a maltose rest for beta-amylase conversion. I missed both additions since I was winging two equations to calculate the amount of water I needed so I had to add ice cubes to chill the first addition and then add more boiling water to raise the second addition. For the first decoction you scoop out part of the mash (wort and grain) and slowly bring it to a boil while stirring to prevent scorching. When you add this back into the mash it raises it to your next target, in my case a dextrinization rest, alpha-amylase. The second decoction raises the temperature to your mash temperature and stops any conversion. 

This is a copy of the chart that I used from Braukaiser. Again I over shot my decoction temperatures because I took too much of a decoction from the mash tun since I didn’t have an equation nailed down at the start of my brew day. I thought what I had was good enough, it may have been just been my own calculations. 

The decoctions did certainly add more time to my brew day and I have no idea if it will make any kind of a difference. But what I do know is that I have never had wort that clear during lautering and after flame out then I had with this wort. There was a lot of protein material left in the mash tun and the hot break was quick and easy. We shall see how the finished beer is in a few weeks. 

Batch size
Boil Time: 90 min
Batch Size: 5.25 gallons
Boil Size: 7.5 gallons
Boil Gravity: 1.035
Efficiency: 70% (brew house)

Original Gravity: 1.050
Measured: 1.050
Final Gravity: 1.012
Measured: 1.014
ABV (standard): 4.7%
IBU: 15
SRM: 5

Grain Bill
8.5 lb - German - Bohemian Pilsner (85%)
0.75 lb - German - Munich Light (7.5%)
0.5 lb - German - Acidulated Malt (5%)
0.25 lb - German - Melanoidin (2.5%)

1 oz - Hallertau Mittelfruh, Type: Pellet, AA: 3.75, Use: Boil for 60 min, IBU: 15.55

1) Infusion, Temp: 131 F, Time: 25 min, Protein Rest (actual 129F)
2) Infusion, Temp: 144 F, Time: 60 min, Maltose Rest (actual 141F)
3) Decoction, Temp: 158 F, Time: 60 min, Dextrinization Rest (actual 155F)
4) Decoction, Temp: 167 F, Time: 20 min, Mash out (actual 169F)

White Labs - German Lager Yeast WLP830
Pitch Rate: 1.5 (M cells / ml / deg P)

3/14/14 – 3.5L starter at 1.040, 2L on the stir plate and 1.5L in a growler that I shook. 

3/16/14 – Brewed by myself with help from John to watch my mash out while I was gone. Added 4 grams of CaCl to up my Calcium levels. Other than mash temperature difficulties a decoction mash was not that hard. I’m actually thinking about starting to perform a protein rest on some of my future mashes if it helps with clarity. I ended with too much wort, probably due to extra added during the decocotion and not adjusting my sparge. I extended the boil by an extra 45 minutes to compensate. Started my 90 minute time at the point my gravity hit 1.035. 

Chilled to 75F and placed carboy in the freezer at 38F to chill overnight and cold crash. Shook to aerate (I really need an O2 system).

3/17/14 – Racked to another carboy and added the yeast. Put back into the chest freezer and set temperature to 48F. 

3/18/14 – Signs of fermentation have started

3/20/14 – Gravity down to 1.031, raised the temperature to 52F

3/22/14 – Gravity down to 1.019, raised the temperature to 56F

3/27/14 - Gravity down to 1.014, raised the temperature 61F

3/30/14 - Cold crash starting at 61F, lowering the temperature 3F every day to avoid shocking the yeast

4/8/14 - Temperature down to 37F for lagering stage

5/7/14 - Keg pressurized to16psi at 38F

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