This my second lager, after the first batch of Mount Hoodie. It was another partial mash, brew in a bag batch. The beer finished much drier than I expected, according to the hydrometer, but the taste and mouth feel didn’t show much of this.
I was worried because my intent was a Bohemian Pilsener, as opposed to the drier German Pilsners that seem to be more popular in American craft beer lately. I’m glad to see any Continental Pils getting attention is this ale dominated market, but it my trip to Prague the previous year that gave me a new appreciation for Bohemian, or Czech Pilsener.
Why beat around the bush? I’m talking about Pilsner Urquell. Yes, we can get it in American, and I’m very glad for that, but having it fresh, undamaged from the long journey across the ocean in green bottles was a revelation.
Pils is, of course, the original hoppy beer. The original Czech version doesn’t skimp on the malt, though. The ultra dry and bracingly bitter versions found in Northern Germany are refreshing and have their place, but I think that Pilsner Urquell is severely under appreciated in America.
It is hoppy, all Saaz hops, of course, but still balanced. The further you go north, the drier and hoppier the Pils gets. Bavarian Pils is still balanced and delicate, but a little drier. Moving up to Northern Germany and you will find the driest, hoppiest beers this side of San Diego (maybe a slight exaggeration…).
If you want to sample these styles, there are some good examples readily available around America. I’ve already mentioned Pilsner Urquell, which means “Pilsner from the original source” and it really is the original Pilsner, defining the Bohemian style. Warsteiner Premium Verum (usually just listed as “Warsteiner”) is a great example of Bavarian Pilsner that is not only easy to find, but is surprisingly affordable for an import. Jever and Bitburger are both great examples of North German Pilsners. I don’t see them around nearly as much, but any time I get a chance, I order either one that I stumble upon.
If you’re lucky enough to be in Pennsylvania, there are lots of great local breweries embracing their German heritage with great Pilsner. Stoudt’s Pils is one of the early American representations of German Pilsner. It leans mostly towards the Bavarian style. Sly Fox’s Pikeland Pils is another great example that I find to be somewhere between the North and South German styles. My personal favorite though, is Victory’s Prima Pils. This is an extremely hoppy and aggressive North German style Pils that I’ve heard many people knock for these traits. If you haven’t had North German Pils, it is hard to believe that a German beer can be this hoppy, but Prima Pils really isn’t pushing far outside the style. People are more familiar with the Bavarian versions and the North German versions that do find their way from America have likely lost a lot of their fresh hop punch during the long trip.
You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned Bohemian Pilsener among all those great American interpretations. That is why I wanted to make one. Traditionally, a decoction mash will help add maltiness and body to these beers. I was unable to do this with my BIAB method and, at least partially for that reason, ended up with a drier beer than I intended. I would maybe throw in some Melanoidin Malt in place of the Carapils to up the mouth feel and malt flavor if I were to do it again.
Traditionally, you should use all Saaz hops. The Alpha Acid content of Saaz hops is incredibly low, though. I opted for some Pearle hops early in the boil to achieve the necessary bitterness and just loaded up on a couple ounces of Saaz late in the boil. I don’t think this was an issue, but if you wanted to spend the extra money on several extra ounces of hops for bittering and then strain them out after the boil, I would salute you for it.
The other key for this beer is a clean fermentation. You don’t want to get any fermentation character in this beer. Tight temperature control is ideal. I, of course, did not have this. Despite all of this, my beer turned out quite well. I have a bottle that I’ve been saving to do tasting notes on. It is extremely past its best buy date, but I am anxious to give it a try. My recipe is below, but keep my notes from the last couple paragraphs in mind.
Style: Bohemian Pilsener
Brew Date: February 20, 2013
Serve Date: April, 2013
Expected FG: 1.010
Approximate ABV: 5.7%
6 lb German Pilsner
1 lb Carapils
3 lb Light DME
.6 oz Pearle @ 60 min
1 oz Pearle @ 40 min
.5 oz Saaz @ 15 min
.5 oz Saaz @ 10 min
1 oz Saaz @ Flameout
Saflager W-34/70 (Weihenstephan)