I’ve spent a lot of time the last few weeks planning my brew schedule for the next few months. Then, last Friday at work, I had this idea and decided that I had to do it and threw the whole schedule out of whack. But this is homebrewing, so that’s okay.
The idea really started a couple days earlier when Iron Hill Lancaster sent out a Tweet asking a couple local beer writers and some of the people who placed in their recent Iron Brewer Competition what their favorite styles for the Spring were. Lew Bryson replied that Maibock was obvious answer and I agreed. Then I missed my N.E. Maibock from last year and lamented the fact that I didn’t have time to make one before this Spring.
I was thinking about that and then remembered Kellerbier. I drank a few Kellerbier’s while on vacation in Germany a few years ago without knowing what the term meant. After getting home, I looked into it. It turns out that Kellerbier isn’t really a style unto itself, but more of a process that can be applied to any lager style. From what I gather, a Kellerbier is basically an un-lagered lager.
It is a beer fermented with lager yeast, at the appropriate temperature for that yeast, but then instead of racking it off the yeast and dropping the temperature down to around freezing and aging it for a few weeks or months, you package it. Basically, like an ale fermented with lager yeast.
According to a few unknown sources on the internet, this process is most often applied to the Märzen, or Oktoberfest style. My experience is mainly with Helles style Kellerbiers, though. Oktoberfest is in between, but both are lower in gravity than the bock beer I’m planning. I don’t know if this is a good idea. Will the 7ish% ABV be more noticeable and harsh without the mellowing lager period? I would think at least to some extent, but I’m hoping it isn’t too harsh.
In addition to the fermentation related experiment, I’m also going to be testing out a hopping technique. It is actually one that I’ve done a few times before, but this batch will serve more as a control group to the ongoing experiment. I’m going to first wort hop this beer with all Tettnang hops and then not add anymore hops.
I’ve used first wort hopping before, but it has always been on hoppy beers, normally IPAs, that have a whole lot more hops added later in the process. Supposedly, adding hops as you collect wort from the mash, before boiling, will result in all the bitterness of adding the same hops when you reach boil, but will also maintain some of the flavor and aroma, somewhere along the lines of adding those hops fifteen or twenty minutes before the end of the boil.
Maibock is not a terribly hoppy style, though it is more hopped than any other bock beer. I would normally go closer to the lower end of the bitterness scale and the higher end of the flavor/aroma hop range for the BJCP style guide for this beer. To test this hopping technique, though, I’m going to aim for the upper end of the bitterness chart for the style and hope that that will translate to more flavor and aroma as well.
Since this is a last minute addition to my brewing schedule, I’m going all out on the science experiments. Fermentation and hopping are not enough. This beer’s grain bill is very similar to N.E. Maibock’s from last year, but the mash is totally different. N.E. Maibock was my second, and first successful, attempt at a decoction mash. I hedged my bets and included some Melanoidin malt in the grist. Melanoidin malt is basically intended to imitate the character achieved by conducting the somewhat archaic and laborious (that is not to say invalid) technique of decoction mashing.
This time, I’m going to do my standard, English style single temperature infusion mash and include the Melanoidin malt to see if I can still achieve that complex maltiness associated with German lagers. The percentages are slightly different because I rounded the grains to full pounds, but this is basically the same grain bill as last year’s beer just scaled down slightly to make up for the better efficiency I’ve been getting.
I will be brewing this beer on Saturday and putting it on top of the cake from one of the two carboys of Elkland Lager after I rack them together into my new giant plastic fermenter. I will ferment it in the basement for about two weeks, depending on how long it looks active. When it seems to have wrapped up, I’ll move the carboy upstairs to warm up for a few days and see if anymore activity is apparent, if not, I’ll bottle it.
I’ve seen some recommendations to bottle lagers at this stage anyway and then keep the bottles cold for the lagering stage so that enough yeast stays in suspension to carbonate the beer. I’ve never had an issue with my lagers carbonating, even after extended lagering. Anyway, I may still end up with part of the batch achieving full lagering, but I plan to start drinking the beer two weeks after bottling, not in time for the beginning of May, but well before the month comes to an end.
My recipe is below. For reference, here is my original post, including recipe for last year’s N.E. Maibock. That was a favorite beer for me and I’m sorry that there is none left to compare to this year’s rendition of the Maibock style.
Style: Maibock/Helles Bock
ABV: 7 %
Name Days / Temp
Primary 12 days @ 54.0°F
Rest 2 days @ 70.0°F
Bottle/Keg 14 days @ 74.0°F
Amount Percentage Name
10.00 lbs 62.50 % Pilsner (2 Row) Ger
5.00 lbs 31.25 % German Light Munich Malt
1.00 lbs 6.25 % Melanoiden Malt
Amount IBU’s Name Time AA %
3.00 ozs 39.02 Tettnang First Wort 4.50
Amount Name Laboratory / ID
1.0 pkg Saflager W-34/70 Fermentis W-34/70
Full Body Infusion In 45 min @ 158.0°F
Add 20.00 qt ( 1.25 qt/lb ) water @ 170.0°F
Sparge 13.64 qt of 170.0°F water over 60 mins