Today on November 11, 1842 – a mere 173 years ago, the first barrel of Pils was tapped.
The inventor, Joseph Groll, originally conceived it at his parent’s brewery in Vilshofen, Bavaria, after a lengthy apprenticeship and service with two of the most iconic European brewers of their time: Dreher (Klein-Schwechart, Austria) and Sedlmayr (Spaten Bräu, Munich, Bavaria). Groll was seemingly a difficult character, rather stubborn and with rude manners. But the citizens of Plzen wanted to rejuvinate their lacklustre performing brewery and hired the man closest to the originators of the bright lager revolution that was taking place in the southern parts of the German states and in Austria. I doubt that either Dreher or Sedlmayr, who already had their own brewing empires, would have been interested in a collaboration with the project of a brewery whose products where rather mediocre in the past.
Originally, Groll wasn’t contracted to brew a golden lager at all. The expectation was to modernise the brew of old, a top-fermented brownish ale of doubious quality and appeal. But Groll wouldn’t have none of it. Instead of just adjusting the brew of old he stubbornly went much further than his new employer’s brief and produced a beer that was set to revolutionise the beer-loving world:
The key ingredients, are the exceptionally soft water, the already world-renowned Red Zatec hops and the newly developped pale malt, pioneered and already very popular in England where both of Groll’s former employers studied and learned their trade.
In Groll’s time, the malts where kilned at much lower temperatures than today, whereas the Pilsen malt wasn’t really kilned at all, it was dried with typical final temperatures of 38 to 50 Celsius. This type of malt has a slight remainder of residual moisture (about 10%) and is thus prone to spoil within a week or so. However, since the brewery has it’s own maltings on site, the rapid consumption of the malt was never a problem. Needless to say that the flavour profile and characteristics of such malt are very different than commerically available malts today. This makes it very difficult for amateurs and professionals alike to reproduce this product. After some considerable time pondering about the pros and cons and about all the variables within my system’s capabilities, as well as keeping the total time for the brew-day withing acceptable limits, I came up with the following malt composition:
The main idea is to compensate for the fact that it’s impossible to obtain the same malt as used by the original brewery. So I added a bit of Carapils to compensate for the undermodified and slightly less intensely malted ‘greener’ malt that is employed. The Carabohemian is meant to compensate for the much longer boil times and the 3rd deoction step which would otherwise make the brew day unbearably long. The emphasis here is not to make a Pilsener Urquell clone, rather a beer made in it’s spirit with generally available ingredients.
Here is my municipal water profile.
|Total Hardness (CaCO3)||31|
It’s worth to note that the Chlorine to Sulphate ratio will by default, produce beers with a slightly bitterer note and on the harsh side. I’m therefore adjusting the water with CaCl2, MgSO4 and NaCl for a slightly malty profile. There is plenty of good literature on brew chemistry out there. I suggest strongly reading the pages of Bru’n Water — which is the best source available to the amateur that I know of.
Here is final profile
|Total Hardness (CaCO3)||146|
Arguably this is not the Pilsener water profile, but I would like a Pils which a slighlty maltier note — and that’s what I am going to brew on this occasion! If you have other suggestions please let me know. I am currently quite preoccupied with what can be achieved with water profiles.
Various sources mention that the hopping rate was always 400 grams of Zatec Red (AKA Saaz) per hectolitre (or 4 grams per litre). My usual brew-length is generally 54 litres which would make the total charge 54 * (400 / 100) = 216 grammes. The Bohemian Pils is famous for the long time it is boiled, some sources claim that the hops are boiled for nearly 4 hours. In order to avoid an excessively long brew day the boil time needs adjusting to a shorter overall time.
Although this is not the original hop schedule a in the original brew, I opt to include 30% of the hop charge as first wort hops, 70% after a 10 minute boil. Since I already compensated in colour with the addition of 2% Carabohemian, I settled for an overall boil time of 60 minutes – which is plenty to drive out DMS and gentler on my energy bill. I do however, cool the wort to 80C as fast as possible by recirculating through a heat exchanger with the help of a pump before I separate the wort in the whirlpool.
For modern malts the tripple decoction is a too intense schedule. Instead, I chose a double decoction schedule which simply omits the first stage of the traditional tripple decoction. It is done as follows (note the longer boil times). Note tha the first stage of the tripple decoction mash is omitted. This stage boils the decoction for 30 minutes and adds another good 90 minutes to the overall schedule. I simply compensated with a spalsh of Carabohemian in the mix.
Although a much shorter schedule, this one will takes 3.5 hours to complete! Another option is to use the good old Hochkurz mash which can achieved within 2 hours. The grist to water ratio for this mash is 1:4, mash efficiency is at 72% leading to an overall brewhouse yield (OBY) of 88%
Famously, the Pilsener brewery ferments the beer with two different yeast strains which are later mixed together. Again, for simplicity’s sake there is no need to go through such elaborate stages. I currently brew all my lagers with the excellent WLP820. It has a bit of a bad reputation being a slow starter. This is because most brewers pitch it at far too low temperatures.
Note the very radical last temperature increase to 20° Celsius in the final stage. Effectively this is an accelerated fermentation schedule for lagers and it served me well. Note however, that I use a dissolved oxygen meter and oxygenate the wort at 12 – 14 ppm before I pitch one vial of lab yeast per 10 litres of wort. I always had fermentation start the next day with this method. Note that some strains can ferment happily at lower temperatures. Alas not this one, but I do really like the end-product from this yeast!
Let’s see how this one turns out 😉
It won’t be a Pilsener Urquell clone – but itll be a very fine drink nevertheless. If you brew it, please let me know how you got on and what you made of the taste!