Perfecting a Pilsner

German-style pilsners are a style of beer which I enjoy, but which are also often challenging to get just right. Because of the simple grain bill (generally just pilsner malt), there isn’t much to hide behind, and even slight mis-balance in hopping, or a bit too much fermentation character, can throw it off. A few months ago I posted a recipe for a SmaSH-style pilsner Die Hand Die Verletzt. It was pretty good, but was lacking a little in the hop character.

Since then I’ve iterated this recipe a few times. Some changes made it worse, but I’ve finally hit on a near-perfect (to my palate) recipe. I had to deviate slightly from a SMaSH (Single Malt and Single Hop) recipe, but still kept it as simple recipe for a style of beer defined by its beautiful simplicity.


Recipe – Die Hand Die Verletzt Pilsner

Stats:

  • Volume: 23 L
  • IBU: 31.5
  • SRM: 3.3
  • OG: 1.049
  • FG: 1.010
  • ABV: 5.1%

Ingredients:

AmountIngredient%/IBU
4.8 kgPilsner Malt100%
18 gWarrior, 14.20%, 60 min27.2 IBU
18 gHallertauer Mittelfrueh, 4.40%, 10 min2.4 IBU
18 gHallertauer Mittelfrueh, 4.40%, 0 min0 IBU
1 packetW-34/70 Saflager yeast

Brewing:

  1. I diluted my tap water 1:1 with distilled water to bring the bicarbonate down to ~50 PPM, then added gypsum to bring the sulfate level back up to 150 PPM sulfate, and CaCl2 to get ~25 PPM chloride.
  2. Beer was mashed for 75 min at 65.0 C, and sparged to collect 32.5 L of pre-boil wort.
  3. Wort was boiled for 60 min, with hops added as indicated. Whirflock was added alongside the 10 min hop addition.
  4. After the boil the wort was chilled to cellar temperature (~15 C) and the yeast pitched.
  5. The beer was fermented at cellar temperature (15 C), swapping the blow-off tube for an airlock after ~1 week of fermentation.
  6. The beer was kegged and carbonated at 30 PSI for 24 hours, for ~2.4 volumes of CO2.

Tasting Notes

a glass of pilsner in the snow
A glass of great pilsner.

Appearance: Pours with a dark-straw body and crisp white head. The beer has a very slight haze which should clear up with a bit more lagering time.

Aroma: This beer is the epitome of a traditional German Pils aroma. The hop aroma is herbaceous and floral, with a bit of wood. Underneath of that is the wonderful bready aroma of pilsner malt.

Flavour: A wonderful bready and slightly sweet malt note forms the backbone of the beer. The sweetness is nicely balanced with a very crisp and clean hop bitterness, with the late additions providing a herbal, almost woodruff-like note to the beer.

Mouthfeel: Crisp and clean. Upfront the beer is whetting and thirst-quenching. The aftertaste is a lingering hop bitterness and herbal note.

Overall: A fantastic German-style pilsner. Easy and enjoyable to drink, but with enough subtle complexity to keep things interesting. To my palate, this is the embodiment of a German pilsner. Simple, but with a subtle complexity provided by the hops. I don’t think I’d change anything in this recipe, except perhaps adding a bit of carapils or something similar, to help give the beer a finer and longer lasting head.

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