Wednesday, March 21, 2012

From Dortmund to Pilsen

One of my homebrew projects that I have been keeping under wraps of late is my first attempt at a pale lager, which has taken the place of Černý Lev in the lagering tank at the back of my fridge. It was another case of brewing on a whim because the temperature in my cellar was sitting at the perfect range for a cold fermentation and I wanted to put into action the things I had learnt with the tmavé.

The main purpose of both of my first lagers was to test out the viability of cold fermentation in a Virginia winter and to continue testing my rather rough and ready lagering system. As such I didn't do a decoction mash of any kind, although once Mrs Velkyal and I are sorted with the house we are looking to buy and I have extra brewing space in the garage, then I plan to start doing so. Just a minor aside, one of the first things I will do when we move in is get the well water tested so I can see what beer styles are best suited to my water source.

Anyway, back to the pale lager sat in the lagering tank. As it was a first attempt at a pale lager, and for purely illogical reasons, I didn't want to brew a variation on the theme of Pilsner Urquell, so I decided to brew a Dortmunder Export, which the BJCP guidelines (love 'em or loath 'em) describe as being:
  • Aroma: Low to medium noble (German or Czech) hop aroma. Moderate Pils malt aroma; can be grainy to somewhat sweet. May have an initial sulfury aroma (from water and/or yeast) and a low background note of DMS (from Pils malt). No diacetyl.
  • Appearance: Light gold to deep gold, clear with a persistent white head.
  • Flavor: Neither Pils malt nor noble hops dominate, but both are in good balance with a touch of malty sweetness, providing a smooth yet crisply refreshing beer. Balance continues through the finish and the hop bitterness lingers in aftertaste (although some examples may finish slightly sweet). Clean, no fruity esters, no diacetyl. Some mineral character might be noted from the water, although it usually does not come across as an overt minerally flavor.
  • Mouthfeel: Medium body, medium carbonation.
  • Overall Impression: Balance and smoothness are the hallmarks of this style. It has the malt profile of a Helles, the hop character of a Pils, and is slightly stronger than both.
  • Comments: Brewed to a slightly higher starting gravity than other light lagers, providing a firm malty body and underlying maltiness to complement the sulfate-accentuated hop bitterness. The term "Export" is a beer strength category under German beer tax law, and is not strictly synonymous with the "Dortmunder" style. Beer from other cities or regions can be brewed to Export strength, and labeled as such.
  • History: A style indigenous to the Dortmund industrial region, Dortmunder has been on the decline in Germany in recent years.
  • Ingredients: Minerally water with high levels of sulfates, carbonates and chlorides, German or Czech noble hops, Pilsner malt, German lager yeast.
  • OG: 1.048 – 1.056
  • IBUs: 23 – 30
  • FG: 1.010 – 1.015
  • SRM: 4 – 6
  • ABV: 4.8 – 6.0%
Thus my recipe was very simple:
  • 94% Bohemian Pilsner malt
  • 6% Aromatic malt
  • 21 IBU Spalt hops @ 90 minutes
  • 6.5 IBU Spalt hops @ 15 minutes
  • 0.5 IBU Spalt hops @ 1 minute
  • 2 packets Wyeast 2308 Munich Lager
Using 2 packets of yeast rather than just 1 meant I had a quick kick off to fermentation and within 12 hours had a very healthy looking krausen and rampant bubbling, and so the beer sat at 48ºF for nearly 3 weeks, only coming indoors to get up to 68º for a couple of days diacetyl rest. The original gravity fell from 1.048 to 1.012, giving me a nice 4.8% abv. Admittedly my numbers are at the low end of the spectrum for a Dortmunder, so I took an executive decision to relabel it a German Pilsner, speaking of labels, here is the one I designed for it:

It should be ready for drinking some time in May.


  1. Ahh, Charlottenstädter.
    Very good name.
    In Berlin we had a brand "Charlottenburger". The brewery closed 1998.
    A tap label:


  2. Ludger,

    Thanks for your comment!

    I have only been to Berlin once, back in 2007, and we had a fantastic time. Just that weekend put Berlin in the top echelon of my favourite cities in the world. We went drinking at Brauhaus Lemke, which I really enjoyed!

    Hopefully we'll get back to Berlin one day, and I also want to take Mrs Velkyal to Celle, where I spent a few years living as a kid.


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