My fourth beer with my new brewery was a German style pilsner. This beer marked the first time that I would make a pilsner, and the first time I’d make adjustments to my brewing water (besides for sodium metabisulphite for chlorine treatment). During the mashing process, darker malts act to reduce mash pH. As there is a temperature range that certain enzymes are active in, there are also pH ranges. Accounting for this becomes especially important when brewing pale beers. I don’t have a pH meter (yet), so I estimated the required acid additions to bring my mash and sparge pH into an optimal range for this beer utilizing Bru’n water and the City of Guelph’s most recent water report. It was quite easy, and plugging in the grain bills for my darker beers now I see that I probably should’ve been doing this throughout my brewing career. I can’t be bothered to utilize different salts and distilled water dilutions to recreate the source waters of famous beers, but pH adjustments I can handle.
As for the this beer. It’s good. Not amazing, but good. The grains and hops used are entirely typical (I’ll still include the recipe below). I used a seasonally available yeast strain that I believe accounts for most of the beers character – Wyeast 2002 – Gambrinus lager. This yeast typically produces a lager with a soft mouth feel, and a complex, malty flavour profile. That was indeed the case here, but maybe a bit too much so. The beer verged on having too soft of a mouth feel. A bit more sharpness here would’ve been nice. The complexity of the malt flavours is somewhat distracting for the mostly neutral flavour that you’d expect in the style. Beyond these characteristics, the appearance of the beer was on point. Great lacing, cleared perfectly. The nose contains sweet malt/bready aromas, and a fresh yeast dimension. I expect to brew this beer again for summer consumption, but will likely utilize a different yeast and maybe with a late hop addition of something floral.
When brewing a beer heavy in pilsner malt it is often suggested to boil for 90 minutes due to a risk of detectable dimethyl sulfide in the final product (unwanted creamed corn/vegetal flavour). It’s questionable if this is actually necessary, as addressed by a recent exBEERiment. In this study it was found that an IPA which was boiled for only 30 minutes did not have detectable dimethyl sulfide in the finished product (as determined by certified beer judges). Mind you this was not a beer brewed with pilsner malt, but it is an interesting result that suggests that dimethyl sulfide risks may be overstated to homebrewers. To add to this, In a schwarzbier I brewed a couple months back, I utilized a 60 minute boil, and a grain bill with a high pilsner malt content and experienced exactly zero dimethyl sulfide character in the finished beer. 90 minute boils are a pain. Not only do they require more time, but you need to account for the extra evaporation that comes with the longer boil time. This means a larger pre-boil volume in the boil kettle. For me, this pushes the volumetric limits of equipment if I am set on maintaining my typical 11.5 gallon batch size. It puts me in a territory at the beginning of the boil that I need to be extremely cautious of boil-over risk, which I don’t particularly enjoy. When I brew this beer next, in addition to the recipes changes I have mentioned, I will only boil it for 60 minutes. I feel pretty confident this beer will be free of dimethyl sulfide character, but if it is present, it is in this style that it will be most detectable. From what I’ve read, Marshall of Brulosophy.com plans to do an even more extreme dimethyl sulfide experiment – one which compares a pilsner (or similar high-pilsner malt content beer) boiled for only 30min compared to one boiled for 90mins. Now that should be interesting!