Pre-Prohibition Lager

>> Sunday, January 10, 2016

Today I'm doing a small batch (2.5 gallon) Pre-Prohibition Lager. The recipe is pretty basic and while bold compared to modern Light American Lagers, it's still a very delicate beer with no place to hide flaws or off-flavors. If you haven't thoroughly cleaned your equipment in a while (run a brush through your tubing, disassemble ball valves, etc.), it's not a bad idea to do it before brewing this type of beer.

I've mentioned before, I'm not a big fan of most lagers, but sometimes it is nice to have an easy drinking beer on hand, especially if you have some friends that prefer the cleaner character associated with lagers. Here's the history and description for the style from the 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines:
History: A version of Pilsner brewed in the USA by immigrant German brewers who brought the process and yeast with them, but who had to adapt their recipes to work with native hops and malt. This style died out after Prohibition but was resurrected by homebrewers in the 1990s. Few commercial versions are made, so the style still remains mostly a homebrew phenomenon.
Overall Impression: A clean, refreshing, but bitter pale lager, often showcasing a grainy-sweet corn flavor. All malt or rice-based versions have a crisper, more neutral character. The higher bitterness level is the largest differentiator between this style and most modern mass-market pale lagers, but the more robust flavor profile also sets it apart.
Here's the recipe as I'm making it today.
3 # 10 oz Pale 6-Row
14 oz Flaked Corn
2 oz Cara-Pils
0.61 oz Cluster (60 min)
0.20 oz Cluster (10 min)
1/4 Whirlfloc
1/4 t Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
Wyeast 2007 Pilsen Lager

Step mash: 30 min at 122F, 45 min at 158F, mashout at 168F for 10 min. Chill to 48F then ramp up to 52F over 48 hours. Perform a diacetyl rest when fermentation is nearly complete. Cold condition in the keg near freezing for a month or so.

Water Profile
To 6 gallons of RO water
  • 0.48g Gypsum
  • 0.12g Pickling Salt
  • 1.32g Epsom Salt
  • 0.48g Calcium Chloriden
  • 0.48g Baking Soda
  • 0.24g Chalk
*I decided to add 7.4 oz of Chit malt to this recipe even though it didn't call for it. This is due to the slightly reduced efficiency I saw on my fist run with my new small batch setup. I also bumped up my total water from 5 to 6 gallons as I was a little low on water during the first run.

Brewing Notes
It seems that I can expect about 73% mash efficiency with my mini-mash tun. Not bad, but quite a bit less than my full-size.  I did a couple things different on the second run with my mini-mash tun/small batch setup. I bumped up the total water from 5 gallons to 6 gallons. This ensured I had enough water left in the HLT that I was able to fire the HLT element during the mash to maintain sparge temps. This also ensured I had plenty of sparge water on hand. I used my lid from my full size mash tun to recirculate the mash liquid to the top of the grain bed this time. It worked better than laying the hose across the grain bed.

A couple really nice things with this setup, I'm able to bring the small volume up to a boil very quickly.  Post-boil, I'm able to chill down to pitching temps very fast.

Very bright wort pre-boil
Update 1/26/2016
I did a diacetyl rest at 60F for a few days. On 1/24 I started ramping the temp down. I'll drop it to around 38F then rack it to a keg for fining and lagering.

Update 9/6/2016
This beer ended up taking a gold medal at 2016 Beehive Brew-off and is probably the highest score I've ever received on an entry (47). The funny thing is the same beer did not do well at all at Lagerpalooza earlier this year (scored 24). Not to sound like a poor loser, but I felt like the judges at Lagerpalooza really didn't understand the style guidelines (or the difference between corn flavor from the use of corn and DMS). The same beer scored 34 at NHC right after Lagerpalooza, with no mention of the "issues" identified by the Lagerpalooza judges. It just goes to show, judging is subjective and mistakes are made, so don't get let one person's (or set of judges') opinion bring you down.