There’s this awesome German restaurant in Edgewater, MD called the Old Stein Inn. If you haven’t been yet, go. Seriously, now. They have great authentic German food, and more importantly, lots of German beer on tap. I had a “Bitburger” which is a standard, solid, German pilsner and I knew right away this was the style I wanted to try next. This recipe comes straight off of BYO.com’s site.
- 6.6 lb light LME
- 1 lb Carapils
- 0.75 oz Pearl hops ( %aa) 45 min
- 0.5 oz Hallertaurer ( % aa) 5 min
- WYeast German Lager
You really can’t get any simpler than that recipe right there! Sometimes simpler beers are better. Sometimes you think a recipe is too simple and you start overcomplicating it to the point where you’re like “what is it I’m even making, again?” I am definitely guilty of this. This will be a true test of what the most basic (and cheap!) recipe you can make (about $35 bucks!).
Someone told me once that 95% of all homebrews made are ales, the other 5% lagers. I believe it. I’ve only made 3 lagers to date, and it’ll be a while before I do another. Lager-ing a beer just requires lots more time and attention than an ale does. Since I’m still a beginner, I’m trying to make beer with fairly quick turnaround, so I can iterate and make adjustments.
I let this beer sit in the primary for 5 days at around 40F. After this, you can do what’s called a “diacetyl rest”, a fancy name for “raising the temperature for a short period of time”. This will help the yeast consume some remaining diacetyl in the beer. Diacetly is a byproduct of fermentation which gives a warm butterscotch flavor, which is usually undesired. Any homebrewer can recognize that flavor, instantly. So, 2 days at 70F to clean everything up. I tasted the beer before and after the rest, and it really did make a difference!
Next is the hardest part – waiting. I crashed the temp down (in a secondary) to 34 degrees in the fridge, and let the slow, gradual lager-ing process begin. There are a few effects of lagering which i’m aware of – natural filtering which clears the beer up, and “crisp”en-ing up the flavor, letting other flavors mellow out in the colder temps. I’m sure there are others, but mainly this is were you get that distinct, crisp, lager’d flavor of a Yuengling or the like. I let this sit in the fridge for 2 months.
I really wasn’t expecting an exact Bitburger clone with such a simple recipe, so naturally it wasn’t perfect. But, it was still a decent beer! From a macro-brewer’s perspective, I guess this was pretty good. Very light malty flavor, slightly dry finish with little to no off flavors. What it’s really lacking, though, is that authentic “German” flavor from the malt extract. The way you get this is switching to “all-grain” instead of extract, where you’d mash the actual German pilsener malts. This is the part you skip when you use generic light malt extract, saving you that whole step. But, the devil’s in the details with this one. Probably won’t make this exact one again without throwing in some other grains to improve the flavor, but it was a good learning experience to know what you can make on a budget!