Hoppy Kolsch (all-grain)

This is a great recipe from Oktoberfest 2013 that I’m just getting to posting about.  Kolsch is something I’d never brewed before this batch, mainly because it requires cold conditioning like a lager and those tend to consume more time and equipment. You generally don’t see a lot of Kolsch on the shelves around here, either, which is interesting. I’m a huge fan of Schlafly’s Kolsch – it’s one of my favorite American varieties.

What I’d like to get out of this is a slightly hoppy, fairly dry, crisp, refreshing beer. How much Kolsch differs from Pilsner (other than the lager yeast) still seems somewhat minuscule to me, but overall I think it comes down to higher attenuation in the Kolsch, which in turn accentuates the hops/bitterness a little more. I had some leftover UK Target hops, so I decided to use those to get clean bittering. For everything else, I went with a mix of Sorachi Ace and Saaz to get a grassy, spicy, noble style flavor and aroma. Probably would have been OK with just Pilnser malt, but I threw in a little Munich and wheat for a hint of bready flavor and just a little body. Anticipated 5.5 gal, 1.045 SG, 41 IBU, 3L color.

  • 7.5 lb Pilsner malt
  • 1 lb Munich (5L) malt
  • 0.5 lb Wheat malt
  • 0.5 oz UK Target hops, 60 min (7.5% a.a.)
  • 0.5 oz Sorachi Ace hops, 30 min (12.6% a.a.)
  • 0.25 oz Sorachi Ace hops & 1 oz Czech Saaz, 10 min  (3% a.a.)
  • 0.25 oz Sorachi Ace hops & 1 oz Czech Saaz, 0 min
  • 1 tsp Irish moss, 15 min
  • WYeast Kolsch

// Mash in 2 qt/lb, hold at 122F for 15 min, 146F for 60 min, 158F for 10 min, 168F for 10 min. Collect 6.75 gal 1.035 wort, topped up to 7 gal with water. Boil hard for 90 minutes. Let the knockout hops steep in the wort for 2 minutes, then start chilling. Chill to 75F, collect around 5.5 gal of 1.049 wort. Pitch a decanted 1.5 qt starter (~250ml slurry). //

The combination of sorachi and saaz hops smelled really nice throughout the boil – spicy, a little grassy/floral and beautiful.

UPDATE (10.3.13): Fermentation was active within 3 hours, full krausen around 16 hours. First tasting (7 days in primary): nice crisp hoppy aroma, maybe a little more subdued than I anticipated. There’s a fairly hoppy taste of the Sorachi ace, almost like the bite of an IPA, which is subtle but not bad. The beer is still very very cloudy and yeasty, so naturally it tastes a bit fruity, but very similar to how I remember the German Ale yeast being: small amounts of sulfur/egg smell. However, on the positive, there’s a good bit of malt flavor as well. Gravity after 7 days in primary – 1.010. Put in the fridge to crash down to 32 F.

UPDATE (10.12.13): Racked to a keg. Cleared up nicely, and this beer is certainly light and crisp. I may have overdone the hops a little. Namely the 30 minute addition of Sorachi. Now that the yeast has settled out, it’s really  an assertive result for such a small step in the recipe. I would still support an addition at 30, just way less. Like with the first tasting, it’s kind of a hoppy “bite”, which is OK, but not something I’d want in this amount. I’m sure this will diminish with time, though. I could use a little more hops in the nose, and a more clean bitterness that let’s the malts squeak through. Maybe once the carbonation is added it’ll help smooth this out a little.

THE VERDICT

This sort of seems like a common theme with beers I’ve been making lately; overall the beer will be on point, except for some small detail, i.e. little too hoppy/bitter, little too this, little too that, etc. Then, once it’s been kegged, chilled, carbonated, and conditioned for a week or so, those little differences seem to average themselves out and it becomes more of a unique twist rather than mistake. It’s tough to say whether it’s a just a perceived change, or if those elements in the beer actually DID change. Regardless, this was one of those beers!

As noted, my main gripe was the slight harshness of the flavor/bittering hop addition. Given two weeks in the keg, the flavor mellowed and left mostly residual bitterness and just a nice, hoppy edge.  I pictured the hop aroma being a little bigger than it was, but overall it was fine as it was.  A lot of people really liked this beer, and it was very quick to go at an Oktoberfest party. Definitely a great base recipe for a non-traditional Kolsch!

So, for next time: I will still probably decrease the hop addition at 30 mins to 0.3oz, then redistribute the leftover Sorachi hops to later in the boil for a little more aroma. I’d be interested in how a larger amount of wheat would feel for this recipe to give it an even lighter and crisper feeling. But, I’ll have to make sure it doesn’t affect the clarity.

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Filed under All-grain, German, Hoppy

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