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Style of the Week: Bohemian Pilsner!

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August 11, 2015 by fhsteinbart


Here we see a typical Bohemian Pilsner in a traditional boot foot pilsner glass.

Here we see a typical Bohemian Pilsner in a traditional boot foot pilsner glass.

A lot of people come into the store wanting to make a particular beer of a peculiar style. After telling people how to make a certain kind of beer, I have to preface my statements with the admonishment that you cannot simply clone a beer, but you can make a stylistic attempt of a particular beer. Probably the most asked for recipe is one to make a Pilsner Urquell (PU) clone. While my recipe makes a very nice Bohemian style pilsner, it is no PU, and to try and make an exact clone of this beer would be a fools errand in my humble opinion. The very best we can hope for is to capture those details that make the style one we enjoy drinking, and as found in the current BJCP descriptors: “Aroma: Rich with complex malt and a spicy, floral Saaz hop bouquet. Some pleasant, restrained diacetyl is acceptable, but need not be present. Otherwise clean, with no fruity esters.

Appearance: Very pale gold to deep burnished gold, brilliant to very clear, with a dense, long-lasting, creamy white head.

Flavor: Rich, complex maltiness combined with a pronounced yet soft and rounded bitterness and spicy flavor from Saaz hops. Some diacetyl is acceptable, but need not be present. Bitterness is prominent but never harsh, and does not linger. The aftertaste is balanced between malt and hops. Clean, no fruity esters.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied (although diacetyl, if present, may make it seem medium-full), medium carbonation.

Overall Impression: Crisp, complex and well-rounded yet refreshing.

Comments: Uses Moravian malted barley and a decoction mash for rich, malt character. Saaz hops and low sulfate, low carbonate water provide a distinctively soft, rounded hop profile. Traditional yeast sometimes can provide a background diacetyl note. Dextrins provide additional body, and diacetyl enhances the perception of a fuller palate.” So as you can see, there is quite a bit of latitude with even a style as well demarcated as this one! Below is a recipe of mine that while it’s no PU, it is a very tasty beer that will be just as the above descriptors say, and will be enjoyed as such, Prost!

Extract:

6 lbs. Extra Light DME

½ lb. Aromatic Malt

½ lb. Melanoidin Malt

2 oz. Liberty Hops (bitterness)

2 oz. Liberty hops (flavor)

2 oz.  Liberty hops (aroma)

Wyeast 2124, WLP830, or W34/70 Lager yeast

Procedure:

  • Heat 1½ gallons of water to 165°F.
  • Turn off heat and add preground malt in a bag to steep 20~30 minutes.
  • Rinse grains in bag through colander to raise volume to 6½ gallons.
  • Add malt extract, stirring until fully dissolved.
  • Return to Heat, bringing to a boil.
  • After 10 minutes, add the bittering hop addition.
  • At 20 minutes remaining, add the Whirlfloc tablet or Irish Moss.
  • At 15 minutes remaining, add the flavor hops.
  • At knockout, add the aroma hops, then cool the mixture by placing kettle in an ice bath or use a wort chiller. Add the mixture to the fermenter, removing the hops, and bring total volume to 5 gallons using distilled, bottled, or filtered tap water.
  • Aerate unfermented wort (shaking works well).
  • Pitch yeast and ferment at 54°~56°F for 7 to 10 days.
  • Allow to age an additional 2~3 weeks before packaging up as usual.

All Grain:

10 lbs. Pilsner Malt

½ lb. Aromatic Malt

½ lb. Melanoidin Malt

2 oz. Liberty Hops (bitterness)

2 oz. Liberty Hops (flavor)

2 oz.  Liberty Hops (aroma)

Wyeast 2124, WLP830, or W34/70 Lager yeast

¾ gm. Brewing (Calcium Chloride) Salts per gallon (~3.75 gms. or 1 level tsp.) in the mash and in the boil.

Procedure:

Infusion mash at 152°F for 1 hour. Sparge to 6.5 gallons of wort, and bring to a roiling boil. Add the bittering hops 10 minutes into the boil. Continue boiling for 40 more min. then add Whirlfloc tablet or Irish moss.  At 45 min. then add flavor hops. At knockout, add the aroma hops, then cool the mixture by placing kettle in an ice bath or using a wort chiller. Add mixture to fermenter, removing hops, and aerate unfermented wort (shaking works well). Pitch yeast and ferment at 54°F to 56°F. Gravity may vary depending on system efficiency, so adjust accordingly.

Package up as usual; bottled versions should use 115 gms. corn sugar (approx. ¾ cup), or kegged to 20 psig, and allow two weeks to come into condition. Serve at 45°~50°F in an Pilsner style glass, share, and enjoy! This beer will continue to evolve and change over the coming months, so make enough to last you through your next brew.

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