Helles Brewed With Lager Yeast At 18C - Success!

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SGBrewing

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I've just finished this write up for my blog and I'd thought I'd share it here in case it is of use to somebody. It wouldn't let me paste in my html for the table so I apologise for the formatting there.

I first started getting into beers (English ales & Guinness) when I was working behind a bar before I went to uni, before then I was just drinking generic bland lagers and the occasional sweet cider. When I was in my first year of uni I met my would-be flatmate and had the opportunity to go to Oktoberfest as his parents lived in Munich. Pretty much as soon as we arrived into his parent's house we were greeted with a nicely chilled bottle of Augustiner, I still remember now the impression it made upon me. Such a beautifully well-balanced beer, delicate fresh malt flavours perfectly balanced with German noble hops, was neither too maty neither too hoppy or bitter. It opened my eyes to how good beers can be, irrespective of style, when expertly brewed. Tasting the Oktoberfest beers just carried this on, my passion for good beer was born!

Ever since starting brewing I've wanted to brew a Helles, but with the 'necessity' of cold fermentation and lack of equipment to do this I've never been able to.

A few months ago however I stumbled across a Brulosophy article regarding fermenting lagers with lager yeasts at room temperature and there hardly being a difference! I know some people say these aren't truly scientific experiments, but if a load of trained tasters can't reliably tell the difference between a lager fermented with a lager yeast at 'proper' lager fermentation temperature or much higher, well that clearly means there isn't much difference in flavour and that is good enough for me! The article in particular that I read was using Saflager W-34/70, so armed with this confidence I done a load of research and was ready to brew my first lager.

Traditionally Munich Helles was fermented using decoctions and just plain old pilsner malt, though some now don't use decoctions, a few still do and if decoctions aren't used, then step mashing almost definitely is. Decoctions are said to intensify the malt flavours bringing out the fresh bready malt flavours that these beers are famous for. With me using a Grainfather and not having a big enough stovetop pot for decoctions, I've decided to use the step mashing and to include Munich Malt and Melanoidin Malt to bring the flavours the decoctions would.

For the mash schedule, I shall be using the Hochkurz Mash. This has become the standard mashing schedule for beers brewed in Germany, it can be completed in under 2 hours and can be done without decoction (you could always use decoctions with this schedule though). I will be adding a new 'Techniques' section on this website soon so I will cover this mashing schedule in more detail there, but basically it involves 2 mash steps; one at around 63C and the length of this step is used to control the fermentability of the wort (30 mins is a good starting point), then another step at 70C and this is used to complete the starch conversion. Some people have noted that extending the last step to 45-60 mins has the benefit of improving head retention and mouthfeel, this could be worth testing later on.

I've read that German brewers like to employ low oxygen brewing to maintain all the subtle malt flavours. Because this is impossible I'm going to be using sodium metabisulphate as an oxygen scrubber, I'll be adding it to the mash water right before dough in and to the sparge water right before sparging as this is the 2 places in this system where oxygen uptake will be at it greatest. For the mash I will be using 60mg/l and for the sparge 20mg/l.

For the malts I'm going to be using the Wyermann Barke Pilsner and Barke Munich, these are apparently very good for german beers and have a lovely malt flavour. I'm going to use a bit of Dextrin Malt to ensure it doesn't get too thin and some Melanoidin Malt to give some of those bready decoction flavours.

For the hops I'm going to be using the standard Hallertauer Mittelfrueh, 15 IBUS at 60 mins for the bittering and 2 IBUS at 15 mins for a small flavour addition.

The water is just to be close to Munich without the bicarb.

I'll be chilling the wort to roughly 17C and pitch the yeast, the room temperature is 18 so it should stabilise there before the yeast kicks off.

My mash efficiency has been between 70-80% so I've assumed low and will dilute after boil if the efficiency is high.


Overview

Batch Size Efficiency Boil Time IBU EBC EST. OG EST. FG EST. ABV
23 80% 90 Mins 17.7 7.8 1.052 1.008 5.8%
Actuals 1.046 1.007 5.1%
Water Profile (ppm)

Ca+2 Mg+2 Na+ SO4-2 Cl- HCO3-
26 10 7 27 28 52
Mash

Temperature Time Thickness pH
63C 30 3.3 l/kg 5.3
70C 45 3.3 l/kg 5.3
76C 15 3.3 l/kg 5.3
Grain Bill

Type EBC Kg %
Barke Pilsner 3.5 4.31 89
Barke Munich 20 0.26 5.5
Dextrin Malt 2.5 0.22 4.5
Melanoidin 59 0.05 1
Hops

Type Grams Time Use Form α-acids IBUs
Hallertauer Mittelfrueh 45 60 Bittering Pellet 3% 15.4
Hallertauer Mittelfrueh 14 15 Flavour Pellet 3% 2.4
Yeast

Strain Lab Pitch Attenuation Temperature
Saflager W-24/70 Fermentis 1 Pack 73-78% 9-15C
Fermentation

Temperature Time Step
18C+ 3 Weeks Primary

Tasting:

Appearance:
Light golden hay coloured, pretty clear, fined with gelatin at 18C for a few days before bottling. Lovely frothy white head that stayed for the whole pint (was using a nucleated Spaten mug).

Aroma:
Fresh malt and a very light breadiness with subtle hop aroma. No detectable sulphur or off aromas. Overall very nice!

Taste:
Very clean, tasty and very refreshing. Beautiful malt flavours with nicely balanced hops (would have prefered just a touch more though). I would have prefered it to be a touch drier there was a touch too much sweetness, probably from the dextrin malt. No off flavours at all.

Mouthfeel:
Was carbonated to 2.6 Vols in the bottle, perfect carbonation for a lager, very nice silky mouthfeel but could have done without the dextrin malt to make it drier/crisper.

Conclusion:
This is one of the best beers I've brewed and one of the nicest lagers I've had for a while, I was sad when the last bottle went! I will definitely be brewing this again but I will be making a few changes to improve it slightly, I will get rid of the dextrin malt and increase the Barke Munich and Melanoidin slightly to increase the breadiness. Will be changing the yeast to the Augustiner yeast (WLP860) as this should be fine at 18c also!
 

Guybrush Threepwood

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Very interesting. Recently brewed my first kölsch as I dont have temp control fermentation but definitely like the sound of this 👍
 

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