Thursday, 11 April 2013

Brewing a Schwarzbier

After brewing a Vienna Lager a few weeks ago, and recently transferring it to secondary for lagering, I followed my usual practice of reusing the yeast to immediately brew another lager. My deep freezer easily has room for two carboys, so I like to have two lagers going at the same time while I can. The Wyeast 2352-PC Munich Lager II description has a lot of different lagers listed that would be ideal to brew; while many interested me, one in particular caught my eye: Schwarzbier.

Schwarzbier (also commonly known as a Black Lager) was the first style of lager I had ever brewed (over two years ago, recipe and tasting notes here), and was actually the beer that made me realize that all dark beers are not created equal. A dark beer (but actually not usually black), if well-made it should be slightly to moderately roasty in a bitter chocolate kind of way, but NOT burnt-tasting or smelling. A Munich-like malt character should be present, with medium bitterness in the finish. And, of course, it should have your classic clean lager character, i.e. no diacetyl or fruity esters present. At a moderate strength of about 5% ABV, Schwarzbiers are meant to be easy-drinking.

My first attempt at a Schwarzbier resulted in, after 60 batches as of this month, still one of my favorite homebrews of mine to date. The recipe was from Brewing Classic Styles - actually, there are two recipes for this style in that book; I went with the one that yields a slightly-more-roasty beer. The beer really did come out great, if a little undercarbonated due to an oversight on my part - roasty, but not burnt, with a great malt presence, quite creamy, and very clean. Here, I had used the Wyeast 2124 Bohemian Lager, which I've always been very happy with.

So, because I was so happy with the beer, there are very few changes, other than the yeast, that I made with the "new" recipe. In terms of the grist, I replaced the Carafa Special II with Midnight Wheat, mainly because I have such an abundance of MW. I can't imagine this change would be very detectable in the final product, since both are huskless dark grains, and the amount is a scant 100 grams. I also made a minor change in the hop additions: the original recipe called for three additions of Hallertau; unfortunately, I didn't have enough on hand for the whole recipe. Since the perceived hop character in a Schwarzbier is actually quite low anyway, I used an addition of WGV at 60 minutes. WGV is a UK hop available from Hops Direct; they describe it as an aroma hop with a "spicy, herbal and earthy aroma". I made up the other two additions with my remaining Hallertau, aiming for a slightly-higher IBU of around 30... the main change I wanted to make with my first Schwarzbier attempt was to increase the bitterness slightly, so hopefully this will help.

The final change I made was actually messing with the water chemistry a bit. After some searching online, I found a water profile by Randy Mosher for "Ideal Mild/Dark Lagers", which basically required that I increase my water's calcium, sulfate, sodium, and chloride. With some tweaking, I was able to actually get quite close to my targets by adding small amounts of gypsum and table salt directly into the mash. With Schwarzbier, you're not really looking for an excessive amount of anything in the water; everything should be relatively balanced.

I'm interested to see how this beer turns out, mainly because if I manage to keep the fermentation clean and steady, it should be fairly easy to detect changes in the beer from the different yeast. Because it's a medium-strength beer, I'll probably only lager it for a maximum of 2 months, so I should be drinking it by the end of June at the latest.

Recipe targets: (5.5 gallons, 80% efficiency) OG 1.051, FG 1.013, IBU 30, SRM 27, ABV 4.9%

Schwarzbier on the left, Vienna Lager on the right
2.16kg (49.1%) Munich malt
1.7 kg (38.7%) Pilsner malt
168 g (3.8%) Caramunich II (45 L)
168 g (3.8%) Chocolate malt
100 g (2.3%) Midnight Wheat
100 g (2.3%) Roasted Barley

WGV - 28 g (7.8% AA) @ 60 min
Hallertau - 21 g (2% AA) @ 20 min
Hallertau - 21 g @ 0 min

Misc.: 1/2 tab Irish moss @ 5 min

Yeast: Wyeast 2352-PC Munich Lager II  (~1 cup slurry, cultured two days earlier)

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 7 g Gypsum and 4 g table salt added to the mash

- Brewed April 4th, 2013, with Mom and Jill. 50-minute mash with 14.5 L of strike water, mashed in a bit low at 153 F (target 154 F). Mashed out for 10 minutes with 6 L of boiling water, resulting temp low at 163 F. Sparged with ~4.25 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~7.5 gallons in the kettle.

- SG 1.039 (target 1.038). 90-minute boil. Chilled to 48 F in about 45 minutes with immersion chiller. Poured into Better Bottle. OG a bit high at 1.053. Pitched yeast slurry, aerated by shaking well for several minutes before and after pitching. Set in fermentation chamber with temp set at 51 F.

6/4/13 - 8/4/13 - Small, thick krausen, with bubbling in the airlock about 4-5 times per 10 seconds.

9/4/13 - Bubbling down to q 5 seconds by AM, so took the Better Bottle out of the fermentation chamber to raise the temp for a diacetyl rest. By the evening, bubbling had increased to its previous rate, and temp was up to 60 F.

11/4/13 - Placed BB back in ferm chamber, will drop temp gradually back to 52 F or so over the next couple of days.

2/5/13 - Racked to secondary. Will lower the temperature of the fermentation chamber by 1 F every 12 hours or so until down to 38 F for lagering.

21/7/13 - FG only got down to 1.018. Bottled with 110 g table sugar (and ~1/4 pack dry Nottingham yeast, rehydrated), aiming for 2.5 vol CO2 for 5 gallons with max temp of 60 F reached.

28/11/13 - Tasting notes here... turned out about where I wanted it to be; dark, malty, a bit of chocolate. A little bit of roast character wouldn't hurt.

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