Since 1811 the Bavarians have held an annual festival in Munich, originally celebrating the marriage of King Ludwig I to Princess Therese. This festival has become Oktoberfest, despite the fact that most of it is in September. It can be quite difficult to get seats at the festival but I have managed twice with the help of some locals in Germany. The drinking starts around 930 in the morning and continues throughout the day. They don’t mess around and drink from steins (2 pint glasses). Both visits were hard work from this point of view but there is plenty of good food to accompany the beer. Coping with a stein of crisp Bavarian lager at 930 in the morning is a challenge. The second stein was easier as I recall.
I brewed a Czech Pilsner some time ago and in order to regulate the conditioning temperature to 3 degrees, I have a dedicated beer fridge that can hold a barrel. Best not waste it then – on the brewing roster for some time has been another lager. The right thing to do is to have it ready for Oktoberfest. I was going to brew a specific Bavarian style Oktoberfest recipe from Hughes, Home Brew Beer but for some reason I could not get one of the malts I needed. So this lager that I am drinking today is a Bohemian-style Pilsner and is similar to the Czech Pilsner I brewed. Bohemia is a region of the Czech Republic so they would be similar.
And this one tastes better. I’m blowing my own trumpet here but the beer is crisp and refreshing. It tastes how one would expect it too. More so than the Czech Pilsner did. The recipe is 5kg Bohemian Pilsner Malt mashed in the usual way, then sparged to 27 litres of boiling liquor. About 75g of Saaz hops are added at the start of the boil and about 35g are added at turn off. After fermenting with a Bohemian lager yeast strain, it needs to be conditioned at 3 degrees Celsius for four weeks. The resultant beer should be around 4.9% ABV.
There are three things that I would address: the water, cloudiness and the packaging.
Lager beer really needs soft water and we don’t have that in Grays. The Grays brewery (Seabrooke and Sons) used to be brew dark ales and stouts, until they were sold on twice in 1929 and eventually shut. Our water is really hard and it is perfect for stouts. We recently had to get our year old washing machine repaired because the element had scaled up really badly. And I regularly have to descale my brewing boiler. I was able to soften the water to make it suitable for lager, but next time I’m tempted to soften it more.
This beer seems a little cloudy and could be clearer. I used protofloc in the boil to clear the beer, but this one could probably have done with a fining agent in the barrel. I don’t like using these because they remove any hope of the beer being vegetarian. And we do occasionally let those into our house.
For the packaging, I used a plastic pressure barrel as I do normally. These are good for a home brewer and with a bit of priming, the beer is lively. Priming is the process of adding some sugar or malt extract for the yeast to feed on in the barrel so that there is carbon dioxide in the beer. It is also possible to re-gas the barrels with carbon dioxide canisters. This morning, the first beer was a little flat for my taste and I have taken the precaution of gassing the barrel.
I went to the Brewhouse and Kitchen in Angel a couple of weeks ago to participate in their brewery day. I learnt a lot about the brewing process on a large scale and we all brewed a rye beer together. One of things that was not really addressed was packaging and this is something I need to learn a lot more about.
Anyway, today is Beer Club. I have victims coming round to help with the excess of lager. It is not so much Oktoberfest here, more OkTilburyfest. Next year I will try a Bavarian lager.