Friday, June 18, 2010

DFK Pils

There is knowledge in the homebrew community, mind you have to search for it or stumble onto it, but it exists, that if you want to make a true Czech Pilsener beer, that you have to brew it using a decoction mash.

It's really a simple recipe; Pilsener malt, Czech Saaz hops, and your choice of Czech lager yeast. I know of three right off the top of my head, and I'm pretty sure that both Wyeast and White Labs make versions of the Budvar (original Budweiser), Pilsen (used for Pilsener Urquell) and Bohemian lager yeasts.

In the last quarter of 2009, Wyeast released the Staro-Prague (Wyeast 2782-PC) yeast. Northern Brewer also made a simple kit available for use of this yeast. If I'm not mistaken, it was called Farley's Svetle-Pivo (which translates from Slavic to "Farley's Light Beer") and for a 5-gallon recipe, was calling for 10 pounds of Pilsener malt, 5 ounces of Czech Saaz hops, and the aforementioned yeast. Also, it suggested a triple-decoction mash.

For the most part, when you do an all-grain homebrew, you get your grain. It's crushed. Then you get your water hot so that you can put your grain in it, and the grain sits at a temperature between 149*F and 156*F for at least an hour. Then you sparge the grain with hot water (around 180*F) until you get enough to boil down so that when all is said and done, you have 5 gallons of beer (the usual amount, especially if you're serving from 5-gallon kegs).

However, a decoction mash is its own animal. For this beer in particular, I started with 100*F water, put it and the grain into my mash tun for 20 minutes, and then the real fun began: It was early January when I did this, so it was like 19*F in my garage. I had the side door open and the big garage door cracked about a foot and a half to get decent air flow. So I took 2/3rds of the mash (water and grain, mostly grain) and started heating it up on the burner. You have to stir so you don't burn the mash or make the color too dark. I brought the mash to 150*F and then took it off the burner, wrapped it in a wool blanket, and let it set on a crate for 20 minutes. Then I returned the kettle to the burner, and slowly brought it to a boil, let it boil for five minutes, then returned it to the mash tun, bringing the temperature to 126*F in the mash tun, stirring it in so the temperature was uniform. I let it rest 30 minutes. I did this again, to bring the temperature of the mash to 148*F, and then again to 158*F (I didn't let it sit for 20 minutes either time after this, since it was so close or beyond 150*F anyway, just straight to boil). Finally, I drained about 4 gallons of mostly liquid wort and brought this to a boil to raise the temperature of the mash to 170*F for mash out, where you're looking to get all your "sugar water" to make the beer.

This makes for a long day. Especially in January. But I was hoping for an awesome beer. The great thing about mashing this way is that a lot of the proteins that you get from the boil kettle when you're moving the wort into the fermenter actually stay in the mash tun. The result is a clearer, cleaner beer. For more information on decoction mashing, I suggest you check out Kai's decoction mash videos. A three-part series that you can take seriously because of Kai's accent.

As for how the beer looks, here are a few photos:

This is the beer about 30 seconds after it's been poured. Burnished gold.

As the beer is drank, a swirl of foam remains. Smells of sulfur, fresh-mown grass.

It's unfiltered, so while some beers are clearer, this one is not as clear.

Of course, there is a story behind the name. Even though it's Farley's recipe, I upped it to 12 lbs of Pilsener malt and 6 oz of Czech Saaz hops because I was shooting for 6 gallons. I did the work, I get to name it.

Like I stated above, the beer pours with a decent head. Once the head is gone, lacing continues and the foam swirls on the top. It smells of sulfur and freshly-mown grass. The taste is like biting into a handful of Czech Saaz hops. It's quite wonderful. The Pilsener malt is a great vehicle for the yeast and hops.

While I lived in Germany, I had a good friend named Dan Kendall (DFK). I left during the middle of our Junior year. During the summer, Danny was to leave to go back to the states, where his dad, who was a colonel, was getting a promotion. Danny decided to impress his dad's associates by getting a mohawk. Lately, I've seen mohawks being worn as a fashion statement. But in 1986, I guarantee you, mohawks were considered pretty "1981." Hell, I don't even remember too many people wearing them in 1981. But then, I lived in Oklahoma that year.

The point is, you can take the easy way out on anything if you're smart. But to live, sometimes you need to go through all the steps just to see what it's all about. It's easy to get a mohawk when all the cool kids are doing it.

Danny did this, he cut his hair, and he knew he was causing trouble. He knew he'd take suome lumps. Why did he do it? Because fuck them.