After spending eleven days in Austria in April, I have been itching to brew a Munich Helles. This is the standard style of beer served all across Bavaria and Austria; if you simply order a beer, you’ll be served a Helles. My only problem brewing a lager is, my fermentation fridge sits in my garage, which is ridiculously hot during the summer. That little mini-fridge has no problem keeping my ales at 60-68* in the summer, but it really struggles to cool a fermenter down to 45-50* when the garage is 105. I found that with a fan blowing on the condenser coil the fridge was able to cool down to around 50*. With that sorted out, the brew day commenced.
I don’t brew many lagers and I have zero experience with this style, so I pretty much brewed Jamil’s recipe with a couple tweaks. I added a little Munich to his recipe, and I used a slightly different hop schedule. I started this batch off five days prior with a massive starter. Lagers typically need twice the pitch rate of ales, so I whipped up a 4QT starter of WLP838 – Southern German Lager. The starter fermented out in a couple days, and I crashed it in the kegerator for a few more days until I brewed. This brew day went very smooth. I mashed for 60 minutes, then boiled for 90 to drive off any DMS. Chilling this wort down to 50* did take a while though, due to my 100* tap water. It ended up taking 20lbs of ice to hit my pitch temps. I fermented at 50* for 7 days, at which point the wort was down to 1.018. Then I raised the temp to 62* to help the yeast finish attenuating, and to clean up any diacetyl there may have been. It stayed there for one more week, then I kegged it, and allowed it to lager in the kegerator.
9lbs German Pils
4oz Melanoidin Malt
Mash @ 150
.25oz Magnum @ 90
.25oz Hallertau @ 40
WLP838 – Fermented at 50*
This beer had a little bit of sulfur in the aroma early on, but that quickly fell out as the beer lagered. After 2 weeks, it was tasting nice, and after 3 weeks it’s getting to where it should be. I really should have waited a full month before starting to drink it, but I’m impatient.
This Helles has that classic softly sweet pils aroma with no noticeable hop character. That’s about it on the nose-front, as there are no esters or off flavors. In terms of flavor, it has a malty pils character that’s rather bread-like. The fermentation character is crispy-clean as it should be, and there’s no hop presence in the taste either. The beer finishes with a nice soft balancing bitterness, and washes away clean from the moderately high carbonation. I have to say I’m a huge fan of WLP838. It fermented extremely quick for a lager, the character is clean, and it really accentuates the malty characters of a beer. For my first Helles, I’m extremely happy, as this beer tastes exactly like the fine lagers I drank all over Bavaria and Austria this spring. This will be a perfect beer to drink one or seven while watching football. And would you look at that, it’s done just in time for Oktoberfest! It’s almost as if it were planned that way 😉