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Munich Dunkel Re-Brew

November 30, 2011

After the scottish brew a week and a half ago, I’m feeling the itch again.  Now I’d like to get back to lagers – specifically doppelbock.  Of course, in order to do that I either need a ton of smack packs or to brew a small beer as a sort of massive starter.  Not being too keen on brewing another Munich Helles, I figured I’ll brew a Dunkel on the low end instead.  According to Mr. Malty, it still requires about a 1-gallon starter so I think I’ll work on a step starter (or underpitch).  Also, I have some yeast collected and sitting in my fridge (collected from my last Dunkel brew?), but it’s so old that I think I’ll scrap it and just pick up a new smack pack.



Looks like I need to do a step starter (which is not something I can see instructions for on Mr. Malty).  According to Mr. Malty, for a 1.054 lager, I need 396 billion cells.

All the stuff below went out the window when I decided to pick up a 9-month-old pack of Hella Bock from the bargain bin at the homebrew shop today.  Instead I’m going to do back-to-back 2 L starters (as big as my flask will allow) and I’ll live with what I get.

Method 1:  By using a document from Northern Brewer (, I see that I can do a 2-step starter (1 L followed by 1/4 L) to get 397 billion cells.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to take into account viability, so assuming a 1-month old smack pack (75% viability), I need to find the step combination that leads to ~530 billion cells.  That is close to a 0.5 L followed by 0.75 L starter schedule or 1 L followed by 0.5 L (all calculations assuming use of my stir plate).

Method 2:  Following a Brewing Network post’s instructions (  I can’t seem to figure out how to link to specific post response, but it’s the 2nd response – pfooti), Mr. Malty says a 1.07 L followed by 1.36 L schedule should get me to the target.

Since Method 1 & 2 differ pretty significantly, I have to choose between them.  Since I’m not a big fan of <1 L starters (I don’t really know why) and the fact that with a lager more yeast is better than too little (and it would be very hard to over pitch to the point that it would negatively impact the flavor), I think I’ll go with Method 2.

To recap (for quick reference):  1.07 L starter followed by 1.36 L starter (given 75% viability yeast).


  1. Make 1.07 2 L starter, pitch smack pack
  2. Let ferment out (room temp or so)
  3. Cold crash
  4. Decant
  5. Make 1.36 2 L starter
  6. Ferment out
  7. Crash & Decant?  Don’t think I really need to for only 1.36 L, but if I have time I will.


According to my old recipe, I made concessions for a smaller MLT.  Now that I’m up to a 10-gallon MLT, I can probably remove those restrictions, so I’ll have to review Brewing Better Beer to see what it should be.

I also used the Munich Lager yeast last time.  Since I’m actually shooting for a bock in the end, I’m going to try to use the Hella Bock lager strain (Wyeast 2487) again like last time I did my Doppelbock.  I get the impression that yeast strain isn’t as critical for lagers, but I liked the results of my bocks (Maibock & Doppelbock) so I don’t want to mess with it, plus I might get some indication for how the yeast impacts the beer by using a different strain for the Dunkel than I did last time.

I bought grain based on my recipe from last time.  Turns out that BeerSmith thinks I needed >13# Munich Malt given my new equipment setup (where I go for a 6.25 gal batch vs. 5 gal, no longer assuming BeerSmith will properly handle my 1.25 gal deadspace).  Since I was using essentially the same equipment last time (only difference was the 5-gallon MLT with “bazooka” screen vs. my new 10-gallon MLT with improved lautering system), I should still be able to get about the same OG.


BeerSmith Recipe / Brewsheet

Brew Day (12/4/2011)

The Grist

What a long and crappy brew day…

I don’t think I ruined the beer, but this brew day was a departure from the smooth ones I’ve been having recently.  First off, I kinda needed to get this brew done in about the same – if not less – time than my other recent ones but I underestimated the time and effort to do the decoction (among other things).  I hadn’t really thought much about it the last times I’ve decocted, but then I haven’t really been too time constricted either.  Today it took almost 2 hours from mashing in to lautering and another 40 minutes after that before I had the boil going.

To make matters worse, I was nearing the end of one of my propane tanks.  Not wanting to end up in a situation like last time where both of my tanks were low at the same time, I tried to stick with my low one as long as possible.  I was working fine initially, but I wanted to make sure I got the boil going quickly so hooked up the second tank to get it started.  After getting a vigorous boil running for 10 minutes or so, I decided to swap them back.  This required me to kill the flame, swap the connector, and light again.  Unfortunately I had a hell of a time getting the flame going again.  I’m not sure if it had to do with the low propane level or what, but it took more than 10 minutes to get it going again and in the meantime the wort dropped to ~190 F, taking quite a while to get back to boiling (using my low-level tank at that).  Luckily the time where the second tank was running must have allowed the low tank to defrost a little so I was able to crank it up a bit more than before and get a good boil going again, but not without at least 20 minutes wasted.

Not wanting to delay my day too much more, I didn’t add 20 minutes to my boil to account for the lost time, but rather just did ~10 more minutes.  I kept the 20 minute hop addition on time and all, so I don’t think it will have too big an impact.

So, instead of getting comfortably done by 2:30 or 3:00, I didn’t get the wort chilled until 4:30 when it was well into getting dark so I ended up running off in the dark.  Not the worst thing that could happen, but it sure feels like a wasted day.

I sure hope the beer is awesome to make up for the trouble 😉

Some good news:  My OG was 1.054, resulting in ~81% efficiency.  Compared with my 82% efficiency into the kettle (1.047 @ ~7.33 gallons), it looks like adjusting BeerSmith for a 6.25 gallon batch is the way to go.  It also means that I got about the 10% boiloff that I should have (though correcting for the boil SNAFU, I probably should go with a slightly less vigorous boil in the future).

Missed Steps (now that I remember, 2 weeks later):

  • Should have done Fast Ferment to be able to know how close to complete the fermentation is
  • Forgot to Rack before Pitching the yeast – let trub settle overnight while wort gets to fermentation temperature, then racking to vessel to reduce trub in primary
  • Forgot to put Yeast Nutrient in the boil – I’ve always been just throwing it in with the yeast.  That’s obviously not sanitized, so boil with wort (or something else?) first.  Not sure if I have to worry about it settling with the trub if I’m racking before pitching like above.


Pitched the morning following brewing.  Starter (2nd step) was showing pretty good activity before pitching.  By coming home in the evening (~9 hours after pitching) there was definite, steady activity.

Nearly 2 weeks later (still at 48 F in the keezer), there are still a significant amount of bubbles on the surface and slow airlock activity.  When I had the keezer open for a few minutes one day (I think when I was trying to get the root beer in), the whole living room smelled pretty badly of sulfur.  I don’t notice it being so strong now, but it’s definitely present.

Sample after ~3 weeks:  1.024.  Still yeasty smelling and sweet.  Expected melanoidin flavor like last time (though it doesn’t seem as strong this time).  Surprising bitterness at the end.

Sample after almost 4 weeks:  1.020.  I think she’s done.  I thought the FG was pretty high, but it’s consistent with what I’ve gotten with this yeast before (Maibock and Doppelbock).  I’m crashing it tonight and going to keg it up tomorrow.


Unfortunately, it seems clear that I didn’t clean the keg out thoroughly enough after the root beer.  There is a distinctive root beer flavor and aroma to the beer.  Luckily this isn’t a pale ale or something, but it’s still not ideal.  This is also a good bit more bitter than my first Dunkel brew.  This is pretty surprising considering the IBU level is only ~2.5 higher and the FG is considerably higher (20 points vs. 7).  Finally, the melanoidin character seems much lower.  It’s not the dessert/toast beer that my Brother-In-Law coined the first one.  All in all, it’s plenty drinkable but I’m not as happy with it as I was the last brew.  Given the root beer, I don’t think I’ll submit it to competition, but I’d like to know how close it comes to the style otherwise.  Maybe I’ll pick up an Ayinger Dunkel and compare.

Bottle Impression (2/19/12)

I find myself mostly out of beer, so I’m raiding the reserves.  Popping open one of these, I was pleasantly surprised that the Root Beer aroma was pretty much gone.  It might be lingering a bit, but definitely more subdued.  Otherwise, it’s not really too remarkable.  Definitely doesn’t have the melanoidin richness that the previous brew of this had.  All in all it could use more character, but for a laid back drink, it works.


From → All-Grain, Brews, Lager

  1. Adam permalink

    I’ve been told that root bear is a hard flavor to clean out and that you should have a dedicated keg for only root beer if you have it on tap often.


    • Yeah, now that you mention it, it seems like I’ve read that before. I did all my Root Beer research before I had kegs so I didn’t pay much attention to it though. I made sure and washed it out real well and have left it airing out since. Hopefully it fades away…

      • Adam permalink

        I’d say just buy another keg…but you know how expensive they have become! I may bite the bullet and buy 1 or 2 more kegs to have and hold.

        I did recently acquire a soda keg from a friend that hasn’t been cleaned yet. Think it’s going to be the root beer keg! I’m looking into making sugar-free root beerz…

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