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Munich Helles Spring ’14

March 13, 2014

Motivated by my spring lager binge, I have planned a Munich Helles brew this weekend to grow enough yeast for a Maibock. indicates I need about 4 gallons for that.


Turns out Hella Bock yeast isn’t regularly stocked at the brew shop, so I was lucky to find a packet manufactured on Dec. 24, 2013 in the “Specialty” bin.  The age of the yeast means I’ll have to do a 2-step starter to get the proper pitching rate.  I’m going with a 1L and 1L.


Developed from a combination of Designing Great Beers and a BYO article, I’m going to deviate a bit from my last brew.  It’s been too long since I listened to the Jamil Show podcast for the style, so I can’t be sure if I made any modifications, plus reading the BYO article got me excited to try my hand at a delicately balanced beer with a lot of its character derived from the mash.  Since it’s purpose is to create yeast and just about anything should be better than my last brew of this, I figure I can go for the gold and not much is lost if I miss.

Beersmith Recipe / Brewsheet

Water Treatment

Given the lightly roasted malts used in this beer and the very alkaline water here in Madison, I need to pre-treat this water.  My first Munich Helles was my first foray into water treatment and I’ve since gotten a little more practiced at it.  That’s not to say I’m an expert, but I don’t think water adjustments have ruined any of my beers yet (in fact, screwing it up led me to my preferred ESB treatment).  Unlike many of my beers where I chose to accentuate maltiness with water additions, I want to keep this balanced.  To that end, after performing the overnight slaked lime treatment (1 g/gallon slaked lime and 0.5 g/gallon CaCl2), I will add gypsum to the mash to balance out the chlorides.  Brewer’s Friend’s water calculator seems to indicate an excessive amount of gypsum compared to both Beersmith and the club “water guy” who both suggest about 3 g of gypsum for this recipe (about 3 grams gypsum for 4 gallons of water).  Given a 2-out-of-3 vote, I’m going with the 3 g addition.  I probably just didn’t do something right with the Brewer’s Friend calculator for it to come out so different.  It seems to have become more complex since I used it last.  I’m sure it’s a fine tool when you learn how to use it but I just don’t have the inclination to right now.

Brew Day (3/15/14)

This day turned out long and tiring.  Not altogether unpleasant, but there were a few frustrations.  For one, while the infusions worked pretty well for the first two steps (protein rest and beta saccharification), I had a heck of a time getting up to temperature on the alpha sacc.  I ended up adding 3 additional quarts of boiling water over the course of 35 minutes or so before finally getting up to 155° with 15 minutes left in the step (I didn’t start the step timer until ~10 minutes after I should have, effectively giving the supposed 15-minute beta rest 25 minutes).  For reference:  initial infusion got me to ~150°, second quart to 152°, and finally the third up to 155°.  Finally, the mash out only got me to 163°.  I’m not generally too concerned about mash out, so that’s not such a big deal, but the rest should have an impact on the end beer (perhaps a little thinner from the longer time at the low beta rest).  I don’t know if the large temperature difference just increased the rate of heat loss too much or what, but it was a little frustrating.

The second frustration came when I didn’t properly secure my pump hoses to the brew kettle when running at the end of the boil.  Previously – and I will hopefully now remember for the future – I’ve been clipping them to the handles on either side with clothes pins.  Since I didn’t this time, the outlet hose came loose at one point and started spraying boiling wort over the back wall.  Luckily it wasn’t out toward me, but it made a heck of a mess.


  • Accidentally added ~2.5 g of hops to the small kettle at the beginning of the boil instead of waiting for 30 minutes => boiled for 90 minutes instead of 60.  Properly added the remaining ~4.5 grams to the larger kettle for a 60 minute boil time.
  • Ended up a little high on gravity at 1.054 into the fermenter
  • Delay starting cooldown due to spraying wort
  • Chilling ended at 55°


Kept in keezer at 35° overnight with starter.  Decanted starter, and ran off Helles wort on top of the cake.  Transferred rest of wort to 5-gallon glass carboy, leaving hazy gunk at the bottom of the Better Bottle (the vessel the wort crashed in overnight).  Set up the starter on the stir plate in the keezer now set to 45° with the wort to get yeast mixed and potentially active while things get up to temperature over a few hours.  Bubble-wrapped thermometer to side of fermenter to let me know when at temperature and safe to add yeast.

Pitched when bubble-wrapped thermometer read 41°, oxygenated for 1:30 on Sunday afternoon (~2:00).  Thermometer read 40.5° after oxygenation.  I can’t imagine the smaller volume yeast starter which should have been transferring heat into it much faster since it was on the stir plate could have been cooler than the wort in the fermenter, but I guess it must have been.  I actually pitched at this low of a temperature because I was afraid the yeast would get active at a higher temperature on the stir plate and be shocked dormant when they were transferred to the fermenter.

Temperature rose slowly with keezer open to ~45° over the course of several hours.  Roused the yeast a couple of times during that time.  Left in keezer set to 49° overnight.  Roused yeast in the morning (though I forget the temperature reading).  By the following afternoon at ~4:00 (~26 hours after pitching) temperature was 48.2° based on bubble-wrapped thermometer and bubbles had formed on the surface of the beer.  Dropped temperature controller to 47° to account for expected rise in temperature due to fermentation.

Rise never really happened, so kept keezer at 48°, leaving beer between upper 47’s and lower 48’s (~47.8° and 48.4°).  Krausen fell after ~6 – 7 days and after generating quite a bit of strong sulfur odors.

Sample after 2 weeks: 1.022, butter bomb.  Still cloudy, not much yeast falling out in the sample.

Sample after 3 weeks:  1.014 (cold with carbonation).  Much less intense butter, though it remains in the aroma and somewhat in the flavor.  Otherwise, it’s a pretty nice toasty/biscuity flavor, no hop presence to speak of though the bitterness nicely balances any residual sweetness.  All-in-all, it tastes a lot like a macrobrew though it needs some clean up and I’d like to think the malt presents a more interesting character.

After 3 weeks, 3 days:  Increase keezer temperature 10 degrees for diacetyl rest.  Still too buttery and I’d like to make sure I can brew this weekend (though I suppose it could still reduce diacetyl in a keg if I racked it to have access to the yeast).  Very bright, crystal clear beer looking like a proper macro brew (but having quite a bit more character).

Test after ~48 hours of diacetyl rest indicated it was pretty well cleared up, though tasting a flat, warm beer is always tricky.  In any case, crashed down to 32° to prepare for kegging (just prior to pitching Maibock) and lagering.


I think I’m encountering DMS issues again.  I would like to get someone to taste it that can diagnose that better than me, though.  Specifically, the beer has a really distinct flavor, like a malty macrobrew, but just too intense.  I can imagine the cooked corn flavor of DMS providing that intensity.  I’m hopeful that some long-term lagering will make it more tolerable but for now, it’s a little disappointing.

About a week after kegging:  Alright, this is growing on me.  I’m not sure if it cleared up its funk or if I just got used to it, but I decided one night to go exclusively with the Munich Helles and not touch the stout to make sure the morning-after headache went away.  It did and now I’ve developed a tolerance – if not a fondness – for this beer.  I’ve decided that it could be some sort of legitimate-for-the-style assertive malt character that might be more pronounced than the style tolerates since I missed my gravity so high on it (it came out at 1.054 instead of 1.048).  In any case, it’ll do for now.  I might have to think of a different “small” lager to brew to get the yeast for my next bocks though, after getting two strikes on me in two pitches – no pun intended – with this beer.

After ~1 month bottled:  Clear, golden, white, rocky/clingy head (same as Maibock).  Not much aroma to speak of.  Very inoffensive (i.e., what a light lager should be), somewhat grainy flavor with lingering butteriness/corniness in the finish.  Honestly, I would lean to the corn description, indicating DMS.  First impression was that it was a good light lager, after a few more sips, the corniness is coming back to me.  I should have bottled a couple for competition to see what the verdict was.

Having recently brought a collection of beers to a night of board games and hearing the reverence with which a couple of players spoke of another’s light american lager, maybe I should try to bring a sampling of this to some people that appreciate good beer, but aren’t exactly aficionados.


From → All-Grain, Brews, Lager

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