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Sunday, February 03, 2013

The Most American Day of the Year

What do other countries think of us on Super Bowl Sunday?  What does it say about a culture that the biggest non-holiday event of the year involves sitting around "man caves" in suburban America to watch a four-hour sporting event?  Even that we call it, with no apparent self-awareness, the "Super Bowl" (or even worse "Super Bowl XLVII") says something, doesn't it?  There is a certain late-empire grandiosity to the whole affair that is slightly odd.  But every culture has oddness, and this one is fairly harmless.

For my part, I'm half-way through the mash of my annual pilsner--or better yet, světlý ležák.  (We'll see if it's actually a ležák--I have a horrible time hitting my efficiency.  But a světlé Výčepní is cool, too.)  My erstwhile brewing partner is now bumming it in Brazil, so I'm on my own.  Each year we mix it up a bit and this year instead of using Sterling hops (a better approximation of Saaz than US Saaz) I'm going with German.  Steinbart's had Tradition and Hersbrucker, so that's what we're going with.  I also added a half pound of wheat, on the slim justification of head grains, but mainly because I tend to put at least half a pound of wheat  in every recipe.

When I was in Prague, I told my tour guide, Max Bahnson, about this beer.  I'd been to Pilsner Urquell and Budvar already, and he was deepening my understanding of Czech lagers.  Since we were on a two-day odyssey, I'm not sure precisely when the moment came, but I remember what happened next.   I proudly mentioned that we call our pils Velvet Revolution.  His nose wrinkled and he shook his head.  "It's too obvious," he said.  "A Czech brewery would never use that."

Obvious.  Isn't that exactly what you'd expect from a couple of American homebrewers?  Go Niners!


  1. How long is your boil, and how do you chill. I've been having DMS problems with Pilsne based beers. I go 90 mins an immersion chiller. Getting frustrated.

  2. Media reports:
    President Obama's 2013 Super Bowl Party included Anchor Steam and Clipper City beers to honor the teams' home cities. Specific beers were not reported.

    Seems the White House is notching up its craft beer game.

  3. Since I am not there I cannot claim my half share of the finished product, so how about we trade for a fine selection of Pilsner-inspired Brazilian beers. Brahma, Antartica, Sierra Malte, Itaipava, name it! Yummy, yum! You will find the almost complete absence of hops fascinating, and the 'touch' of corn enchanting as you ponder the beguiling difference between what is in the bottle and what comes out of the tap. Okay, so one fizzes....

  4. Oh and viva la revolucion! Or whatever is the translation in Czech. Subtlety is not my forte. But did you mention the beavers on the label?

  5. @Andrew, are you using American pilsner malt or european?

  6. Andrew: Weyermann pilsner, sixty minute boil, immersion coil chiller--no DMS. The Portland water is quite chilly now and it drops fast.

    Patrick, I may put a fir on this year's label. Wait, label? I never do labels.

  7. I use Weyermann, typically do a post boil rest for 15-20 minutes while I get my chiller set up (and let some hops stew for extra flavor), never get DMS.

    As I understand it, it's mostly a function of the malting process of very pale malts. The more modified, the more DMS precursors get built up in the malt, the longer you need to boil to drive them off. So a heavily modified malt like most american 2-row or pils would likely need extra care.

  8. As I understand, it's a function of the low temperatures German malts are kilned at. I know people warn of DMS, but I've never had any trouble. Sixty vigorous minutes of boiling have always served me well enough.

  9. Jeff - I spent a couple says in the Czech Rep. just before your trip, I too enjoyed the beers there. Based on my taste analysis there was some difference in the Czech lager yeast compared to Germany. I can elaborate, but I'm interested in your thoughts. :)

    Did you observe any thing stand out?

    That said, what yeast did you use for your světlý ležák?

    Daniel - regarding DMS - are you boiling with a low rolling boil or keeping the lid on? You want a nice boil with no lid to drive off DMS. Also when cooling, try to drop below 170F as fast as possible; DMS stops forming at that temp.

  10. Reink,

    Czech yeasts are purportedly different genomically than German strains. I'm not a biologist or mycologist, but I understand that one of the characteristics of Czech yeast is that it doesn't produce sulfur. I do think the yeast seems a bit more rustic and present than it does in Germany (where except in rare cases like Augustiner, it had vanished), more crisp somehow. But then, you've got a lot of differences with the hops and malts, so.

    I used Pilsner Urquell yeast. Last year we did a double batch and tried PU in one and Budvar in the other, and the Urquell seemed nicer with our crude techniques.

  11. I didn't take a lot of notes, but I did try to sample as much as possible to paint a broad summary on my palate. I felt the Czech beer flavors were not as 'crisp' or 'refined' as the German lagers.

    After my trip, I actually made two lagers after some of my favorite styles from the Germany/CZRep trips: Munich Helles and Bohemian Pilsner. I used the same grains in each, changed only the amount of hops for the BoPils, and fermented them with yeast from their countries. The flavor differences are vast. The main being the BoPils (made with PU yeast) has much more flavors (not just hops), but daicetyl, caramel, and a fullness to its body.

    A fun study indeed.