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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

More on Grätzer

How did we survive before the internets? Before electricity I can understand--whales kept things dimly lit. But before the internet we must have wandered the desert, hoping to stumble by chance upon nuggets of wisdom, like gold. Yesterday, two great comments appeared on my grätzer post from men more educated than I.

First, from Alan Taylor, the Widmer Brothers' resident Germany expert, who has such a precise and scholarly sense of things that he corrected the quote I included (via Pattinson) from Bierbrauerei. Taylor notes:
By the way: A Zentner is actually 50 kg or 100 Pfund, so the ratio of hops to malt is higher than in the quotation you had.
Well, obviously. How silly of me to confuse my kilos and Pfunds.

Next we have Kristen England, the homebrewer I quoted (via Hieronymus), who is one of the vanishingly small Americans to have actually brewed a grätzer. It's quite useful for the homebrewer interested in brewing their own grätzer, a number who include me:
The problem with the beer isn't, surprisingly, the 100% wheat. It's getting the level of smoke you want without mucking up the malt. Meaning making sure it can still convert itself.

I've done many different types of wood and oak really does work best. Rauchmalt is too smooth and hammy. The oak tannins really dry the beer out and with the hops dries the beer out completely. The cherrywood smoke made it taste like an ashtray.

The BU's are around 40 or so. 2/3 first wort and then 1/3 the last 15min works very well. All low [alpha] % noble which adds a ton of tannin because of all the hop matter that goes into it. You'll be surprised at how clear this beer ends up.

I find that OG+10 = BU works great. I like mine about 1.028 and then 38 BU. Finishes around 1.009. Bone dry.
Thanks, Kristen. this is most useful.


  1. Hey Jeff,
    How about covering the local interest in smoked helles lager? I know there are a few breweries that have produced them in Oregon. Laurelwood, and I think also Big Horse and Oakshire if memory serves me.

    As far as I know, all those beers are inspired by the lovely Schlenkerla Helles Lager, which uses no smoked malt, but picks up smoke character from the brewery (grain mill, yeast cake, and what have you). I have hombrewed a couple of batches of this style, at about 17% rauch malt, and it's really great. If I did it again I might make it with more rauch malt.

  2. @Sean: Oh yeah, that Oakshire Smoking Hell was awesome, as was Upright's Redwood-smoked lager (though I'm not sure how often that will get done). Both of them had a good smoke taste without being too much.

  3. I am definitely into rauchbier. I never got a chance to try the Oakshire or Big Horse. I believe I had the Laurelwood.

  4. This has been an interesting lesson. Good information on what ingredients make a Gratzer. I see that according to their website Breakside calls their beer Gratzerbier. The problem is that according to your last post it is not a Gratzer at all. Wrong malt, wrong hops, etc. Breakside’s beer is flat out not a Gratzer. I am not trying to get on Ben’s case in a negative way. But if he calls himself a beer educator isn’t this the equivalent of an English teacher throwing the grammar book in the trashcan and telling everyone to speak in slang.

    My problem is not the “re-interpretation” of the recipe. It is in naming it a Gratzerbier which is kinda, uh, lying.

  5. I don't think Ben was lying about what Gratzer is, I think he just didn't have much information to go on when the Gratzer was brewed, so it was a very creative interpretation based on one brewing text that described mainly the flavor. I know this because we talked about it after the beer was already brewed. I then told him about the recipe for Gratzer in the back of Brewing With Wheat, which is the Kris England recipe.

    Agreed, it is not really a Gratzer by definition, but I don't see any harm in calling it that for now. It is also not a Gratzer revival until at least one pro brewery decides to brew a fairly accurate version. (Sorry Jeff, maybe soon.)

    But whatever, let's not let this serious beer talk get in the way of drinking and brewing for fun.

  6. "But whatever, let's not let this serious beer talk get in the way of drinking and brewing for fun."

    I completely agree. Just want to make sure we are careful about mis-informing while we are informing.

  7. I was able to recently participate in an "Ale through the Ages" class at one o the local museums which covered this ale. It was a very well done class, and Kevin Cullen the Archeology Associate who ran the event did a great job with it. He posted up the recipe he used and some history about the beer on his site:

    We bottled it last night and it had a wonderfully smoky aroma with a nice light color.