Jan 27, 2014

Brewday: The Usurper Bohemian Pilsner

Pegs, an underrated piece of home brew
I've only brewed one pilsner before, it was my second extract batch and the one that really kicked my brewing off in a big way. I haven't even had many to drink so far. That's mostly a matter of opportunity rather than deliberate decision but it's fair to say that they're not in my wheelhouse. But one of my goals for this year is to get some experience brewing lagers and pilsners and Bohemian pilsner has been pretty high on the 'to brew' list for a while.

The recipe is super simple: one malt, one hop, one yeast. No fuss. Well actually some fuss it's all in the process which is aimed at getting the very best out of the simple ingredient list. I have a deep and abiding love for Saaz and I can't wait for that herbal hoppy goodness when this one is ready.

The key technical aspects to brewing this one were: a 90 minute boil to keep DMS out of the picture, a decent blast of oxygen to help the yeast flourish, high yeast pitching rates, temperature controlled cold fermentation and a diacetyl rest. No decoction mash though because I'm not set up for that yet. I'm hoping that all of those things will help it come out clean and clear with no off flavours.

The other extra step in brewing this one was to hook up an extra wort chiller in series with the one in my urn. It sat in a bucket of ice to pre-chill the water before it went through the chiller in the urn. The idea was to get the wort to chill down to pitching temp. It worked to some degree, getting the wort down to 14C but it took the chest freezer to finish the job. Next time I need more ice and a bigger bucket for the chiller.

The only thing that went wrong with the brew was that I knocked the peg that held my hop bag on the side of the urn into the hot wort just before I began chilling the beer. Hopefully it won't be a problem.

The Usurper Bohemian Pilsner (22L batch)
How clear is that hydrometer sample?!
OG: 1.048 (1.049 measured)
FG: 1.013
IBU: 43
EBC: 6.5
ABV: 4.6%

100% Weyermann Bohemian Pilsner malt

110g Saaz @ 60 minutes
30g Saaz @ 20 minutes

WY2000 Budvar Lager (estimated 404 billion cells)

  • 4ml lactic acid, 1g CaSO4 and 5g CaCl2 for pH correction and water adjustment to get calcium to minimum levels.
  • Stepped mash: 62C (40 minutes), 68C (15 minutes), 72C (10 minutes) and a mash out at 78C.

  • 90 minutes, hops @ 60 and 20 minutes
  • 1/2 whirlfloc tablet @ 15 minutes

Double the starters, double the yeast!
  • Chilled to 7C, oxygenated for 100 seconds
  • Pitched an estimated 400 billion cells of WY2000
  • It will be allowed to rise to 12C under its own steam and when fermentation is 90% finished (25/01/14) I raised it to 16C for a diacetyl rest.
  • I'll see how it goes but I'll probably lager it at 0C at least 5 weeks

15/01/14 - Brewed. Fermentation was a bit slow to kick off despite the high pitch rate and oxygenation.

26/01/14 - Raised to 16C for diacetyl rest. I took a sample after 2 days at 16C and it's coming along very nicely. No diacetyl and the touch of sulphur it had in the aroma earlier on has gone completely.

07/03/14 - Bottled with Ben


  1. Always good to see people brewing pilsners and having the courage to go all out Saaz!! Sure it might be easier to go for a high alpha variety, like Sterling, for the first charge, but the layers of complex lemon and hay flavours that you get with Saaz is just worth the extra green matter. If you have any Czech friends, hand them a bottle and get their opinion on it, you won't find a better expert.

  2. I definitely need some Czech friends but I'll have to make do with friends who've been to Prague. One day I'll make it there myself.

    I've come across quite a few reports that lower alpha hops create a better bitter and flavour quality regardless of the style. I have nothing to base that on myself but I'm interested in trying it out with some hoppy IPA/APAs.


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