Tag Archives: lager

Visiting Creemore Spring’s Copper Kettle Festival…

Summertime is abundant with Beer Festivals of all sorts. Every year there seem to be new ones popping up all over the place as people are getting inspired discovering the incredible diversity among Ontario’s growing craft beer scene.

One of the forerunners of the craft beer scene here in Ontario is celebrating it’s 25th anniversary, Creemore Springs Craft Brewery. Despite being bought out by Molson’s in 2005, the brewery has managed to maintain a certain level of credibility, thanks to the new owner’s respecting the success and capability that Creemore had established with their brewery.

Every summer, the brewery sponsor’s the “Copper Kettle Festival” that’s held in the main section of town. We’ve been meaning to visit for the last couple of years, so we decided to stop in while on our way up to the cottage for a week’s vacation. Creemore is a picturesque little town located about 2 hours northwest of Toronto. The homes are gorgeous, turn of the century style farmhouses with patterned brickwork. All of which have been incredibly maintained by their owners.

The Festival draws a good crowd and Continue reading

The Pilsner Urquell Showdown: Decoction vs. Single Infusion… was it worth it?

Standing over my temperature controlled chest freezer, looking down at my 2 kegs of fully carbonated Bohemian Pilsner, is a very pleasant sight indeed. I used the exact same recipe and maintained the same fermentation schedule for both a single infusion and a decoction version to see what differences could be had. (See original post: Pilsner Urquell: Decoction mash or Single Infusion?) It’s been a long time in the making. Two separate brew days, with the decoction taking me a whopping 11.5 hours (!), 14 days in primary, and another 40 days of lagering. The fact that it is ready to bottle this week, lines up perfectly with us being at the height of summer.

So was it worth it?

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The Pilsner Urquell showdown: Decoction Day

By not brewing this beer when I first posted my original article, I think I psyched myself out on the whole ‘decoction’ thing. “Single Decoction“, “Double Decoction“, “Enhanced Double Decoction“,”Hochkurz Decoction“, “Triple Decoction“, ahh!!! What have I got myself into!!

When I finally got up the courage and picked a weekend for this experiment, I had to watch and re-watch some videos on decoction mashing. Braukaiser’s video, which I had mentioned in my original post, was one I referred to a lot. I also came across a really good video on Brewing TV: Episode 34 – “Decoction Day”. In this video, Michael Dawson shows us how to do a double decoction on a Munich Dunkel. He was quite entertaining and demonstrated the steps wonderfully and clearly. So off I was to start boiling away!

Which decoction schedule did I decide to use? I decided to go with the Enhanced Double Decoction. This schedule pulls a large enough decoction from the acid rest to be able to hit the protein rest with part of the decoction, and with the remaining portion, you reach the saccrification rest. On the one side, I thought a single decoction would fail to bring out enough of the decoction character. On the other side, a traditional triple decoction really isn’t needed with today’s well modified malts, and the lengthy protein rest can actually be detrimental to head formation and mouth feel due to excessive protein breakdown. (See footnote at bottom) I modified the temperature steps slightly to hit those specified by the brewer from Pilsner Urquell in the Brewing Techniques article: The History and Brewing Methods of Pilsner Urquell. Continue reading

How to build your own Temperature Controller Box…

One of the many things I love about brewing is that I get to incorporate not only my love of beer, but my love of building things. Making crazy gadgets to suit the task at hand is something I have a lot of fun doing. Thanks to the many great articles written and shared by other home brewers, some gadgets have been tried & tested, with the rest of us benefiting from those who have gone before. This is one such gadget.

As I move deeper into brewing territory, other variables in the beer making process start to come into focus and the time comes to tinker with them to see if we can continue to improve our beer. Fermentation temperature is something that I hear many people talk about. Jamil Zainasheff has gone so far as saying it’s a “game-changer”. Wow, to say that, intrigues me. Up until now, the area of my basement that I use to ferment has a fairly steady temperature of about 68-70F, which is perfect for most ales. At one point last summer, I was fermenting a blonde ale when the compressor on our AC unit crapped out. It ended up fermenting in the 74-75F range, which is fairly high. The beer actually turned out fantastic, but I don’t know how much of a role the higher temperature played in that. Lagers, on the other hand, are different story. You need to have control over your temperatures. Since we’re now brewing 10 Gallon batches, it gives us the opportunity to split the batches into 2 five gallon carboys and try different yeasts, different fermentation temperatures and different dry hopping rates.

One way to gain control over our fermentation temperatures is to build a dedicated fermentation chamber. I lucked out a few weeks back and scored a medium sized chest freezer that someone down the street was tossing out. I suppose you could use a refrigerator, but this is what I have. A chest freezer will also hold more carboys and/or kegs.  (I’m also not certain whether or not a fridge will allow you to get down to the temperatures needed to properly lager (32F-35F), but I could be mistaken.)

So you’ve got your fridge or freezer, now what? We need to override the internal thermostat and give ourselves the ability to dial in the temperatures we want. There are a few ready-to-go temperature controllers available from Johnson Controls and Ranco that seem to do the job well. They will cost you a little bit more up front, and will also cut out any of the fun building your own, but who wants that?  Well, maybe some of you, and that’s totally cool. For me, I like to build stuff, so that’s what I’m going to do.

To get started, we need to source out the following materials:

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Pilsner Urquell – decoction mash or single infusion?

It’s that time of year again when my cellar reaches optimum fermenting temperatures for lager style beers. Over the past year, I’ve become more familiar with the various styles and I can’t wait to take a stab at some of them.  I’ve researched and learned a tremendous amount since I started brewing, and along with that research comes, of course, many new beers to try.

There has also been countless hours spent talking with my father-in-law about all things beer, wine, and gardening. He is originally from the Czech Republic, and because of that, is always promoting the superb quality of the world’s only true Pilsner; Pilsner Urquell. The history of Pilsner Urquell and how it came to be is a wonderful, informative tale of brewing history. One that is too large for the scope of this post, but is touched upon in a fantastic article from Brewing Techniques titled: The History and Brewing Methods of Pilsner Urquell.

Up until this point, I’ve been brewing completely with a single infusion mash, which works for most styles of beer. (and keeps the brew day at a reasonable length) Recently I’ve become intrigued by the traditional decoction mash that is used by European brewers. Thus far, I’ve seen it as too advanced for me, but after coming across an excellent 3 part video from Braukaiser explaining in great detail the double decoction mash, (See video here) I feel I’m ready to give it a try. Every time I have a sip of the buttery golden yellow of a Pilsner Urquell at my in-laws, the more I want to discover how the heck they actually brew it.

I’m not going to pretend I know what I’m doing with a decoction mash as I’m a virgin in such territory. Braukaiser’s video is the one to watch, but I do want to learn what effect it has on the resulting beer. In order to do this, I’m going to do 2 things: Continue reading