First, big thanks to everyone that came out and survived the downpour(s) at Summerfest on Saturday. We raised the bar again for best day in Draft House history, so needless to say I’m excited to try and help kill it again for Dogtoberfest.
Anyway, on Thursday I’m hoping to brew a Helles here at home. It will be both my first brew in the new place & the first lager I’ve ever brewed. I’m shooting for brewing 3 or 4 different recipes in the next couple weeks, but we’ll see what brewing life brings my way.
Assuming any of them turn out good I’ll either have a few of my certified judge friends grade them, ship them off to contests all over the country, or both. Mostly I’ll drink them.
Before I go any further I do want to acknowledge that my interest in this style was almost exclusively kindled by my good friend & brewer at Joseph James, Weston Barkley. If he weren’t a pro brewer himself I’d be tempted to stage a fake Big Dog’s Pro-Am contest just to be able to brew his Helles recipe on a large scale. And drink it on a healthy scale too. I’ve reached out to him to see if he has any interest in sharing the recipe for you fine folks.
Assuming Weston won’t come to your house and brew a Helles for you, I’ve found Mahr’s Hell to be a pretty nice (albeit not cheap) replacement.
The first book I look to whenever I want to brew a new style is Brewing Classic Styles. The second is usually Designing Great Beers. I strongly urge you to buy both books as they are very useful references and they support very worthwhile people. I’ll post a few relevant pages of both and hopefully my favorite brewcasters and my Cicerone Godfather don’t get too upset.
Here’s Jamil & John Palmer’s Helles recipe. I’ll likely brew it as is first to have a baseline:
Here are Ray Daniels thoughts on the style, a couple loose recipes, & a Munich water profile:
Daniels seems to have taken a little more hop forward approach, which is something I’ll steer clear of to start with. If anything I’ll keep the bittering charge around 18 IBU & do a whirlpool or dry hop addition of something fun & fruity. Motueka comes to mind. The other thing that stands out to me is the Munich water profile that Daniels shares. A 2:1 Sulfate:Chloride ratio should make for a more dry & bitter tasting beer if anything Jamil & Palmer have taught me is true.
In one of their water shows around the 27 minute mark they discuss water profiles for Czech pils, German pils, Helles & Dortmunder Export. Helles is discussed specifically at the 33 minute mark. My notes from listening say:
Munich Helles – Med mineral content water, 50-70ppm Ca levels, now you want Chloride to dominate more than Sulfate, softer less bitter, build Ca level with more CaCl.
Palmer isn’t very specific about what ratio should be shot for so I’ll probably shoot for 1.5 times more Chlorides than Sulfates. I’ll also use RO water directly from Big Dog’s so that whatever water profile I end up with is as close as possible to doing a 15bbl batch. I’ll likely also sparge with RO as a scientific-minded buddy of mine thinks that is the way to go. Any mineral additions meant for post-mash will go into the ‘kettle’.
It is at this juncture that I wish I were the R&D brewer for some place like White Labs or New Belgium. I’d love to try the same recipe with a ton of different yeasts, water profiles, fermentation temps, etc. We’ll see what I can get my bad self into. My freezer will only fit 3 or 4 carboys at time. It’s a hard knock life.
As I said, the first recipe I brew will be Jamil & Palmer’s:
90.9% Pilsner, 6.8% Munich, 2.3% Melanoidin. (Single infusion mash at 150 as a protein rest & various step mashing procedures would be difficult to pull off at Big Dog’s.)
Other notable grain bills are Ray Daniels’ (I’m assuming Ayinger Helles malt is close to Pilsner):
77% Pils, 10% Wheat, 10% Carapils, 3% Belgian Biscuit AND 80% Pils, 11% Carapils, 9% Munich
Daniels definitely seems to hop a touch more aggressively, as he addes 20 & 5 minute additions.
Also, I re-listened to a little bit of the old Brewing Network Jamil Show Helles episode where Jamil & Jon Plise started discussing the merits of protein rests, carafoam, etc. A very worthwhile listen if you’re crafting your own crack at the style.
Hopefully all the resources I’ve hunted down are pretty good for pointing not only myself, but anyone else interested in brewing this style in the right direction. I personally think the style has some potential openings for some good old Americanizing with dry hopping, but that’ll come in due course.
Finally, I’ll be going with Jamil’s recommended yeast strain WLP 838 Southern German Lager for the first brew. White Labs rates it perfect for the style.
I also have WLP 830 German Lager (which rates a 2 of 4 for Helles by White Labs) and WLP 833 German Bock Lager (which rates a 4). It’d be interesting to brew the same recipe on all 3 strains, although I doubt I’ll have that level of discipline.
Well, that’s all the Helles talk I have for now. I’ll report back when I’ve started cranking out brews!
I’ll leave you with a pic of my lady Rachel AKA Penguin and our good buddy Sarah doing some solid day drinking at the new Pizza Port location in Carlsbad (which is awesome by the way).
Be well brewing brothers and sisters!