Pilsner Urquell clone (Czech Pilsner)


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Nov 20, 2015
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I've been researching this for several days now, reading up on the Czech Pilsner style of brewing, and I realize it's going to be a little trickier than a standard ale, but I think I'm ready. Has anyone made a Pilsner and have any advice to offer?

In addition to the longer boiling time (to drive off undesired sulfur compounds) and the uber-soft water profile needed to start with, and of course the lower controlled fermentation temps required, are there any other things I might need to know about that you can think of? This will be the first time I have used a liquid yeast strain, and I want to create a starter of sufficient size to make the brew ferment fast and clean. How would you recommend I create a starter for this batch?


My wife and I recently became friends with a lady from the Czech Republic, and she loves the local brewery's offerings...as long as they're of the lighter styles. She can tolerate some wheat beers, really likes the Oktoberfest the brewery makes, but she really likes Pilsner Urquell. Anyone can buy Urquell and drink it, but the brewery doesn't offer any lagers yet and I've always wanted to try brewing one. I don't want to screw this up if I can help it.
only thing is make sure your water is good clean, no chlorine and the ph is low
Fermentation control is key. If you can't ferment at 50 degrees F and lager near freezing, forget it and make a California Common. Your ingredient list will make a pilsner, the acidulated malt will take care of some of the alkalinity in harder water, as would addition of calcium. Use the water calculator on this site to help you make choices based on residual alkalinity, the key variable of water chemistry for brewing. If I were brewing this, I'd start with RO or distilled water and build it up to at least 40 ppm calcium, using calcium chloride because you want to favor malt over hops in a pils. If you do that, you may be able to take the acidulated malt out and spare yourself some tartness in the beer.

Your starter should be as big as you can reasonably make it. You don't need temperature control for the starter, in fact, the yeast will favor warmer temps as long as they're not too extreme. You're looking for reproduction here, not beer quality. Make the starter at least a quart/liter, oxygenate the wort well to give the yeast a good running start on the fermentation and you should be fine. I'll generally do a 1.5 quart (liter) starter for a lager and it seems to work for me. A side note: Czech Pilsners in Czech Republic are generally diacetyl bombs, not the "clean" lager they send over here. No surprise: Diacetyl actually tastes pretty good in fresh beers, at least until it oxidizes and becomes nasty. So don't be surprised if that's what you get. Larger starters and good fermentation control should take care of that problem.
Thanks for the assistance. Colder temps, check. Have access to two freezers with Johnson thermostatic controls on them, so it shouldn't be a problem. As for the water, thought I'd go with the distilled and "build it up" from there. Have seen several sites with suggestions on how to do that, so I'm prepared.

I'll check with my friend on the taste to see if she remembers any noticeable differences between the bottled stuff and what she gets back home. She's never mentioned it, so I'll probably try to keep that diacetyl stuff to a minimum. Only the final product will tell. Is that from personal experience, Nosybear?

Another newb question because I've never done a liquid yeast or starter. What should I used to make the starter? Can't wait till brew day to get some of the wort to use, so I'll have to make it from LME or DME, but what should I used? And how much nutrient/energizer/pH adjustment should I do on it before pitching?
I use dme but one thing to keep in mind, no light, especially florescent and keep the starter the same temperature as what you will be fermenting at, let it grow for at least 24 hours
I have plenty of thick beach towels dedicated to making shrouds for all my carboys. All beer in glass, especially, gets treated to total darkness, and if I think about it I wrap my white buckets as well.
Ozarks, I've never heard to block the starter from light. I thought that was mostly to protect the hops in a finished beer. Are yeast susceptible to the ligt as well?
Fwiw I use dme too. Easier to measure out and close the package back up reasonably well
its not all light just UV and florescent mostly but its best just to cover the flask with a cloth anyway, it wont kill the yeast, and not always but it can cause unwanted flavors
Thought of something else that has me concerned... What about storage of the final product. Going to bottle it (preferably in dark-amber bottles). I'm assuming it has to be stored cold, since that's its usually clime. It's been cold fermented, cold lagered, seems like the obvious storage temp would be at or below lagering temp. Is that correct?

The concern is, where to put all this beer? That's a lot of pilsner to store at refrigerator temps!! Oh well, I'm sure I can find some volunteers to "hang onto it" for me. :p
I think, stress think, that once it's lagered and all properly it can be stored at normal room temps. I have no direct experience whatsoever, just what I read somewhere
All right, thank you. Will be making it soon once the ingredients come in, then I'll be brewing shortly thereafter.
Drat, another question: I'm slightly increasing the alcohol content of this brew, up from around 4.5% to at least 6%. 4.5% is just too low for my liking. It's never really been an issue with other, darker ales and stouts, etc. Whether it's 5% or 8% (slightly noticeable taste if you know what you're looking for). Is it going to matter much in a pilsner like this? How noticeable will a jump like that be?

I couldn't care less about entering it into any contests and being "outside the standard". I don't think it will be an issue, taste-wise.

I've tweaked the recipe a little, removed the acidulated malt, and had to change yeasts (my favorite site doesn't have the other available right now).
Light generally is only a problem if the starter wort has been hopped. Since I generally don't hop my starter wort, I don't worry about light. I generally decant most of the starter beer anyway, a good idea since you're generally not fermenting the starter at the same temperatures as you willl ferment the beer.
And room temperature storage is fine after lagering.
Well, this was my first lager/pilsner, so I went into it relatively blind. Got my starter going on Wed morning, pitched it on Saturday afternoon. Did the whole thing (well, sorta...poured off about 100ml and noticed that there was only a tiny amount of sediment, so decided to use the whole thing after that) and just swirled it up really well and divided into each fermenter. Things took off like a rocket!!

Dropped the temp down over a couple of days to 48 deg and it's been there a couple of days now, rocking right along. The stuff looks amazing, and the smell is incredible, tasted like a dream. Could have drank several glasses of the unfermented stuff right out of the kettle after cooling. It was one of the better tasting beers I've had at that stage, so I think that bodes well for the final product.

I see so much conflicting info on what temp to ferment at, when to do a diacetyl rest, and how long and at what temp to lager for... I'm getting worried that I've decided to go with the wrong advice.

Decided on 48 deg until gravity starts to level off and approaches final expected gravity...
Going to do a diacetyl rest at "60 to 70 deg for 1 to 3 days".. Not even sure what I will decide on here..
and then lager for 4 to 20 weeks around 34 to 45 deg...all kinds of conflicting info here.

Any advice what to do at this point? What have you guys learned from lagering over the years?

Oh, and I've read in a couple of places that it's a good idea to re-pitch some yeast at bottling time to get good carbonation, otherwise the yeast may be too pooped out after all the cold storage to do a decent job. What do you think about that?
I've only been lagering for about a year. My standard method is as follows.

I do the primary fermentation at 55° for about 3 weeks. I rack to a secondary when fermentation is complete. I lower the temperature 1.7°C (it's a celcius temperature controller) per day until the temperature reaches 1.1°C (34°F). When it hits the final temp, I lager for exactly 4 weeks. Then I bottle it, without adding more yeast. I do not do a diacetyl rest. I've never noticed the diacetyl flavor upon racking to secondary. I figure that the bottles sitting at room temp (basement temp) for 3 weeks will clean up any off flavors I didn't notice.

I've been very pleased with my lagers so far, especially my Munich Helles.
Ok, cool, I feel better now.

I have the temperature probe for the thermostat controller lying against the side of the glass carboy. Wasn't brave enough to try it with the temperature probe down in the carboy and brew itself. Have you noticed a difference in temperatures between external and inside the fermentation vessel? I've read that there can be a noticeable difference between the two.

The instructions that came with the controller said the recommended setting for the hysteresis number was 2 deg, so that the temperature would fluctuate by no more than 2 deg. So if I set it at 50 deg, the temp drops to 50 and then slowly rises back up to 52, then the thing kicks in and turns on the freezer again to drop the temp back to 50 deg. What do you have yours set at? The manufacturer didn't recommend setting it too low because not only would it degrade the useful lifespan of the controller, it could also damage your freezer unit. (And the freezer I'm using is about 50 years old!)
I have a cap on the carboy that has two holes in it. One has the airlock, and the other has a pinched off copper tube that has the temperature probe in it. It goes down into the brew. That way, the temperature of the brew is what kicks the freezer on and off, not the temperature of the air in the cabinet. I use a STC-1000 controller. The default temperature variance is 0.3°C. I also have a heatband (fermwrap) to help the temperature stay stable. The cooling power of the freezer is enough to make the temperature get too low, so the fermwrap helps keep it stable.
Drat, might be time for another few upgrades or so. Sigh, does it ever end? :roll:

I hope not. :lol:
I don't even remember what all I typed in last night!! Post disappeared...

This was a smashing success.. great foamy head with nice marbled appearance on top after sitting for a few minutes, tasted crisp clean and refreshing, awesome light golden color almost as pale as the original, friends and family who have tried it have said it is delicious.

I ended up a little high on the abv (~9.0%) but that's fine by me. My dad was like, "Man, you can feel that even after just one glass! Tastes great though." I thought it had a nice crisp clean taste with just the right amount of noble Saaz hops flavor that you taste prominently up front but then disappears very quickly so you want more to get that taste back almost immediately. Just how I planned it.

The lagering phase seemed to really bring out the clarity and clean-ness of the flavor. I will definitely be doing some more lagers, this was my first.

Thanks for the all the help you guys gave me and suggestions and such. I think the extra process and steps will be worth a few repeats. And I know I won't be "loaning" anymore kegs of my precious homebrew out. A friend of mine was supposed to store it in his kegerator then call us to come over and share it... Nope, not one invite, and he keeps posting on Facebook how good it is. I'll just be bottling for a little while longer until I can get my own kegerator and tap setup.

Don't be hatin' on my repurposed Corona bottle. It's the only type of bottle I have enough of that are clear to show off the brew. And every pic I take of it is a little bit darker than what it looks like in person. The camera tends to darken it a little for some reason.


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