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Summer Refresh

It's June and it's definitely time for me to brew a lager or two for summer. Truth be told I should really have started last month but I really wanted to brew that Punk IPA clone again.

Anyway the plan for today was going to be my third batch of Phoney Peroni but I forgot to include Flaked Maize in my last grain order so instead I'm going to do a straight-up Saaz pilsner with the addition of a significant amount of brewing sugar (a.k.a. corn sugar) to lighten the body and hopefully give a nice refreshing summer quaffer.

Yeast starter day

Yeast starter day for a lager means breaking out my biggest 5 litre flask because I'll be pitching a 2 litre starter into the beer and keeping 500ml back in the fridge for the next time. The yeast for this summer's run of lagers will be Wyeast 2278 which is supposedly one of Urquell's strains. I got lucky with the best before date on this pack from The Malt Miller because if it really is +6 months from manufacturing date then this pack was made just a week or two ago. This means more yeast cells and a healthier starter.

2.5 litres of Ashbeck and 250g of DME boiled for 10 minutes then chilled down to 20C makes up the starter.

This was placed in the brew fridge on a stir plate on Tuesday night at 20C and removed on Friday morning when it had fermented out completely. 500ml of the mixture was decanted into a Kilner jar and put into the kitchen fridge for next brew day. The remaining 2 litres chills in the brewfridge for a couple of days until brew day on Sunday.

Brew day

Recipe Specifications
Recipe: Summer Refresh
Date: 4 June 2023
Batch Size (fermenter): 24.00 L
Estimated OG: 1.046 SG
Estimated Color: 6.1 EBC
Estimated IBU: 28.7 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 75.6 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes
Finished water profile: Ca:46, Mg:3, Na:9, SO4:10, Cl:76

Amt         Name                                                 Type          %/IBU    
29.01 L     Tesco Ashbeck                                        Water        
2.10 ml     Lactic Acid (Mash)                                   Water Agent   80%      
2.50 g      Calcium Chloride (Mash)                              Water Agent           
3.658 kg    Weyermann Eraclea Pilsner Malt (4.5 EBC)             Grain
0.50 g      Calcium Chloride (Sparge)                            Water Agent           
0.20 ml     Lactic Acid (Sparge)                                 Water Agent   80%      
0.700 kg    Corn Sugar (Dextrose) [Boil] (0.0 EBC)               Sugar         16.1 % 
15.00 g     Columbus/Tomahawk/Zeus (CTZ) [14.30 %] - Boil 60 min Hop           24.2 IBUs
10.00 g     Saaz [2.60 %] - Boil 15.0 min                        Hop           1.5 IBUs 
15.00 g     Saaz [2.60 %] - Boil 10.0 min                        Hop           1.6 IBUs 
1.00 Items  Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 7.0 mins)                     Fining                
25.00 g     Saaz [2.60 %] - Boil 5.0 min                         Hop           1.5 IBUs 
1.0 pkg     Czech Pilsner Lager (Wyeast Labs #2278) [124.21      Yeast         

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Medium Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 4.358 kg
Name              Description                             Step Temperat Step Time  
Mash In           Add 24.01 L of water at 70.7 C          66 C        60 min    

Sparge: Dunk sparge with 5L of 75C water.

CTZ isn't the most well-known of bittering hops for a lager but along with forgetting to buy Flaked Maize I also forgot to buy Magnum hops so I had to make do. I think that the fact they're only going in for the bitterness and I'm only extracting 24 IBU from them shouldn't be a problem. We'll see. I hope it doesn't taste like an IPA.

Brew day went fine. The brewing sugar was spooned in to the boil at around half an hour when I had some free time. As long as it gets boiled to sterilise it then it doesn't matter when it goes in. Spooning it in reduces the risk of it clumping and hitting the kettle element where it would burn. It also means that the boil doesn't temporarily stop due to the reduction in temperature caused by 700g of room temperature sugar going in.

The wort was extremely pale as expected and I hit 1.043 versus the predicted 1.046. This seems to be a common theme when I use brewing sugar so I might reduce the expected yield in beersmith for that ingredient going forward. I got it down to about 20C with the immersion chiller and then put it into the brew fridge at around 11am.

Pitching temperature will be 11.5C and there's no chance it wll be down to that level on brew day so I planned to pitch the following morning.

Sure enough by the following morning we were at pitching temperature so I decanted the spent beer off the starter, swirled up the yeast from the bottom of the flask and tipped it in.

By the evening there was some evidence of activity in the blow-off tube (lagers are slow to start) and the following morning it was fermenting nicely.


The planned schedule is about 10 days at 11.5C and then I'll let it freely rise to 16C over the course of a few days for a diacetyl rest. It can sit there until 3 weeks is up and then I'll keg it and store at 6.5C until I'm ready to drink it.

Kegging day

So it's 3 weeks since fermentation started and it's gone to plan with the final week being the diacetyl rest at 16C. I boiled and cooled about 200ml of water to 75C then added a sheet of leaf gelatine and stirred to dissolve it. I then added the gelatine to the keg and filled the keg from the tap on the fermenter.

I then took a sample and proceeded to collect a further 4 bottles from the remaining beer in the keg.

The FG was a remarkable 1.003 giving an alcohol content of 5.3%. The extra-low FG is not really surprising given that I pitched a very large starter of healthy yeast, included 16% corn sugar in the recipe and left it to ferment for a good 3 weeks.

The sample jar tasted fine and was very clear but it's too early to tell whether my use of CTZ as a bittering hop has had any discernable impact on the final flavour.

The keg was purged with 5x15psi bursts of CO2 and is now set at 20psi to carbonate and condition over the next few weeks. Due to my keezer also housing my Punk'd Up No.2 the conditioning will be done at 12C. I'll drop it to the correct lager temperature of 6C as soon as the Punk'd Up keg has gone.

Tasting notes

Well this has been an interesting one. Yes it's light in body and in colour, and has come out with the expected sparkling clarity and satisfactory carbonation. It's obviously a Saaz lager by taste but the use of the CTZ for bittering is a new experience for me. The smooth and predictable, some might say boring, bitterness that I would usually get from Magnum is replaced by something rather more spicy and edgy. It's not enough to take away the crispness that defines a lager and if I had to compare this to another lager I'd say it's rather like the original 5.2% Belgian-brewed Stella Artois with that distinctintive flavour imparted by the Belgian yeast. So maybe a poor-man's Stella Artois? It certainy could be. Now I'm rather looking forward to tasting my Austrian Pilsner that is currently conditioning and was also bittered with CTZ.