Gluten-Free German Pilsner February 22 2021, 0 Comments

I never used to like the German Pilsner style until I made a glutenous one years ago for a wedding present. Then when Working Draft Beer Co started making Hindsight German Pilsner, I was hooked for sure. Until my body said "sorry, no more gluten."

So for the past couple years I've been jonesin' for a good pilsner. And now that my basement temperature is close to 55F, I've got the perfect place to ferment one. So it's time to take a stab at a good old fashioned German Pilsner, sans the gluten. Ok, maybe my version is going to be too hoppy to be an old fashioned German Pilsner, but it'll still be tasty. Hopefully...

The Recipe

  • 7.5lb White Pale Millet Malt
  • 2.25lb Pale Rice Malt
  • .2lb Light Biscuit Rice Malt
  • 1.75lb Rice Hulls
  • .5lb Maltodextrin (10min)
  • 1oz Tradition Hops (60min)
  • 3oz Tettnanger Hops (1.5oz @ 25min, 1.5oz dry hop)
  • 2 packs Saflager w-34/70 dry yeast
  • 1 tsp Wyeast Beer Nutrient (10 min)
  • 1 tsp Irish Moss (10 min)
  • 1/4 Campden Tablet (pre-mash)
  • 15g Ondea Pro brewing enzymes (mash)
  • 10g Ceremix Flex brewing enzymes (mash)
  • 4.5 gallons reverse osmosis water

The Mash

I decided to not change anything from the mash process from the Frankenstein Porter. I got a good efficiency and more body with the finished beer, so I wanted to make sure that the extra body was not just from the London ESB dry yeast. 

My mash temperature was 165F for 90 minutes and then went with a batch sparge at 175F. I hit my pre-boil gravity target (1.035) and nailed the volume on the dot (7.5 gallons). Looking hopeful!

The Boil

Boil was uneventful, added my hops at the right time, cooling the wort took 20-25 minutes, and the wort was pretty clear coming out of the boil kettle.

I was a tiny bit short on volume, just about a quart or so, and my gravity was 1.048, slightly above the 1.045 I was shooting for. The only thing I would change is more of the trub (mostly hops) made it into the fermenter than I would have liked. Next batch I'll give a little more time between the time I turn off the recirculating pump (hopefully creating a whirlpool effect) and when I start draining the kettle.

Post Boil

My fermentation temperature started around 57F, which is right at the upper level of this yeast's recommended range. A day or two after brewing, we got a really cold spell, which dropped the temperature downstairs a couple degrees.

Active fermentation started within 24 hours and was a nice steady pace for about 9 days, when it slowed quite a bit. I took a gravity reading, and it was 1.011, which meant time to do the diacetyl rest. So I brought the carboy upstairs and set the beer in a place that was around 64F. I also decided to do the dry hop at this point, to take advantage of the warmer temperatures to extract the hop oils more efficiently.

I was planning on doing a 3 day diacetyl rest, but something came up that made it so I was unable to attend to the beer when I wanted to, so it ended up being more like a 5 day rest (it tasted fantastic at this point). At that point I moved the beer down to the basement and the mid-50s for two days, then into the cooler to cold crash for two days.

Once the hops and other particulates dropped out of the beer, I went ahead and kegged it. Once I was done kegging, I ran a little out of the tap to take a final gravity reading and to sample it. And while the beer tasted great at the diacetyl rest, it definitely did not at this point. There was a fairly intense phenolic, slightly plastic flavor and aroma. Not pleasant at all. 

While I was very frustrated with this development, I figured I had come this far, I may as well let the beer lager for a few weeks, see if the yeast is able to clean up this mess.

Final Verdict

Whew! After two weeks of lagering, I went ahead and tasted the pils. The yeast had mostly cleaned up the phenolic character, and the beer tasted much better. There was still a little more Sulphur aroma than I would like, so I gave it two more weeks of lagering.

After 4 weeks of lagering (6 weeks total), the beer was ready to drink. I still get a touch of the phenolic character from time to time, but it's much, much better than at kegging time. It's really weird, some pours I really taste it, some pours I really have to search for it.

It's not quite as clear as I would like (I'm blaming the dry hops), so next time when I want a brilliantly clear beer, I'll use some clarifier. 

Not my best effort, but still a mostly drinkable, pleasing pilsner.

Lessons Learned

  • Patience! Give enough time between recirculating / whirlpool and draining the boil kettle to give the trub / hop material enough time to settle out.
  • Patience! When I tasted the brew at kegging, I was super disappointed and ready to dump the batch. But the yeast cleaned up (mostly) whatever the funky flavor in there was over a few weeks, so I was definitely glad I waited. Turns out Charlie Papazian was right, just relax and have a homebrew :)

Up next is a Munich Dunkel lager!