How to Brew a Czech Pilsner

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The Czech Pilsner is a popular beer which dates back to 1842, when it was first developed in Pilsen, Bohemia. Pilsner Urquell is one of the most popular brands of Pilsner, and it is actually made in Pilsen, Czech Republic today. Pilsner beers are distinct in that they are bottom-fermented (a relatively new phenomenon; before the 1840s this was not the case). Bottom-fermented beers are brewed in cool, dark places in the Bavarian style. This process creates a clear beer, gold in color, with a very long shelf life. Until the 1990s, Pilsner Urquell brewed its Pilsner beer in open barrels under the brewery in a traditional fashion, and the brewery only recently switched to the use of vats for brewing. The Pilsner you brew at home will be light in flavor, not as bitter as German Pilsners, nor as sweet as those from Belgium.

Brewing a Czech Pilsner is no small task. This particular kind of beer requires some specific ingredients — and the closer you can come to matching the ingredients, the better. First, this style of Pilsner should be brewed with 100% pilsner malt for the grain, and the wort should be boiled for longer than usual (close to 90 minutes). Noble hops (spices and flavors) are essential for a pilsner, and depending on the flavor you desire, Saaz (Bohemian) or Hallertau (German) are good options. Make sure to start with a lot of yeast, and keep an eye on the fermentation temperature to keep it as close to exact as possible. Finally, be sure not to brew with only distilled or only tap water; use a half/half mixture or something close.

Brewing the beer will take between 6 and 8 hours, so be prepared. The ingredients are as follows:

7 pounds crushed Pilsner malt
8 gallons of water
1.5 pounds of light dry malt extract
5 ounces of hops (Saaz or German hops will do)
23 oz. dry lager yeast

Line a kettle that is 7.5 gallons or larger with an appropriate mesh bag and fill with 2.5 gallons of water. Bring to 157 degrees. Turn off heat and add the Pilsner malt to the water inside the bag. Stir for 2 minutes and cover, stirring every 20 minutes for the next 90 minutes. During this time, heat 3 more gallons of water to 190 degrees, and after 90 minutes, add this water to the mash. The final temperature should be about 170 degrees. Remove the grain bag but allow it to drain for about 8 minutes. Next, fill the kettle such that the volume increases to 6.5 gallons and add the light dry malt extract. Bring the liquid to a boil and add 1.5 oz. of hops in a mesh bag. Boil for 70 minutes and then add 1 oz. of hops. Keep boiling, and after 85 minutes, add 1.5 oz. of hops. After 90 minutes, turn off the heat and add the remaining 1 oz. of hops.

At this point, keep everything that touches the wort sanitary. Place in an ice bath and cool to 70 degrees, then transfer to a sanitized fermentor and place in a refrigerator set to 48 degrees. When the wort gets to 50 degrees, stir for 5 minutes and add the yeast. Ferment for at least three weeks 48 degrees. Bring to room temperature for at least 12 hours before lagering for about 5 weeks at 35 degrees. The result will be a pleasant golden ale; enjoy!

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