Czech Premium Pale Lager
"Brewed this a couple of months back and finally got to drink it. I have to say that this recipe is fantastic. I’m more of an ale drinker but this one just hits the spot. Everyone who has came to try this absolutely loves it... and I agree with them. This will be a regular for me." - rivetcatcher
Pilsner is a style of lager that originated in Plzen (pronounced Pilsen) Czechoslovakia in 1842, brewed as Pilsner Urquell. Today various styles of Pilsner beer exist such that this first pale lager style is now referred to as Czech Premium Pale Lager. (Prior to the 2015 BJCP style guidelines this style was referred to as a 'Bohemian Pilsner' or simply 'Bo-Pils' so you may see that name come up as well).
Prior to Pilsners, most beers were made with top-fermenting yeast and were dark in colour and somewhat hazy. In 1842, the Pilsner Urquell Brewery used a ground-breaking technique of methodical bottom fermenting with a new strain of yeast. The resulting brew, Pilsner, was a refreshing golden and bright beer that has now been adopted by breweries all over the world. It has been so successful in fact, that it is said that nine out of ten beers produced and consumed in the world are pale lagers based on Pilsner Urquell.
According to Pilsner Urquell there are three correct ways to pour their beer, each of which has a significant effect on the taste of the beer:
The three correct ways of pouring a Pilsner Urquell.
- Na dvakrát (crisp) has the least amount of foam of all the classic Pilsner pours. With a considerably smaller head, this style of pouring helps enhance the refreshing carbonation of the beer, which makes the flavour bright and refreshing.
- Hladinka (smooth) is the classic Czech way to pour Pilsner Urquell with half of the pint comprising of foam. This results in a perfectly balanced beer that is neither flat nor over-carbonated. What’s interesting is that when poured, the layer of foam is added first and then the beer is added below. The foam should be a smooth and sweet version of the beer, acting as a protective barrier preventing the lager below from oxidizing.
- Mliko (milk) is the closest thing you will get to a Pilsner ice cream and is made up of mostly foam, which may seem unusual. The result is a smooth and creamy pour with just a bit of beer at the bottom – and should be drunk quickly.
Pouring a Pilsner Urquell correctly requires a side pull faucet. Unlike a standard North American faucet where you pull the handle forward to dispense and then back to shut off, a side pull faucet operates more like a ball valve and allows the amount of foam to be controlled. Opening the handle only slightly creates dense wet foam while opening it completely provides a standard pour. The long spout is inserted into the glass and beer and helps create the head of foam. Similar to the restrictor plate found in stout faucets, side pull faucets include a micro screen which helps aerate the beer to create the creamy wet foam. A flow control lever allows the the pour to be fine-tuned.
Foam is added first, then beer is added below using a side pull faucet.
Over the years most big breweries have changed public perception towards Pilsners by brewing watered down representations of the original classic.
Unlike these big brewery commercial representations, this Czech Premium Pale Lager is a medium-bodied beer with a rich, grainy malt flavour (from the pilsner malt) that is complimented by a spicy and floral hop character (from the Czech Saaz hops).
Brew up a batch and let us know how you like it!
Czech Premium Pale Lager
Size: 12 US gallons (post-boil @ 68F)
Mash Efficiency: 95%
Calories: 180 kcal per 12 fl oz
Original Gravity: 1.054 (style range: 1.044 - 1.056)
Final Gravity: 1.014 (style range: 1.013 - 1.017)
Colour: 3.5 SRM (style range: 3.5 - 6)
Alcohol: 5.3% ABV (style range: 4.2% - 5.4%)
Bitterness: 39 IBU (style range: 35 - 45)
19 lb German pilsner malt (1.5-2.1L) (94.1%)
1.2 lb Carapils or Carafoam (1.4-2.9L) (5.9%)
6 oz Czech Saaz hops (2.6%) - added during boil, boiled 60 min [24.3 IBU]
4 oz Czech Saaz hops (2.6%) - added during boil, boiled 30 min [11.7 IBU]
1 Whirlfloc tablet (Irish moss) - added during boil, boiled 15 min
2 oz Czech Saaz hops (2.6%) - added during boil, boiled 10 min [3.3 IBU]
2 oz Czech Saaz hops (2.6%) - added immediately after boil
Wyeast 2001 Urquell Lager yeast or White Labs WLP800 Pilsner Lager yeast
(~909 billion cells [9-10 fresh packs] or an equivalent starter)
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Notes / Process
- Add 500mg potassium metabisulfite to 20 gallons water to remove chlorine / chloramine (if required).
- Water treated with brewing salts to our Soft flavour profile: Ca=21, Mg=5, Na=18, Cl=16, SO4=21. (Randy Mosher's ideal Pale Lager numbers. Just enough to acidify the mash while keeping the water soft.). Softer water (low in minerals) is required to brew a true Czech Premium Pale Lager. While hard water accentuates up-front hop-bitterness, soft water suppresses it. Because of the soft water, the bitterness is rounded, not rough, in spite of the relatively high hop loading. If your water is high in minerals, try cutting it with reverse osmosis (or distilled) water to reach the target numbers above. 50% reverse osmosis (or distilled) water reduces the mineral counts by half. For more information on how to adjust your water, refer to our step by step Water Adjustment guide.
- 1.5 qt/lb mash thickness.
- Start the mash at 120F (low end of the protein rest range) and immediately start raising to 154F (starch conversion / saccharification rest temperature) and hold for 90 mins.
- Raise to 168F mashout temperature and hold for 10 mins.
- ~90 min fly sparge with ~5.6-5.8 pH water (measured at mash temperature). Collect 14.9 gallons.
- Boil for 90 minutes, adding Whirlfloc and hops per schedule. Lid on at flameout, start chilling immediately.
- Cool the wort quickly to 50F (we use a one-pass convoluted counterflow chiller to quickly lock in hop flavour and aroma) and transfer to fermenter.
- Oxygenate the chilled wort to a level of 14 ppm dissolved oxygen. For more information refer to our Aerating / Oxygenating Wort guide.
- Pitch yeast and ferment at 50F (wort temperature). We use modified stainless fermenting buckets in wine fridges.
- Ferment until approximately 5 points from final gravity and then raise the temperature to 70-72F until finished. In our case we simply turn off the fermenting fridges and allow the beer to naturally rise to room temperature. Assume fermentation is done if the gravity does not change over ~3 days.
- Before packaging you may optionally rack to a brite tank (we use 5 gallon glass carboys) that has been purged with CO2 to avoid oxygen pickup, add 1 tsp of unflavoured gelatin dissolved in a cup of hot distilled water per 5 gallons of beer, and allow to clear for 2-3 days. In most cases we recommend skipping this step as the less you handle the beer and potentially expose it to oxygen, the better. The beer will drop brilliantly clear on its own during the conditioning period.
- Package as you would normally. We rack to kegs that have first been purged with CO2 and then chill to near freezing while carbonating at the same time in a 6-keg conditioning fridge. After ~1-2 weeks at serving pressure the kegs will be carbonated and ready to serve. In a hurry? Feel free to raise the CO2 pressure temporarily to 30-40 PSI to carbonate fast over a 24 period, and then turn back down to serving pressure.
- Carbonate this beer to around 2.5 volumes of CO2.
- This beer will improve greatly if conditioned just above freezing for at least 4 weeks before serving (6-8 weeks is better). Avoid keeping the beer unrefrigerated for extended periods. It will remain clean and crisp for months if kept near freezing.
For detailed brewing instructions, see our Brew Day Step by Step guide.
Questions? Visit our Czech Premium Pale Lager forum thread.
Pictures / Videos
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Pilsner Urquell brewery in Plzen. Image (c) aecom.com