Friday, January 23, 2009

Sachsen Alt

If you’ve ever had an Alaskan Amber from Alaskan Brewing Co., then you’ve had a variation of a North German Alt. It’s a clean, dry and malty beer with yeast-bread overtones and a firm hop bitterness. This one is a “sticke” (secret) version, which is served unannounced by pubs a few times year. It’s a bit darker, bigger, and has a larger hop aroma than the regular Alt. With good yeast control, I’ve avoided the sweet, heavy character which is a common flaw in homebrew versions of this style.

  • .5 lbs. Weyermann CaraAmber
  • .125 lbs. Weyermann Carafa I
  • 6.3 lbs. Gold Amber Malt Syrup
  • 1 lb. Briess Amber DME
  • 1 lb. Briess Wheat DME
  • 2 ozs. German Tradition pellet hops 5.7% AAU (bittering)
  • 1 oz. Spalt pellet hops 4.0% AAU (aroma)
  • 1 oz. Hallertau Select (dry hopping)
  • WLP036 White Labs Platinum Series Dusseldorf Alt Yeast

I was looking for iconography for this label when I came upon this symbol, the Niedersachsenross, (a white horse on a red field).  I thought it an appropriate image for my interpretation of a Düsseldorf Alt.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Düsseldorf Domination!

I just brewed a strong Dusseldorf Alt, commonly known as a Sticke Alt, pitching a June 2008 tube of White Labs WLP 036, their Premier Series strain of Dusseldorf Alt.  The age of the yeast was a concern, so I built up a 2000ml starter over a week – uhh, not to worry, it’s churning like crazy, and the blowoff jug is now dark with expended wort.

That high-tech gadget on the carboy is a digital temperature probe with a styrofoam insulator and copious amounts of tape – the insulation is a method to obtain the temp of the wort, rather than the frig.  The controller is plugged into a low-heat dehydrator bottom, which supplies enough heat to maintain the wort temp at 60° for primary fermentation of this yeast (if you wanted to cool the wort, you just plug the controller into the frig).  Once I finish primary, I will crash both the Alt and the Pils in the background down to 36° for a month-long lager.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Peoples' Pilsner

A year before I had been denied a visa to Moscow, so I knew it was a long shot as I sat in the Czechoslovakian Embassy in Vienna, waiting for a sweaty, rotund and greasy-faced clerk to review my papers.  Just the day before I had been given a stern-faced no from the Yugoslavian Embassy.  I had managed travel to East Berlin twice because of the strange “Allied” status we enjoyed there, and didn’t want to leave the rest of Eastern Europe completely unexplored, so it was worth a try.  The Czech bureaucrat looked positively disappointed when he said that he was sorry, but no, I couldn’t hop the next train to Coffeehouse/Urquell-Land.  His look conveyed the helpless manner of a jovial but otherwise resigned Communist functionary, as if to say, “I know you’re no Yanqee Imperial Dog Spy,” but “Thems the rules, sorry mate.”  Was it the Jewish surname?  My status as an ambitious young Captain?  Leadership of the College Republicans?  That unfortunate incident with my soldiers showing their butts to the Czech border patrol when we visited the 11th ACR garrison?  I wasn’t in search of State Secrets, just a beer – I’ve always wondered why they considered me a threat – I knew of many other American officers that had traveled to the Bloc.  Seemed ridiculous at the time, even more so today.  I consoled myself with a delicious golden Pils from the gasthaus, and booked the next train to Seville via Barcelona (which led to a serendipitous side jaunt to Tangier and southern Morocco).  In retrospect, I should probably thank those Godless Commies for the trip of a lifetime.  In tribute, I brew this very simple and pleasantly bitter rendition of what I might have enjoyed during my own Prague Spring.

I highlight the absurdity with my own absurd phrase on the label:  “In Demokratic Czech Republic, Pilsner drinks you!”  Hats off to you Mr. Sweaty Bureaucrat, and hope you enjoyed the crushing defeat of the Soviet Empire by My People.  Cheers! 

  • 1 lb. Caramel Pils
  • 6.3 lbs. gold liquid malt extract
  • 1 oz. Galena (bittering)
  • 1 oz. Saaz (at 15 mins.)
  • Wyeast 2278 Czech Pils (fermented 2 weeks at 50°, then at 60° for diacetyl rest, lagering at 36° for a month until clear)
Brewed December 2008.