The following German Pils recipe is a take on the popular and most consumed style of beer in the world i.e. the German Pilsner or Pils for short. No other beer in history has inspired as many brewers to attempt to replicate it and even create their own regional variations. In fact, it is so widely consumed that reports have it that 90% of the beer consumed worldwide is either a direct replica of this style or an offshoot of it.
Our recipe focuses on the classic German style of this beer which although duplicated around the world is vastly different from many of its variations, especially in North America. It is significantly more sophisticated than the watered-down, flavorless mass-produced commercial versions found on grocery store shelves.
Instead, this classic has a significant depth of flavor achieved by using high-quality ingredients and adhering to strict brewing protocols such as multi-step mashing with single decoction also being a fairly common practice.
The result is an elegantly light-colored and crystal clear beer where fast-moving carbonation bubbles rise towards a fluffy white head. However, the beauty of this beer is so much more than its appearance with a flavor that is crisp and refreshing it is a delightfully balanced lager with a short dry finish.
German Pilsner Characteristics
Appearance – All though similar in color these beers do vary in shades of light straw, to pale to soft gold. They are always crystal clear with very noticeable fast-rising carbonation bubbles and a white head that is long-lasting.
Aroma – A sweet and grainy malt aroma prevails with this style that could be described as being cracker-like. Hop aroma is noticeable, however not like North American beers that are heavily citrus leaning, but rather hints of spice, herbs, and earth from the German noble hop varieties that are used.
Taste – There is a grainy sweetness to this beer derived from the malts, however, it is evenly balanced by the bitterness the hops provide which would be described as being moderate. A hop flavor will be noticeable but not overpowering and like its aroma will lean towards characteristics of flowery, spicy, herbal, and earthy. The finish is crisp and dry.
Mouthfeel – The mouth feel of the beer is soft and light bodied. Carbonation is typically medium to high and with a short finish.
Tips to Brew a German Pils Recipe
As indicated we are going to provide you with a recipe you can use to brew this beer, however, if you wish to build your own recipe from scratch or modify the one we provide, the following tips will help you do so while staying as close as possible to the original version of this style.
The Grain Bill – If you are staying as true and authentic to this beer style as possible then a German Pils recipe would never include any specialty grains and the only malt you would use is European Pilsner.
You will find some brewers adding to the grain bill in their recipe by including a very pale crystal malt (under 10% of the grain bill) as well as some Munich malt which adds a little bit of color, typically around 5% of the grain bill.
The Mash – Although not necessary if you want to really dial the quality of this beer in then consider step mashing. Step mashing is simply a technique where you increase the temperature of the mash a few times throughout the mash. For example, you could start your mash at 148℉ and hold it there for 40 minutes., then take it up to 160℉ for 40 minutes, followed by 10 minutes at 170℉. It is said by doing so you will increase the body and the head of the beer.
A single decoction is another technique applied by many brewers when making a German Pilsner, it is a little more technical and requires a bit more time, and is definitely not necessary but if you wish to try it for yourself simply remove approximately ⅓ of your mash at the end of the 2nd step in your mash and boil it for 10 minutes (stir it well), then add it back to your mash which in theory should bring the mash temperature up to the level you want for the 3rd step i.e. 170℉.
Another technique employed by some brewers instead of decoction is to add Melanoidin malt to the mash at approximately 3% of the grain bill.
Hops Type, Amount & Schedule – German noble hop varieties are used in this recipe. The most commonly used are Tettnager, Hallertau, and Spalter; sometimes you will see Perle and Magnum as well. One bittering hop addition is all that is required however some recipes will include one or two late hop additions at the 10 – 15 minute mark and then again at flameout.
For your bittering strive for an IBU range of 30 – 40. With 5-gallon batches the late hop additions should be no more than 0.5 ounces each.
The Boil – Where Pilsner malt is the base grain for this beer you will want to do a 90-minute boil in order to reduce the chances that DMS will ruin your beer. DMS is an off flavor that is a sulfur compound and in high concentrations is considered an off flavor.
Yeast Strain – Being a lager you will want to use a lager yeast strain, European yeasts are good, however, a German yeast strain is better. Any of these strains will allow for a clean and well-attenuated beer with a dry and crisp finish. If you are using a liquid yeast then a yeast starter is recommended and if you prefer dry yeast then be sure to pitch more than you would with an ale, typically two packets will suffice.
Wyeast and White labs both have some good Bavarian yeast strains and for dry yeast Saflager W-34/70 is recommended and Mangrove Jack has a Bavarian Lager yeast (M76) you can try.
Fermenting – There are two trains of thought when it comes to fermenting Pils or any lager for that matter. The first is the slow and steady method where you ferment between 48 – 55℉ until fermentation is completed, which for lagers will typically take 2 to 3 weeks.
The second method is to still begin fermentation between 48 – 55℉ and leave it there until it is 50% attenuated, depending on the original gravity of the beer this can take anywhere from 5 – 14 days. Once 50% attenuation has been reached turn the temperature up to 65 – 68℉, you can do so in 5-degree increments or all at once. Leave the beer at this temperature until fermentation is completed before moving onto the lagering stage.
Lagering – Lagering beer is not as complicated as many novice brewers believe it to be, it simply involves racking your beer from your primary fermenter or carboy into a secondary and lowering the temperature down to near freezing (35 – 40℉), then leaving it there for a min of 2 weeks and in many cases close to 6 weeks. In the end, when the beer is crystal clear you have lagered a beer. If you like to use fining agents such as gelatin add them a few days before lagering is complete.
German Pils Recipe
The following Pilsner recipe will make for a deliciously crisp, clear, and refreshing Pils, feel free to modify it as you deem appropriate using the guidelines shared in this post. We tend to typically use dry yeast due to its ease of use, but if you prefer a liquid yeast there are plenty of German lager yeast strains to choose from.
Batch Size: 5 Gallons
9lb German Pilsner Malt
2oz Hallertau Mittelfruh (60 min)
0.5oz Tettnanger(10 min)
0.5oz Tettnanger (5 min)
Fermentis – Saflager – German Lager Yeast W-34/70
Recipe Instructions: Mash at 148℉ for 60 minutes, raise temperature to 170℉ and perform mash out for 10 minutes. Sparge with 170℉ water. Bring to boil and boil for 90 minutes adding hops as per schedule. Chill wort to yeast pitching temperature (see back of yeast packet). Transfer to the primary fermenter, pitch yeast, and ferment as discussed above. At the end of secondary fermentation proceed to lagering.
There is nothing quite like a lager brewed from an original German pilsner recipe. If you have been wanting to try to brew a lager but were nervous to do so we recommend you try this recipe, it is very simple and will provide for a great-tasting beer.
P.S. If you want more recipes be sure to check out our gift to you on the side of the blog or at the bottom and get access to Big Robb’s top 5 favorite recipes from his brewpub. Cheers!