Pilsners have a rich history dating back to the 19th century with the first Pilsner recipe being brewed in the city of Pilsen in the Czech Republic in 1842. This new beer style was a major departure from the darker and more heavily-hopped beers that were popular then. It featured a pale color and a cleaner, crisper flavor and quickly became very popular with the masses.
The popularity of pilsner quickly spread throughout Europe and eventually made its way to the United States in the late 1800s. Today, pilsner is one of the most popular beer styles worldwide enjoyed by countless beer lovers around the globe.
So whether you’re a home brewer or simply a fan of this crisp & refreshing beer you have come to the right place. In this article, we are going to provide you with a pilsner recipe as well as explain the best grains, hops, yeast, and water to use if you want to design your own pilsner recipe, we will also take a quick look at the characteristics that make it the worlds most popular style of beer, so let’s get to it…
Table of Contents
The following is a simple but true-to-style pilsner recipe you can try for yourself, if you want to modify it or design your own see the section further in this article.
8 lbs Pilsner malt
1 lb Munich malt
2 oz Saaz hops (60 min)
1 oz Saaz hops (15 min)
1 oz Hallertau hops (5 min)
1 package lager (pilsner) yeast
1 tsp Irish moss (15 min)
1 cup priming sugar for bottling
Begin by milling your grains and heat up 5.5 gallons of water to a strike temperature of 156F
Add your grains to the water and mix until the temperature drops to 150F and hold for 60 min, maintaining the temperature by adding heat if necessary, this is your mash step
Drain the grains and rinse with 170F water
Boil the wort for 60 minutes, adding the Saaz hops at the start of the boil and the Irish moss at the 15-minute mark.
With 15 minutes left in the boil add 1 oz of Saaz hops.
With 5 minutes left in the boil add 1 oz of Hallertau hops.
After the boil, cool the wort to 50F as quickly as possible and transfer it to your fermenter.
Pitch the yeast and ferment at 50-55F for 7 days.
Rack the beer to a secondary fermenter and condition at 50-55F for 10-14 days.
Once primary fermentation is complete, transfer your beer to a fermenter or keg and allow it to lager at 34-38F for 4-6 weeks. This step allows the beer to mature and for any harsh flavors or aromas to subside.
Bottle or keg the beer adding priming sugar if you bottle or naturally carbonate in the keg. Allow the beer to condition for another 14 days at 50-55F
Note: Adjust the hopping, fermentation, and lagering schedule as you see fit depending on your personal taste and the capabilities of your equipment. This recipe is for a 5-gallon batch, and you can adjust the ingredients accordingly if you wish to brew a larger or smaller batch. The lagering step although not essential to create a good-tasting beer, is important if you wish to brew a true Pilsner, the 4 – 6 week cold conditioning creates a clean and crisp beer that lagers are known for.
Pilsner Style Profile
Appearance – Pilsners are known for being a clear beer that is light golden in color with a white frothy head. The carbonation level should be high and the beer in general could be described as being sparkling.
Aroma – When it comes it aroma it should be delicate aroma and have a subtle blend of floral and spicy notes that come from the hops, it should also have a slight bready aroma that comes from the malt.
Taste – The taste should be crisp and clean with a delicate balance of bitterness along with a subtle sweetness, it should always taste smooth and have a slightly dry finish.
Mouthfeel – Pilsners have a light to medium body with a refreshing and crisp mouthfeel. The carbonation level should be high, which adds to its refreshing mouthfeel.
Food Pairing – This is a style of beer that is considered to pair well with many foods. They are particularly well-suited to light and fresh dishes such as salads, seafood, and grilled meats. They also complement spicy foods like Thai or Mexican cuisine and are also a great match with cheeses such as cheddar and gouda. Their light and crisp nature make them a good pairing for brunch items such as omelets, quiches, and frittatas.
Tips to Design Your Own Pilsner Recipe
If you wish to make your own pilsner recipe or simply modify the recipe we provided the following tips will ensure that you are within the style guidelines for this beer.
The grains you choose are crucial for achieving the light and crisp profile that defines the style. The best grains for a pilsner recipe are Pilsner malt and a small percentage of Munich malt. Pilsner malt is known for its delicate flavor and light color, while Munich malt adds a touch of complexity and a slight bready flavor. Some brewers also like to add small amounts of specialty grains such as Cara-pils or Cara-Vienna for added depth and a slight sweetness.
When it comes to hops, traditional pilsners are known for their use of noble hops. Noble hops are a group of traditional European hops that are known for their mild, spicy, and floral flavor profile. The most commonly used noble hops in pilsner recipes are Saaz and Hallertau. Both of these hops impart a subtle spicy and floral character to the beer, as well as a pleasant bitterness.
Unknown to most people when they first start brewing yeast actually plays a major role in the flavor and aroma of the beer. The yeast used in a pilsner recipe is lager yeast. Lager yeast is a type of yeast that ferments at cooler temperatures and is known for its ability to produce a clean and crisp flavor. The most commonly used lager yeast in pilsners is German Pilsner & Czech Pils yeast, which both impart a delicate floral and spicy aroma, as well as a dry and crisp finish, however, most lager yeasts will also work well.
There are several brands of lager yeasts that are used to brew pilsners by both homebrewers and professional brewers. Some of the most popular brands include:
Wyeast Laboratories 2278: This yeast is known for its ability to produce a clean and crisp pilsner with the aroma and flavors this style is known for.
White Labs German lager WLP830: This yeast is similar to the Wyeast 2278 in that it produces a clean and crisp pilsner with a similar aroma and flavor.
Fermentis Saflager S-23: This is a dry yeast that is widely used in the production of many styles of lager. It ferments well at colder temperatures, which results in a clean and crisp beer that lagers including pilsners are known for.
Danstar Diamond Lager: Another dry yeast, this yeast results in a pilsner with a more bready and malty taste than the other yeasts mentioned, which could be a good fit if you want a more malt-forward pilsner.
When it comes to water, soft water is the best water to use in a pilsner recipe. Hard water contains minerals that can affect the flavor and color of the beer. Whereas soft water, on the other hand, allows the delicate flavors of the grains and hops to shine through. If your tap water is hard, there are a few ways to make it soft for brewing. One way is to use a water filtration system, another is to use a water treatment such as a campden tablet, and yet another way is to mix your tap with 50/50 with use distilled or reverse osmosis water, however, do not use all distilled water as it is lacking the minerals needed to aid with fermentation. This post goes more into detail on how to adjust your brewing water.
As you have seen a pilsner is a classic beer style that is loved for its crisp and refreshing taste. Designing a pilsner recipe requires the right combination of Pilsner malt, noble hops, lager yeast, and soft water which are all considered to be essential for brewing a beer that is truly representative of the style. By following the tips in this guide, you’ll be well on your way to brewing a pilsner that is both delicious and true to style. As always remember this is homebrewing and meant to be fun so experiment with different ingredients to find your own perfect pilsner recipe.
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