So before we start, let me address the idea of an “Italian Pilsner.” There is quite a bit of debate on what an Italian Pilsner is or is not and there has been several good articles written about them. You can read one here and another here. I am not going to weigh in on what is or is not an Italian Pilsner. Why then am I calling it an Italian Pilsner you ask? Simple. It’s not my recipe. Almost exactly a year ago a friend of mine, Brett Smith, co-owner and head brewer at Branch and Bones Artisan Ales in Dayton, OH brewed a beer they called Gorlami. They called it an Italian Style Pilsner and it may very well be my favorite beer they have ever made (and that’s saying a lot because they are absolutely killing it across the board). Brett we generous enough to share his recipe and that is what I am brewing here, with the only change being the choice of yeast.
I decided that since I love this beer so much, I’d brew a large 1/2 BBL batch, which means I needed a larger starter. So, I decided to make a 5 gallon “starter” of an easy drinking light lager. To give it a bit of a twist, used Wind Malt From Sugar Creek malt Company as the base. Wind malt is a floor malted barley the is “kilned” by the sun and dried by the wind. It is quite unique and I was looking for an opportunity to show case this fun flat. The recipe was simple – 8lbs Wind Malt, 2lbs flaked corn and ~ 15 IBUs of EKG at 60 minutes. This kept he OG at ~ 1.040, where I typically make my starters. I mashed at 148F for an hour and after a 1 hour boil, cooled to 48 and pitched a 2 liter starter of yeast made with a fresh pack of Czech Lager. Fortunately, this we happening during the recent deep freeze so I was able to leave it in the garage with a heat wrap and it maintained temperature easily. As it approached final gravity, I raised the temp to 65F and after a few days, did a forced diacetyl test. A great write up for this can be found at https://escarpmentlabs.com/blogs/resources/the-forced-diacetyl-test. Detecting no diacetyl, I cold crashed and left the beer sitting cold on the yeast until the Italian Pilsner brew day.
This one could not be easier – 100% Avangard Pilsner Malt targeting a OG of 1.046. Mashed at 150F with very soft water – 14 PPM Ca2+, 15 PPM SO4- and 14 PPm Cl- and lactic acid to get the mash pH ~5.3. For a beer like this, I am all for simplicity. The graininess of the pilsner malt should come through while being dry and crisp.
This beer is all about the hops. This beer takes advantage of a wonderful Michigan Hop called Zuper Saazer, which offers the same delicate flavor as the more classic Saaz but with a much higher AA%. This means less vegetal matter in the kettle for the same level of bittering. This is followed by a healthy does of Tettnang at flameout to get that spicy noble character into the beer. Then we come to Saphir, which is quite similar to some of the Hallertau varieties, for a 3 day cold dry hop. This hop adds an amazing Noble character to the final beer and really makes this beer special.
At the end of boil, we cooled the wort as far as we could that took it down to 48F in the 1/2 barrel unitank with a homemade glycol chiller. Once at temperature, we kegged the starter light lager and dumped the entire yeast cake into the conical and then set the temperature controller to 50F. As fermentation slowed, the temperature was raised to 65 for a diacetyl rest and when a force diacetyl test shows no remaining diacetyl and the gravity stabilizes, we dry hopped with the Saphir and cold crashed. 3 days later the beer was kegged and force carbonated.