How To Brew Czech Pale Lager | Homebrew Challenge

by Steve Thanos | Updated: June 28, 2020


Czech Pale Lager is pale to golden colored sessionable beer. Czech Pale Lagers were developed in the mid-19th century.

Gabriel Sedimayr applied techniques he learned about brewing a pale ale back to Spaten Brewery and applied them to existing lagering methods.

This approach spread quickly to other brewers, most notably Josef Groll of Bavaria.

Czech Lagers vs. German Lagers

Czech lagers are usually divided by the gravity readings Czech lagers are in general different from German lagers. German lagers are fully attenuated, while Czech lagers can have a small amount of unfermented malt remaining in the beer. This will offer a slightly fuller body and mouthfeel. Czech lagers allow for a minimal amount of diacetyl, which rounds off the body of the beer, whereas diacetyl should not be found in a German lager.

Czech Pale Lager or Session Pils as it is commonly known as, is a hoppy session-strength lager that is one of the most popular styles of beer among beer drinkers in the Czech Republic. This pivo, which is the Czech word for beer, has a bittering quality that is quite high, especially considering the low starting gravity.

The BU:GU ratio is usually one-to-one. The BU:GU ratio is the IBUs divided by the gravity units. It represents the amount of bitterness balanced with the sweetness. Higher values mean more bitterness. For example, if you brewed a beer with an original gravity of 1.060 and hopped with 60 IBUs of hops, then the BU:GU ratio would be 1.0.

Style Profile for Czech Pale Lager

Appearance

Light gold to deep gold in color. Brilliant to very clear with a long-lasting creamy white colored head.

Aroma

Light to moderate bready-rich maltiness. Light to moderate spicy or herbal hop aroma. Faint hints of caramel are acceptable. Light diacetyl is actually acceptable with this style, but should not over power the beer. Absolutely no sulfur presence should be detected.

Mouthfeel

Medium-light to medium body with moderate carbonation.

Taste

Medium-low to medium bready malt flavor with a rounded hoppy finish. Low to medium-high spicy or herbal hop flavor should be detected. Bitterness is prominent in this beer. Low levels of diacetyl or fruity esters are acceptable.

Food Pairing

German-style cuisine, moderately spiced dishes, Japanese, Chinese, or Thai food is a place to start when considering pairing a Czech Pale Lager with food. Chicken, salmon, bratwurst, deep fried calamari, fish & chips, sushi, dumplings, fettuccine alfredo, blackened catfish, fresh green salads and Vermont cheddar all make for good accompaniment for a Czech Pale Lager.

Tips for Brewing your own Czech Pale Lager

Grain

One would think that brewing a session beer would be really easy since your grist is reduced compared to the grist for say a Barleywine. However, brewing a quality, drinkable, sessionable beer takes a bit of knowhow. Reaching that ever so important stability between grain and hops is quite difficult. Also taking into consideration the unfermented malt for added body that is inherent with a traditional Czech Pale Lager. Overall, it’s a delicate balancing act that one must walk when brewing a quality Czech Pale Lager.

Traditionally, you would use floor malted Bohemian Pils malt. Usually only six pounds is needed. Some Biscuit malt or Victory malt, as Martin included in his recipe adds some unfermentable sugars to retain even more body. Finally, a quarter-pound of acidulated malt is added for pH correction or control.

Hops

Saaz hops are more traditional for a Czech Pale Lager. Styrian Goldings can be used and actually have a touch more alpha acids than Saaz hops. Adding a single ounce to an ounce and a half at the start of the boil is where you will start with hoping your Czech Pale Lager. A single ounce with 15 minutes remaining and then a final ounce at flameout concludes the hoping for this delicious beer.

Czech Saaz hops have been a staple in brewhouses for more than 700 years. They originated in Zatec, Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic). Saaz hops are a red-bine variety grown around the world. They contain a very low alpha acid percentage.

Usually used as an aroma hop, Saaz exhibits a very delicate bitterness when used as an early addition hop. The elevated polyphenols aid in abating oxidation and therefore beers brewed with Saaz have a longer shelf life. Maybe Saaz should be the bittering hop for my next IPA. Sorry, thinking out loud.

Yeast

Wyeast Bohemian Lager 2124, Czech Pils 2278

White Labs Pilsner lager Yeast WLP800, Czech Budejovice Lager Yeast WLP802

Imperial Yeast Urkel L28

Mash:

Since floor malting is typically under-modified, a decoction mash is suggested. If you choose to go this route, you are one brave homebrewer.

Also, you should consider taking out the Victory malt and Acidulated malt and just go with 100% floor malted Bohemian Pilsner malt. For more info on decoction mashing, take a look here.

Fermentation:

Ferment at 50°F (10°C) or whatever your yeast manufacturer suggests until your final gravity is reached. It is a good idea to increase the temperature by about ten degrees at the end of fermentation to assist in diacetyl cleanup.

Once the beer completes fermentation and after the diacetyl rest, you may want to cold crash it to 35°F (2°C) for about 4 weeks to improve clarity.

Czech Pale Lager Recipe By the Numbers

  • Color Range: 3 – 6 SRM
  • Original Gravity: 1.028 – 1.044 OG
  • Final Gravity: 1.008 – 1.014 FG
  • IBU Range: 20 – 35
  • ABV Range: 3 – 4.1%

Martin Keen’s Czech Pale Lager Recipe

Grain

89% 6 lbs Pilsner; Floor Malted Bohemian

7% 12.0 oz Victory Malt

4% 4.0 oz Acidulated Malt

Hops

1.50 oz Styrian Golding Pellets – Boil 60.0 min

1.00 oz Saaz Pellets – Boil 15.0 min

1.00 oz Saaz Pellets – Boil 0.0 min

Yeast

1.0 pkg Munich Lager (Wyeast Labs #2308)

Mash at 152F for 60 mins

Boil for 60 mins

It’s a beautiful day outside today, but, but my unfinished basement, there has its own attractions too. Like it’s the perfect place to brew a Czech pale lager.

So at this point, in my Homebrew Challenge, I’m on the third category of the BJCP guidelines. Now I’ve done standard American lagers. I’ve done international lagers and now it’s time Czech lagers. And yes, I have done a lot of lagers so far, but I am looking forward to this category because there are two types of pale lagers to brew, then an amber and then dark lagers.

Now Czech pale lager is most definitely a light lager it’s around three or 4% ABV, but unlike say an American light lager, the emphasis here is on having a better hoppy drink for some real character to it. So around it, rather than harsh bitterness and also extremely sessionable. Now I looked, but I couldn’t find a commercial version of this beer for sale, but I’m looking forward to trying this one.

Now the malt bill for this well, it’s kind of pitiful. There’s not much in here. The base malt is six pounds of Bohemian floor malted Pilsener malt, and then I’m putting in 12 ounces of victory malt, just to give it a bit more body and then four ounces of acidulated malt, just to correct the pH. I’m going to mash in at 152F.

So I’ve been mashing for, well, actually about 75 minutes. Not for any good reason other than, uh, I had a phone call. One kind of got busy, so just left it mashing. I’ve taken a sample and the temperature corrected gravity is 10 33. I’m looking for 10 29. So I’ve gone slightly over that. That may mean a couple of extra points at the end, we’ll see.

Now we’re going for an IBU of about 30 with this beer. And most of the flavor and aroma is going to come from Czech saaz hops, but for the bittering I am using Styrian Golding hops. I’m using 1.5 ounces, which in my batch size will give me around 24 IBU’s of bitterness.

So these go in 60 minutes. Czech saaz hopes for the flavor and aroma hops. I’ve got one ounce, I’m going to put it in here 15 minutes .and then one ounce at the end of the boil.

So the beer came in at 1.034, which is right on the money, so that a couple of points, extra pre boil gravity ended up not coming into play, but I didn’t get quite as much wort out of the kettle as I was suspecting. I ended up with a little bit less than five gallons.

And look, this is a new brewing system, and it’s a chance to see how you really need to dial these systems into your settings. So I want to show you what I’ve got in BeerSmith. Now the equipment profile I’m using in beer Smith came directly from the manufacturer and it has all the settings here for the brew system.

The boil off rate here, I’ve got set to 0.66, and I suspect that I’m actually boiling quite a bit faster than that. Now that doesn’t really surprise me because this unibrau system is very customizable and I ended up putting in the strongest, most powerful, uh, electrical element in there I could find.

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So it was a 240 volt electrical element. So I think I’m getting more of a rolling boil, then BeerSmith predicts. So next time when I do this, it’s gonna tell me to add a little bit more water in at the start, which should address that. So the next brew day, I’ll give that a try. See if that’s a bit closer to the boil off rate I’m getting.

And then with these sort of adjustments, eventually I will get this system honed down and I should be able to get reliable amounts of wort, uh, reliable, final gravity numbers and so forth. As I learned really how my system works.

Yeast for this one is Wyeast 2308 Munich lager, is a lager yeast. So I need to get my worts a little bit cooler down to really ideally 50 degrees. So I’ve put it in the fridge to do that. And then we’ll pitch this in a couple of hours when that wort has cooled down.

Okay. I have Alex with me. Hi Alex. Hi Martin. Thanks for having me. Absolutely. It’s tasting time. So a beer came out at 3.8%. Uh, I’ve been laging it for about five, six weeks. Uh, so first of all, let’s take a look at the clarity. Is it looking nice and clear? It is indeed looking very clear. It’s a light gold, I would say appearance and, uh, even a little foam on top. It’s dried down a little bit still. Yep. Looks really, really light and gold. Yep. Yep. Yep. So I did skip any sort of post clarification, uh, steps.

I just have literally let this age and the keg, it sat there cold for five weeks of lagering time. That seems to have done the trick. Okay. So next thing is aroma. Let’s see if we get any aroma from this, is that a very light lager, but it’s a little bit hoppy because is Czech lager. So that’s, let’s see if we can smell anything, definitely a little bit.

I’d say, I’d say little hoppiness comes through smell. Yeah. So bearing in mind that this is 3.8%, um, when we did a American light lager, it smelled of nothing. Absolutely nothing whatsoever. I wasn’t here for that. I can imagine. Um, so it’s yeah, this has definitely got a bit of a hop aroma too. Okay. So then let’s move on to mouthfeel and taste.

I like it, I really like it. I’m, I’m a big fan of the light beer styles. I love wheat beers. And even though this does come in a little bit like medium hoppiness in it, um, it’s still a light one, especially for the hot temperatures outside of summer tastes. Great. Yeah. So there’s definitely, um, I think there’s quite a lot of taste in this considering it’s a such a light beer at 3%, so yeah, a little bit malty as you would expect.

But I think there is that sort of that Czech hop flavor is, is coming through. There was definitely a little bit of hoppiness to it, which, um, again, it’s such an improvement over American Light Lager, which is brewed to tastes like nothing and succeeds brilliantly, but this has like nothing.

So look, you’re from Germany. Of course. I wish you, what’s your favorite German beer? My favorite German beer. This is interesting. Usually I will go for the heavy advice and styles and pretty much any of those are really nice however the Schaeffer for one is one of my favorite, like hefefizen beer styles.

So I’d probably put that down as my favorite one. I have not tried that. Oh, you should. Yeah. I think this has come out. All right. What do you think? Yeah. Oh yeah. For Czech beer, I’ve been to the Czech Republic and I had a couple of those beer styles there and got to say it. It’s really close to what you get at the real thing. So, well, I will take that.

Alright. Cheers. Cheers.

I am the former President of my homebrew club, Plainfield Ale and Lager Enthusiasts (PALE) in the western suburbs of Chicago, IL. I brew on my BIAB system with my incredibly patient and understanding wife, adorable 9 year old daughter, and 12 year old brew dog.