Czech Pilsners – A Place in our Hearts and Glasses

by Steve Thanos | Last Updated: July 3, 2019

Czech Pilsners are complex yet quite harmonious; with rich malt notes and spicy tones from the hop additions. Like most beers, Czech Pilsners have a storied past. In 1842, Czech Pilsners were introduced into the world; it has been a better world with this beer style in existence. 

King Wenceslas II allowed for brewers the right to brew beer. Due to this decision, the city of Plzen (Pilsen), Bohemia, now Czech Republic, saw a huge increase in economic growth due to the brewing and selling of Czech Pilsners.  Due to this great deed, King Wenceslas II became the patron saint of brewers.

Much of the good feelings about brewing beer in Plzen was almost all forgotten. One dreadful day in 1838, a group of brewers decided to dump thirty-six barrels of undrinkable ale. Contamination issues had ruined the beer. The beer was either spoiled by wild yeast or bacteria.

Learning from their mistakes, a bottom fermenting lager yeast was rustled out of Bavaria by a monk. This also happened to be around the time that Josef Groll, a Bavarian brewer, helped to save the day. Groll was hired to teach Plzen brewers the lagering process that was now famous in Germany.

Style Profile

Style Profile for Czech Pilsners as are set by the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) Style Committee:

• Color Range: 3.5-6 SRM
• Original Gravity: 1.044-1.056
• Final Gravity: 1.013-1.017
• IBU Range: 35-45
• ABV Range: 4.2-5.4

• Aroma: Clean with a rich and complex sense of malt; spicy notes; slight diacetyl tones
• Flavor: Complex Malt; spicy tones; possible diacetyl; clean, noticeable bitterness
• Appearance: Clear pale gold to dark orange gold; dense white head
• Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with medium carbonation

Recipe Considerations

When constructing a recipe for a Czech Pilsner, consider the following:

Water

Plzen has some of the softest water in the world. The most efficient way to replicate this soft water is by using distilled water.

Malt

Traditionally, under-modified pilsner malt has always been used. A triple decoction mash, as Nick Carr from Kegerator.com puts it, “a thing of complex, diabolical beauty.” Three separate times during the mash a third of the grain is removed, boiled and added back to the mash. This process achieves the following:
• A way to deal with under-modified malts
• A way to increase the overall temperature of the mash
• Releases the sugars and reduces a large amount of proteins

Czech Pilsners

Milling grains prior to heating the water.

Another way of achieving this is to do a single decoction. This is accomplished by taking one third of your whole mash during your protein rest and raise the temperature to 148-154F. Hold this for fifteen minutes and bring it to a boil and hold for another fifteen minutes. Stir the wort like you mean it to prevent burning.

Finally, an alternative to these complicated brewing endeavors is to substitute some of the pilsner malt for up to ten percent of caramel malt for mouthfeel and up to eight percent Munich for color.

Hops

Saaz hops are used for bitterness, aroma, and taste. If you find yourself unable to obtain traditional Saaz hops, Sterling and Tettnang have similar profiles.

Czech Pilsners

Floral, Spicy, Herbal, Nobel

Yeast
Czech lager yeast such as
White Labs WLP800 Pilsner Lager,

Wyeast 2124 Bohemian Lager,

Imperial Yeast  L28 Urkel, or

GigaYeast Double Pitch GY002 Czech Pilsner Yeast.

Czech Pilsners

200 Billion Yeast Cells waiting to make beer.

Fermentation

Primary fermentation at around 50F, diacetyl rest at around 68F for about 3 days, and then cold crash for around five weeks at around 33-34F.

Czech Pilsners

Propper Yeast Starter

Full Discloser

I opted for the easy way to brew this beer. With a busy eight-year-old at my side during the summer, this seemed to be the most logical decision. I contacted a friend who has great experience brewing this beer and he shared with me his recipe. I completely understand that a triple decoction mash has its benefits, I do not deny this.

If I were to brew this beer for a competition, a triple concoction would be the way to go. Nevertheless, this time around a simple brew day was what I was looking for. See my recipe below.

Czech Yo’ Self Recipe

Grain
• 90%    9 lbs.   Pilsner Malt
• 5%     .5 lbs.   Carahell Malt
• 3%.    .25 lbs. Carafoam Malt
• 2%.    .25 lbs. Melanoidin Malt

Hops
• .65 oz   Czech Saaz.  60 min.   3.8 AA 8.1 IBU
• 1.3 oz.  Czech Saaz.  30 min.   3.8 AA 12.4 IBU
• 2.5 oz.  Czech Saaz.  15 min.   3.8 AA 15.4 IBU
• 2.5 oz.  Czech Saaz.  Flameout  3.8 AA

Yeast

• Imperial Yeast L28 – Urkel       75% Attenuation

Water
• Ca: 20
• Mg: 6
• Na: 0
• SO4: 30
• Cl: 40
• pH: Around 5.2
(Water in Ppm)

Czech Pilsners
Czech Pilsners

OG 1.052 and Ph reading at 5.26.

  • Batch Size: 5.5 Gallons
  • Boil Size: 7.5 Gallons
  • OG: 1.056
  • FG: 1.014
  • Color: 3.5
  • Efficiency: 82%
  • Bitterness 35.9 IBUs
  • Alcohol 5.4% ABV

 

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.