Smoked Pilsner

Remember that beer with smoked lemons? It started on this day.
Remember how we have no love for our free time?
If there were any doubts, we made a triple decoction pilsner.

Long day in the yard to make the first lager at our Hotel, accompanied by triple decoction and a triple pint of that refreshing Patersbier. One for each temperature threshold. Now does it make sense that one of us mistakenly read from the chalk adjustments table instead of the baking soda one?

We will be back to the long brewing day. First though, let’s understand why a Pilsner with smoked malt. We traveled to Amsterdam, a city with a lot to offer. And, like any capital, there are pearls that are not researched, rather we stumble on them on the way to something else.

The epic travel begins in 2017, during the Carnivale Brettanomyces beer festival, a timid space, Proeflokaal ‘t Kelkje, opposite the central conference place, the Walloon church – Waalse Kerk. In the usual frenzy of the city, a quiet bar, with a unique selection, contrasting with the boring offer found in the thousands of spaces around the city.
The star here is the Jenever, a traditional distillate from Holland, which later gave rise to Gin. In the middle of an endless choice of Jenevers, local liquors, imported spirits, there is an obsession with Bamberg beers, especially the famous Schlenkerla.

Returning to Carnivale Brettanomyces, between conferences, Schlenkerla replaced cigarettes with their smoked beers. In the various visits, to this bar, in different years, we were tasting the different beers, appreciating the subtleties in each one, also drinking the knowledge the owner has to share.
He told stories of his visits to Bamberg and how each beer was unique.
One of the stories stayed in our memory.

All beers in this brewery, over 600 years old, have smoked malt, with one exception, Helles. Depending on the production, it has a variable presence of smoked notes. Legend has it that this beer was created to “clean” the brewhouse and production equipment, thus removing excess smoked notes.

With a fine balance between pilsner malt, smoked notes and somewhat assertive bitterness, this Helles presents delicacy and subtlety, being original, striking and repeatable. Can we honor centuries-old traditions? Not likely, let’s twist this.

With all odds against us, we get our hands on the pots, ground cereal, 50% Pilsner malt and 50% beechwood smoked malt, it is time to attack the triple decoction.

It’s a two person job

The concept at the production level is simple, although time consuming. Mix the cereal, historically under modified malts, with water to a temperature of 35ºC, let it rest for 15 minutes, remove 1/3 of the wort, including solid parts, boil separately and add back to the cereal to continue to the next level. Repeat this three times and proceed to boil.

We start as tradition dictates, with the first level, at 35ºC, which promotes acid rest. Between 30ºC and 50ºC the phytase enzyme promotes the hydrolysis of phosphate present in the pilsner malt, which breaks down into different minerals, lowering the pH. Nowadays, with the available technological resources, the usefulness of this is arguable. We didn’t want to upset any bearded German, because we already know, “football is a simple game: twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win“.

The next levels were set at 52ºC, 66ºC and 75ºC. At the end of each stage 1/3 of wort was passed to another kettle, where it was boiled for 15 minutes. The boiled wort was returned to the original kettle and without major variations, the next step was reached. Now, you ask, what flavor do you hope to achieve with all this work? Legend has it that the body of beer and the presence of malt gain a depth that would otherwise be unattainable. An idea that is not consensual in the industry. See for instance this interesting article in Brülosophy.

After the mashing part not much to report, boil for 90 minutes, 20 IBU’s of Savinjski Goldings, all normal. When the cooling phase begins the challenges start, we were able to cool the wort to a nice 18ºC with tap water, the rest of the cooling happened in the refrigerator, ahem, “fermentation chamber” up to 12ºC. The Fermentis W34 / 70 yeast is already a classic in low fermentation beer, with floral and fruity notes, but as we wanted a more neutral fermentation, to make space for the cereal to shine, we went with SafLager S-189.

Bonus for those of you who have read this far: the normal thing would be to inoculate as soon as the must is transferred to the fermentor and let it cool in the chamber, at the desired temperature. This has always been the method, for example, cooling the wort to 24ºC, inoculating and setting the temperature for the desired fermentation. Don’t. Cooldown totally first. High-five to Escarpment Labs webinars, super informative.

4 weeks at 12ºC, plus about a month and a half of lagering at 2ºC and it will be ready to land in a Lindr draft machine and accompany another barbecue.

Written seems shorter than it was in our backyard, we still managed to fire the grill and guarantee an afternoon, and night, well spent smoking some lemons and meat. A man can’t live only on beer, or can he? Legend has it that in the end there was still kanelbullar to close the night with a high-level beer pairing.

Smoked Pilsner

Batch: 20L
Total Cereal 5kg
Original Gravity: 1.048
IBU: 21
Boil time: 90 minutes


50% – 2.5 kg. Weyermann Pilsner
50% – 2.5 kg. Weyermann Beech Smoked Barley Malt


70 gr. Savinjski Goldings (pellet, ~2.7% AA) @ 60 min.


SafLager S-189


Ca: 68
Mg: 11
Na: 28
Cl: 87
SO4: 66
Cl to SO4 Ratio: 1.33


Triple decoction:
Acid Rest – 15 min @ 35ºC
Protein Rest – 30 min @ 52ºC
Saccharification – 45 min @ 66ºC
Mash Out – 10 min @ 76ºC

pH@45 min 5.42@19.2ºC


Wort produced, inoculated, the party begins, sorry, there is no party. Low-temperature fermentation is quite boring.

Tasting, without diacetyl or sulfuric aroma, even without letting the temperature rise for the commonly recommended diacetyl rest. The truth is that with the necessary time the yeast ends up reabsorbing it, metabolizing it in butane-2,3-diol.
Lagering begins, that is, maturation at an even lower temperature, ~ 2ºC.

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