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Bierstadt Lagerhaus – Replicator

Dear Replicator,
I moved to the Denver area this spring and an old friend took me out for a night on the town to acclimate me to the environment. Our first stop was a place called Bierstadt Lagerhaus, which served some of the finest German-style beers (if not the finest) I have had on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. While all of the beers were amazing, their Slow Pour Pils is near perfection. Replicator, could you help me try to brew a Pilsner half as good as this?
Gustavo Morales
Aurora, Colorado

A 30-hour brew day . . . would you be willing to sleep on a hammock to achieve brewing perfection on a beer style that’s deceptively difficult? I’d wager that many would shy away from the challenge and cut corners to make a facsimile of the beer, which would come off as a mere shadow of the real thing. For Ashleigh Carter and Bill Eye, the challenge and journey of the brew has been more than worth it.

Bill and Ashleigh co-founded Bierstadt Lagerhaus, which opened its doors in August 2016, with two goals in mind. The first was to make the best German lagers, using only authentic, traditional methods, this side of the Atlantic. Both had already cut their chops at other breweries including the most recent brewery, Dry Dock Brewing and Prost Brewing, where they received several awards for their brews. With the experience handled, the next task was to locate a brew house that met their specifications. Not too surprising was where they found it. Built in 1932, the all-copper, 35-barrel brew house was located just outside of Nuremberg, Germany. There was just one problem, the 84-year old system didn’t come with instructions. Thankfully, smart phones have cameras and the system was disassembled in Germany, transported across the Atlantic Ocean, and reconstructed in Denver, Colorado.

The second goal was to redefine how beer drinkers think and consume their beer. How many times have you ordered a beer that came in a glass other than the traditional 16 oz. pint glass? Maybe 10% of the time for those high alcohol brews that come in a snifter? Or possibly you’ve been fortunate to have been served a Kölsch in a stange to highlight its color and clarity? Carter explains, “If you can get Stella in a Stella glass anywhere, why shouldn’t I want you to pour my beer into my glass, too? Everybody should demand that. The shaker pint is dead.” But it’s more than just branding; it’s about emphasizing the best qualities of the beer that you’re currently enjoying or looking to order next.

As you have probably deduced by now, Bierstadt Lagerhaus focuses on the details. And it’s those details that separates them from many other breweries chasing trends and gimmicks. They only brew lagers (sorry altbier) mainly according to the Reinheitsgebot, the Germany purity law of 1516; their core beers are a Pils, helles, and dunkel along with two other rotating, seasonal taps. It’s their Pils that we’ll be digging into this time as it was awarded the honor of best beer in Colorado for 2017 according to the Denver Post.

Slow Pour Pils is aptly named due to the 5-min duration that a proper, multi-step pour of it demands. What you’ll be rewarded with is a strikingly clear, straw-colored beer served in Bierstadt’s trademarked tall, narrow glass. Search as hard as you’d like, you won’t find a fault. Instead, the high-quality German Pils malt and hops, specifically Hallertau Mittelfrüh, shine brightly. Dry biscuit, crackery malt, and hints of honey more than support the white pepper and floral hops. It’s decidedly bitter with a dry, crisp finish that encourages the drinker to immediately take another sip. Perfect for the summertime, barbeques, working around the house, or simply needing a bit of liquid refreshment after a long, hard day at the office.

As Ashleigh explained to me, “We are basically a three malt, two hop, and one yeast brewery (sometimes seasonals require a different malt such as Rauchbock) and so the ingredients seem simple. But most of German brewing is in the techniques and the ability to make the beers very clean as there’s nothing to hide behind.” So, it’s not surprising that Slow Pour Pils features two malts, one hop, and their house German lager strain. But the devil is in the details; thankfully, the vast majority of which Bierstadt was willing to provide to us. It features acidulated malt to help drop the mash pH into a reasonable range, a step mash with a single decoction, and an extended lager fermentation that makes meadmaking look speedy.

Due to the individuality of brewers’ setups, you may have to adjust the recipe that follows. For example, for HERMS- and RIMS-based systems, increasing the temperature of the mash through the different steps (protein rest, lower saccharification, and higher saccharification) will be straight-forward. For others with cooler-based systems, you may consider starting out with a thicker mash, like 1.0 qts./lb. (2 L/kg), to which you can add boiling water to hit your next step. The single decoction is used as a mash out step and will require an additional pot. Finally, for the fermentation. Create a strong, vigorous starter with the appropriate cell counts for maximum fermentability and minimum off-flavors.

Your patience with both the brew day and the subsequent fermentation and lagering will reward you a Pilsner that will transport you to the beer gardens of Germany. Prost!

Bierstadt Lagerhaus’ Slow Pour Pils clone

(5 gallons/19 L, all-grain)
OG = 1.047  FG = 1.012
IBU = 33  SRM = 3  ABV = 4.5 %

Ingredients
9.0 lbs. (4.08 kg) German Pilsner malt
0.5 lb. (0.23 kg) acidulated malt
4 AAU Hallertau Mittelfrüh hops (first wort hopping) (1.0 oz./28 g at 4% alpha acids)
6 AAU Hallertau Mittelfrüh hops (30 min.) (1.5 oz./43 g at 4% alpha acids)
4 AAU Hallertau Mittelfrüh hops (0 min.) (1.0 oz./28 g at 4% alpha acids)
Wyeast 2124 (Bohemian Lager) or White Labs WLP830 (German Lager) or Saflager W-34/70 yeast
3⁄4 cup corn sugar (if priming)

Step by Step
For authenticity, this all-grain recipe employs a step mash coupled with a single decoction. Mill the grains, then mix with 3.0 gallons (11.2 L) of 142 °F (61 °C) strike water to reach a protein rest of 131 °F (55 °C). Hold for 10 min before raising the mash temperature to 144 °F (62 °C). Hold this temperature for 30 minutes. Again, raise the mash temperature to 160 °F (71 °C) and hold there for 40 min. Finally, remove 1⁄3 of your mash, thin, and boil for 10 min before adding the decoction back to the main mash.

Vorlauf until your runnings are clear, and lauter. Sparge the grains with 4.5 gallons (17 L) and top up as necessary to obtain 6.5 gallons (25 L) of wort. Boil for 90 minutes, adding hops at the times indicated. After the boil is complete, perform a 5-minute whirlpool and then rapidly chill the wort to slightly below fermentation temperature, which is 47 °F (8.5 °C) for this beer. Pitch yeast.

Maintain fermentation temperature of 47 °F (8.5 °C) for 3.5 weeks or until the completion of primary fermentation, whichever is later. Then, reduce temperature to 38 °F (3.5 °C) gradually by dropping the temperature one degree every 2 days and rest there for 1 week. Perform a similar drop in temperature until you reach 32 °F (0 °C) and lager for 3-4 weeks. Bottle or keg the beer and carbonate to approximately 2.5 volumes.

Bierstadt Lagerhaus’ Slow Pour Pils clone

(5 gallons/19 L, extract only)
OG = 1.050  FG = 1.012
IBU = 33  SRM = 5  ABV = 4.9%

Ingredients
5.5 lbs. (2.49 kg) Pilsen dried malt extract
4 AAU Hallertau Mittelfrüh hops (first wort hopping) (1.0 oz./28 g at 4% alpha acids)
6 AAU Hallertau Mittelfrüh hops (30 min.) (1.5 oz./43 g at 4% alpha acids)
4 AAU Hallertau Mittelfrüh hops (0 min.) (1.0 oz./28 g at 4% alpha acids)
Wyeast 2124 (Bohemian Lager) or White Labs WLP830 (German Lager) or Saflager W-34/70 yeast
3⁄4 cup corn sugar (if priming)

Step by Step
Bring 5.0 gallons (18.9 L) of water to a boil. At some point prior to boiling, add the dried extract while stirring, and stir until completely dissolved. Boil for 60 minutes, adding hops at the indicated times left in the boil.

After the boil and whirlpool, rapidly chill the wort to slightly below fermentation temperature, which is 47 °F (8.5 °C) for this beer. Pitch yeast.

Maintain fermentation temperature of 47 °F (8.5 °C) for 3.5 weeks or until the completion of primary fermentation, whichever is later. Then, reduce temperature to 38 °F (3.5 °C) gradually by dropping the temperature one degree every 2 days and rest there for 1 week. Perform a similar drop in temperature until you reach 32 °F (0 °C) and lager for 3-4 weeks. Bottle or keg the beer and carbonate to approximately 2.5 volumes.

Tips for Success:
Aim for a massive 2-L starter (OG = 1.035) to provide enough healthy cells for a strong fermentation; Bierstadt recommends 210 million cells per mL. This will allow you to go cold and slow. They’ve also noticed that when fermenting as cold as they do, the precursors for diacetyl aren’t formed, which allows them to eliminate that step. If you do detect diacetyl in your beer, feel free to perform a D-rest. If you have the ability to capture carbon dioxide in solution via a spunding valve, you can come one step closer to fully replicating their beer. Typically, you can rack off the trub after 2 weeks in primary or when there’s roughly 1 degree Plato remaining of fermentation in order to naturally carbonate. Finally, everything about this beer is centered around patience. Don’t rush the mash protocol and especially don’t rush the fermentation.