Birra Venezia

Birra Venezia

(5 gallons/19 L, all-grain)
OG = 1.049  FG = 1.010 
ABV = 5.2%  SRM =  5  IBU = 32

This Italian Pilsner has an aroma of citrusy lemon balm, herbaceous bergamot, and floral geranium, which are attributable primarily to the late hopping and dry hopping of the brew with both the Spalter descendant Diamant and the Tettnanger descendant Aurum.

9.4 lbs. (4.26 kg) Eraclea Pilsner malt 
0.2 lb. (90 g) Caramunich® I malt
0.14 lb. (65 g) Carafoam® malt
0.2 lb. (90 g) acidulated malt 
4.2 AAU Hallertauer Blanc hops (60 min.) (0.45 oz./13 g at 9.4% alpha acids)
2.8 AAU Hüll Melon hops (30 min.) (0.38 oz./11 g at 7.5% alpha acids
0.25 oz. (7 g) Diamant hops (0 min.)*
0.2 oz. (6 g) Aurum hops (0 min.)*
0.25 oz. (7 g) Diamant hops (dry hop)*
0.2 oz. (6 g) Aurum hops (dry hop)*
SafLager W-34/70, Wyeast 2124 (Bohemian Lager), or  White Labs WLP830 (German Lager) yeast
¾ cup corn sugar (if priming)

*Diamant and Aurum are newer hop varieties that are not widely available in small quantities. If you cannot find them, a good substitution for Diamant would be German Saphir, Spalt, or Saaz, and a good substitute for Aurum would be German Tettnanger or German Northern Brewer. See Tips for Success for more on these substitutions.

Step by Step
Mash in moderately thick, at about 1.5 qts./lb. (3.1 L/kg) at roughly 68 °F (20 °C) (if possible). Raise the mash temperature slowly to 151 °F (66 °C) for a 10-minute rest. Raise the mash temperature slowly to 162 °F (72 °C) for a second, 20-minute rest. Raise the mash temperature slowly to 170 °F (77 °C) for a third, 10-minute rest. Recirculate until the runnings are clear and then sparge with enough acidified water to collect 6.75 gallons (25.5 L) in the boil kettle. Bring wort to a boil. Total boil time is 75 minutes, adding the first hop addition after 15 minutes. You may opt to add a kettle fining and yeast nutrients in the final 15 minutes of the boil.

After the boil is complete, add the final hop addition and give the wort a long stir. Allow break to settle for 15 minutes before beginning chilling process. Chill wort to 51 °F (11 °C) and transfer to the fermenter. If using a liquid yeast strain, aerate the wort well and pitch the yeast. Ferment at 53 °F (12 °C) until signs of fermentation slow. Slowly raise temperature to 59 °F
(15 °C) and hold for one week. Dump the yeast or transfer to a purged secondary vessel with the dry hops. Remove hops after three days and lager near freezing (~36 °F/2 °C) for three weeks, cooling slowly if possible (don’t cold crash). Rack again and then bottle and prime or keg and force carbonate.

Extract with grains version:
Substitute 5.3 lbs. (2.4 kg) Pilsen dried malt extract and ½ tsp. 88% lactic acid for the Pilsner and acidulated malts in the all-grain recipe. 

Start with 6.25 gallons (23.7 L) in the boil kettle. Place crushed grains in a small muslin bag and steep as water heats up to 168 °F (76 °C). Remove grain bag and, off heat, stir in the malt extract and the lactic acid. Once fully dissolved, turn heat back on and bring wort to a boil. Total boil time is 60 minutes adding the first hop addition at the start of the boil. Follow the remainder of the all-grain recipe instructions.

Tips for success:
Some ingredients in this recipe will be difficult to source. Aurum and Diamant are both distributed by BSG, which just brought them to North American in March 2021 and as of the summer are only sold in 2 kg (4.4 lb.) and larger packages. If you can’t source some from a brewery or shop that is willing to break them up then your best bet is to substitute hop varieties with similar characteristics. Mike Brennan, the National Sales Manager for BSG Handcraft said Aurum could be subbed with German Tettnanger or German Northern Brewer: “German Northern Brewer tends to have a bit higher concentration of hop essential oils, especially a-caryophyllene (woody/spicy) and b-caryophyllene (pepper/woody/herbal) than Tettnanger. However, Tett is a parent of Aurum so the overlaps work well.” For Diamant, he recommends German Saphir, Spalt, and Saaz: “German Diamant’s profile includes citrus/floral/berry notes; Saphir’s citrus/berry overtones fit, as well as Spalt’s citrus/herbal/berry and Saaz’ citrus & spice. Saphir’s total essential oil content (0.8-1.4 ml/100g) is the closest to Diamant’s 1.5-2.0 range.”

Eraclea malt can also be harder to find, however it is available to homebrew shops with a BSG account to purchase in 55 lb. (25 kg) bags (similar to other base grains).

Tasting Sensory Evaluations:
This recipe was first brewed in January 2021 specifically for this article. The all-grain recipe was taste-tested by several experts in Germany and Italy: Agostino Arioli, the developer of the original 1996 Tipopils, in Milan commented on the beer; as did Tullio Zangrando, the retired former Technical Director of Birra Moretti in Udine, in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of northeastern Italy. A team of tasters under the leadership of Walter König, the General Manager of the German Hop Research Center in Hüll in the Hallertau, and a team under the guidance of Brewmaster Constantin Förtner at the Weyermann Malting Company also judged the beer. Here is a summary of their assessments: 

Visually, everybody agreed the beer impresses with its brilliant golden color and firm, creamy, white head. The bouquet reveals a complex of harmonious, inviting hop aromas of citrusy lemon balm, herbaceous bergamot, and floral geranium, which are attributable primarily to the late hopping and dry hopping of the brew with both the Diamant and Aurum. Genetically, these two hops are related to Saaz and have a noble-type alpha-to-oil ratio.

On the palate, the hop aromas intensify next to an emerging, high-quality, medium-intensity bitterness that is well integrated into a mild toffee and straw maltiness. Writes Agostino Arioli, “The bitterness is amazingly balanced, though sharp enough to be irresistible!” Walter König adds, “The malt selection provided a perfect backdrop for the intended hop aromatics; and both are carried into the well-rounded finish, which was floral, dry, and pleasantly resinous.”

This “clean tasting” beer (Tullio Zangrando) is “slender and well-balanced, with a classic Pils character” (Walter König). There was only one slight disagreement among the tasters: While the team at the Hop Research Center found the malt to be in ideal balance with the two new hops, Aurum and Diamant, Agostino Arioli “would have liked a bit more of hop flavor and aroma . . . in this fresh, dry-hopped lager,“ as well as fewer “mature” and more “green” hop notes. To him, the malt profile showed a bit too much “honey character.”  

Overall, however, based on the tasters’ judgments, this gentle, easy-drinking Birra Venezia was considered true to its cosmopolitan lineage as a spritzy brew with southern German hop aromatics, an elegant bitterness, and a soft, delicate Italian maltiness, which complement each other to form a harmonious blend of exceptional drinkability. Writes Tullio Zangrando, “after the first bottle it was absolutely necessary to open another one!” Agostino Arioli agrees (obviously with a smile) that there is very little in the beer to “eventually restrain me from drinking more than 10 bottles.” The team at the Hop Research Center also raved about this Pils, rhapsodizing that it “can transport you in your mind to a warm summer evening in Italy, when you wade ankle-deep into the Mediterranean Sea, with a Birra Venezia in your hand — the height of sensory pleasures.”

Issue: July-August 2021