4pm Dunkel


I tend to prefer ales to lagers.  Ales generally give you much more character from the yeast, and you also can usually brew pretty successfully in the 60-70F range, which is usually the ambient temperature range of my house and basement.  However, in the depth of winter here in Maine, the temperatures of my basement creep down to the mid 50’s, and there is one corner of the basement where the thermometer will bottom out at 50F, perfect for lagers.  One problem with lagers is that they require a lot of yeast compared to ales, about 2x as much to get things going.  So, I had to purchase 2 vials of lager yeast to the usual one I use for ale, and use large starters to get the amount I needed.  Since this was going to be a more expensive endeavor, I planned to harvest the yeast from the first beer, and repitch it, and keep it going for 3 brews.

So the first lager I decided to brew was a lower gravity beer.  I had a chance to travel to Munich after college, and I enjoyed the classic dunkel (dark) beers.  Generally, in the beer halls in Munich, you can order beer either as a dunkel, which is a dark brown, malty beer  based off the traditional beers of the city, a Helles (light, reference to color, not taste or calories), which is a malty, light colored beer, or a Pils, which are very hoppy, light colored beers.  After much scientific research, and repeated sampling, I decided I preferred the dunkels the best.  So, this looked like a good place to start.  One of the other cool things about this style is the beer has roots going back hundreds of years.  It is brewed almost entirely from Munich Malt, which was the base malt used by the brewers of that city for centuries.  It is a little more highly kilned then most base malts, making it darker and a little more “malty”.  Until the 1800’s and the advent of Pilsners by the Czechs, pretty much all the beer in Munich was dark in color, unless it was a Weiss, which was brewed with about 50% wheat.

As far as the name goes, my one complaint of living in Maine is I think we are in the wrong timezone.   Maine is in the Eastern timezone.  If you look at a map, we are pretty dang far east.  Growing up in Michigan, we were on the western edge of the Eastern timezone, and it was great, because even in winter, it was light until after 5pm, and it was often light enough to play golf well past 9:30 in the summers.    Here, December, January, and February can be pretty tough not because of the snow and the cold, but because of the lack of sunlight.  It is dark at 4pm in January, hence the name.  On a side note, if anyone wants to get Maine moved to Atlantic time, I am all for it.  Yes, there would certainly be issues regarding the move in time, but it would make our summers and falls even more glorious then they already are, and make winter more tolerable.

So, here is the recipe for a 5.25 gallon batch.

9.00 lb       Munich Malt – 10L (10.0 SRM)              Grain        97.30 %
0.25 lb       Carafa I (337.0 SRM)                      Grain        2.70 %
1.50 oz       Mt. Hood [4.60 %]  (60 min)               Hops         21.7 IBU
0.50 oz       Mt. Hood [4.60 %]  (20 min)               Hops         4.4 IBU
1 Pkgs        Southern German Lager (White Labs #WLP838)Yeast-Lager

OG: 1.048, FG 1.018, ABV: 3.91%.   This beer was mashed at 158F for 45 minutes in a single infusion mash, not traditional, but I did not feel like dealing with the whole decoction mashing used by the Germans.    I had this in primary at about 50F for 9 days, the SG droped to 1.020, then I moved the beer to a warmer spot, about 60F, to let it finish fermenting, and to clean up any diacetyl.  I let it sit there for 6 more days, I just did not get a chance to get it kegged, and the SG stopped at 1.018.  Finally, this was racked to a keg, and then lagered for 4 weeks at about 42F.

Taste:  The beer is a clear, dark brown color.  The aroma has a hint of malt, roast, with chocolate.  The taste is the same as the aromas, just more muted, with a nice body and mouthfeel.  I really don’t get any sweetness in the background, and the finish is very clean, and fairly dry.  Yes, this is a beer that can easily be consumed by the liter!

Critique:  Ok, I really am enjoying this.  I tasted it about 2 weeks ago, and it was not ready, still very sulfury.  This yeast just pumps out this incredibly horrible sulfur smell during fermentation, but appears to clean up very nicely.  I would make this again.  My wife is already referring to it as “the yummy German beer” so I guess I am off to a good start.  As for the yeast strain, I picked it because I knew I wanted to brew a Czech style pilsner, a little maltier then most German versions, and the description of the beer from White Labs described it as being a yeast more balanced towards malt flavors.  I mashed this hot to give it more body, and in retrospect, I would probably knock that down a bit to get it more fermentable.  I was worried it was going to be a bit sweet, but it is not at all.  So far, I am very happy with it.


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