Brew Day: Pa’s Video Board Lager

Last year I brewed two versions of this beer: a ten gallon all-grain batch at Andy’s, and a simplified malt extract version for Learn to Homebrew Day. When I tasted the beers side-by-side, the all-grain version was better, if a bit lighter in alcohol than the extract version.

The recipe was a slightly modified version of a Charlie Papazian recipe from The Complete Joy of Homebrewing. I imagined the beer as a bigger and hoppier version of his recipe. Seeing how alcoholic the extract version tasted, and how crisper the all-grain version was, inspired me to scale back the recipe a bit for this year. The all-grain was supposed to be similar in alcohol to the malt extract version. Improving our efficiency, the amount of fermentable sugars we extract from the grain, and maintaining a consistent level of efficiency on  Andy’s system has been a challenge. As it was,  our all-grain beer not finishing as heavy as intended was probably fortuitous.

Last year we had a lot of Pa’s Lager left over after our family Christmas get-together. I think it took us until March to kick both of the five gallon kegs. Both of Andy’s kegs are full at the moment. For this year my plan is to brew a three gallon batch and keg it in one of my three gallon kegs like Fort Dummer and Shareholder’s Saison. This is also an excuse to show up with my awesome new jockey box.

Under the old 2008 BJCP Guidelines the beer was a cross between a Premium American Lager and a German Pilsner. One of the new styles added to the new 2015 guidelines is International Pale Lager.

Overall Impression

A highly-attenuated pale lager without strong flavors, typically well-balanced and highly carbonated. Served cold, it is refreshing and thirst-quenching.

When scaling the recipe I set my target starting gravity and bitterness at the absolute top end of the style parameters. “Highly attenuated” means the beer should finish dry. The California Lager yeast will give the beer the crispness of a lager, but it’s attenuation is low. I am going to mash as low and as long as I can, to produce a highly fermentable wort that will make the beer attenuate as much as possible. With any luck the beer should finish around 5% alcohol by volume.

One change I made was adding a couple of drops of Lactic Acid to the mash to lower the pH of the mash. A couple of members of the North Shore Brewers emphasized the importance of pH in the flavor of the beer. I have a pH meter and have been logging my pH, but I haven’t been doing much to adjust it. On their suggestion I picked up a bottle of Lactic Acid to take more control. Most of my beers to this point have been in the acceptable 5.2-5.5 range, but on this brew day I was able to get my pH right to 5.2. In light beers like this the pH can creep up without the acidity that comes from darker malts.

Brew day went fairly smoothly. I was able to hold my mash temperature, and had a rolling boil on my stove-top. I siphoned my wort from the kettle into a five gallon carboy, and topped off with a gallon of distilled water. I wasn’t able to take an accurate measurement of my volume, or starting gravity. I’ll measure both at packaging time. Going forward I need to do a better job of measuring these when I brew three gallon batches.

Even though I brewed the beer at home, I took my carboy to Andy’s to ferment in his cool, unheated basement. The temperature there is right in the appropriate range for the California Lager yeast. Even with my thermostat set at 65F, it can still get up to or over 70F in my apartment on a sunny day. The jostling around in transit will help aerate the wort.

Pa Chalifour dabbled in homebrewing. I wish I had a chance to talk to him about it. He was a man who every time you saw him was involved in a new hobby, interest, or scheme. None of his schemes made him rich, but he was rich in family. We will remember him by drinking a beer he would have loved.

See the full recipe here

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