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Old 09-16-2011, 01:18 AM   #11
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Considering the biology has been independently validated by different sources, I'm disinclined to accept this as simple brewing lore. My own experience is the final nail in the coffin, for me anyway. Of course 50 ppm isn't a "switch", but it's a solid rule of thumb for obtaining relatively clear beer in a sane amount of time, especially with lager yeasts that tend to be quite poor flocculators.

It's also worth mentioning that Pilsner Urquell - arguably the gold standard of pilsners - is not clear. What you see on the shelves is a filtered version. The "original" version, Pilsner Urquell Kvasnicový is only served locally and looks like a wheat beer.

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Old 09-16-2011, 01:31 AM   #12
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Considering the biology has been independently validated by different sources, I'm disinclined to accept this as simple brewing lore. My own experience is the final nail in the coffin, for me anyway. Of course 50 ppm isn't a "switch", but it's a solid rule of thumb for obtaining relatively clear beer in a sane amount of time, especially with lager yeasts that tend to be quite poor flocculators.

It's also worth mentioning that Pilsner Urquell - arguably the gold standard of pilsners - is not clear. What you see on the shelves is a filtered version. The "original" version, Pilsner Urquell Kvasnicový is only served locally and looks like a wheat beer.
Very cool post... and timely. I'm launching my P. Urquell clone war right now.

I'd like mine clear tho.
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Old 09-16-2011, 03:06 AM   #13
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Considering the biology has been independently validated by different sources, I'm disinclined to accept this as simple brewing lore. My own experience is the final nail in the coffin, for me anyway. Of course 50 ppm isn't a "switch", but it's a solid rule of thumb for obtaining relatively clear beer in a sane amount of time, especially with lager yeasts that tend to be quite poor flocculators.

It's also worth mentioning that Pilsner Urquell - arguably the gold standard of pilsners - is not clear. What you see on the shelves is a filtered version. The "original" version, Pilsner Urquell Kvasnicový is only served locally and looks like a wheat beer.
I've seen clear unfiltered Pilsner Urquell.

You have given absolutely zero support for your claim that flocculation requires 50 ppm of calcium from water.
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Old 09-16-2011, 03:31 AM   #14
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It's also worth mentioning that Pilsner Urquell - arguably the gold standard of pilsners - is not clear. What you see on the shelves is a filtered version. The "original" version, Pilsner Urquell Kvasnicový is only served locally and looks like a wheat beer.
For my BoPils, even though I have fairly soft water I used 3:1 ratio of distilled:tap water in my recipe, and added calcium chloride to bring the calcium up to 20ppm. After lagering it was crystal clear.

Also - the fresh kegs of PU we had at the NYC contest event at Hospoda were also crystal clear, but I have no idea if they are filtered or not before they were shipped from Czech:

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Old 09-16-2011, 04:22 AM   #15
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Considering the biology has been independently validated by different sources, I'm disinclined to accept this as simple brewing lore.
Yes, and all scientists agree that global warming is caused by man.

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My own experience is the final nail in the coffin, for me anyway. Of course 50 ppm isn't a "switch", but it's a solid rule of thumb for obtaining relatively clear beer in a sane amount of time, especially with lager yeasts that tend to be quite poor flocculators.
And it deserves the respect, or lack thereof, that all rules of thumb deserve. Rules of thumb are great for beginners and will get them a decent or perhaps even good beer. I offer up rules of thumb all the time but always with caveats. Great beers are made by questioning the rules of thumb and violating them with caution. The two biggest improvements in my brewing in recent years came from violating this particular rule of thumb for not only Boh Pils (which violates it anyway if you are trying to be authentic) but all my lagers and strict control of mash pH. When people question my use of low calcium levels and admonish me that the beer won't clear I give the same response as when they carry on about not acidifying sparge water: It's lager beer. You are supposed to lager it. Yeast and polyphenol/protein complexes drop out during lagering. That's what it is for. Another thing to keep in mind is that one of the most important things that lagering does is clean up diacetyl. Yeast in suspension clean up diacetyl better than yeast which have flocculated and this may be a good reason for keeping the calcium low i.e. to keep the yeast in suspension a bit longer. Never thought of this aspect of it before but I do not need diacetyl rests.

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It's also worth mentioning that Pilsner Urquell - arguably the gold standard of pilsners - is not clear. What you see on the shelves is a filtered version. The "original" version, Pilsner Urquell Kvasnicový is only served locally and looks like a wheat beer.
This is not the original. The original had, according to a newspaper report written at the time of the broaching of the first barrels "..magnificent golden hue , with the snow-white foam floating atop....' [PU Brewery literature]. Remember that PU was made the way it was because the nascent Czech glass industry made it possible to serve in a container which showed off its crystal clarity. Once Czech glass was widely available, turbid beers were no longer acceptable to the consumer and this was a major factor in the explosive increase in the popularity of lager beers. I'm sure you have seen the well known poster of the two lovely ladies serving up mugs of PU from a wooden barrel. That beer is clear. The artist took the trouble to make sure you can see through the mugs. So no question. The Ur Quell (original source) beer was clear.

The beer served at the brewery is crystal clear. That does not mean it isn't filtered (or more probably, centrifuged). Many things have changed at PU since I was there last. They don't ferment in open wooden vessels, they don't lager in huge wooden casks and they probably don't lager for three months anymore. They may not even do triple decoctions. They do pasteurize and they probably centrifuge - all to get the beer out faster. The beer has suffered but the consumer is generally not sophisticated enough or old enough to know the difference.

Turning now to the Kvasnicovy, that term (Kvas means yeast in Slavonic languages) describes beer to which kreusen beer has been added just before packaging. If you research it a bit on the web you'll find at least one place where it is described as PU with wort and yeast added. In fact I have no idea as to whether that description is valid. It was not available the last time I was in Pilsen (long before the days of SAB). From the photos it looks like zwickle beer to me and the descriptions of it I see from people who have tasted it (I have not) indicate that that is probably the case i.e. it's simply beer that has not been fully lagered. Or it could be that the yeast are added back in. In other words, it is indeed like wheat beer - the yeast have been forced back into suspension.

If you want to make a really good pils, use soft water (violate the 50 ppm rule), set mash pH to 5.4 with acidulated malt or a sour mash, do a triple decoction mash, pitch as cold as you can, ferment at 48 and lager, making sure to bring lots of yeast over into the lagering vessel, for 3 months as close to freezing as you can get. You won't need to filter. You won't need a diacetyl rest. You'll get a beer as good as what PU used to be because that's how they used to make it. Try doing it this way. You may decide you like it. Or you may decide it's too much work and takes too long.

All in all I suppose it comes down to what a "sane" amount of time is. Back in 1853 three months was certainly considered sane. Herr Groll, without knowing about the 50 ppm rule of thumb and, therefore, inadvertently grossly violating it, managed to revolutionize the brewing world. But it took three months lagering. A modern brewery's accountant would not consider 3 months sane - not if you can get something out the door in weeks and you can. It just isn't quite as good.
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Old 09-16-2011, 12:22 PM   #16
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The beer served at the brewery is crystal clear. That does not mean it isn't filtered (or more probably, centrifuged). Many things have changed at PU since I was there last. They don't ferment in open wooden vessels, they don't lager in huge wooden casks and they probably don't lager for three months anymore. They may not even do triple decoctions. They do pasteurize and they probably centrifuge - all to get the beer out faster. The beer has suffered but the consumer is generally not sophisticated enough or old enough to know the difference.
I've never had the chance to make it to the Czech Republic. It's clear however your memory is different from my very good friend who works there several months out of the year.

It's also not hard to find countless accounts of Plzeňský Prazdroj visitors that all report drinking what they're told is the "real" PU served only at the brewery. Marketing hype perhaps? Who knows. It's also obvious to anyone who visits the brewery website that Plzeňský Prazdroj both pasteurizes and filters the majority of its beer. Filters are clearly shown in the diagrams.

You're a sharp guy ajdelange. I freely admit to learning a great deal about water from you. We've had great exchanges in the past over the merits of using calcium chloride vs calcium sulfate as primary salt additions for Ca requirements. In this thread, the OP asked for opinions on salt additions for brewing a pils from distilled water. I gave him one based on my experience and understanding of yeast biology. You gave him a slightly different one, but essentially the same. Do you honestly think there are people who can reliably detect a difference of 20ppm of calcium chloride in a triangle test? I don't. So, if as you say:

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That's quite a bit more calcium than goes into the traditional Boh Pils but I don't think it's excessive. [...] chloride rounds and fills out the palate to some extent offsetting the mineral character (which is, of course, very subtle even at 50 ppm).
...and the documented biology supports the need for Ca ions, then what exactly is the harm? We both provided the OP with useful information, based on experience.

All the rest of the noise / history lesson in this thread is just that. Noise. We're better than that. Not every HBT thread needs to devolve into a d*ck swinging contest; especially over a measly 20ppm of calcium chloride.

Agreed?
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Old 09-16-2011, 01:37 PM   #17
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I've never had the chance to make it to the Czech Republic. It's clear however your memory is different from my very good friend who works there several months out of the year.
I don't put much stock in my memory and it was a long time ago but there is no doubt in my mind that the beer served at the brewery was crystal clear. If it weren't I'd certainly have taken note because as I explained in my last post clarity was such an important part of the design of the beer.

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It's also not hard to find countless accounts of Plzeňský Prazdroj visitors that all report drinking what they're told is the "real" PU served only at the brewery.
We weren't told that. It was the same PU served all over Europe - perhaps a little fresher having not suffered the indignities of shipment.

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Marketing hype perhaps? Who knows.
Sounds like it. These yeast beers are apparently becoming a bit of craze - not only in Europe but here. Victory is making one. Next time I see one of their guys I'll ask him how they do it.

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It's also obvious to anyone who visits the brewery website that Plzeňský Prazdroj both pasteurizes and filters the majority of its beer. Filters are clearly shown in the diagrams.
I don't doubt it. As I've noted several times in this thread what is coming out of Pilsen today is not made the same way it used to be. They couldn't sell it at a price we would pay if it were.


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Do you honestly think there are people who can reliably detect a difference of 20ppm of calcium chloride in a triangle test?
Yes, I do. Mind you I don't claim to be one of them because I have never been a participant in such a test but I think it's possible that I could tell that difference. I'm studying the hypothesis: the softer the water the better the beer. I have always brewed with soft water but am now brewing with even softer. In my last Kölsch I went to about 20 ppm Ca++ and this beer is definitely different from my previous Kölsch's which I always brewed at 50 (I followed the rule of thumb). I won't say it is better (even if I eventually conclude it is better it wouldn't be as authentic) but it is definitely different. It's spicy (from the Saaz) but that doesn't seem to come through as much at 50 ppm. Of course most lager yeast is bruchhefe compared to Kölsch yeast - this beer has not dropped clear after a month of lagering (but then it doesn't at 50 ppm either). But I really think that some of the pros I know (who brew and taste beer daily and compared to whom we are rank amateurs) are really amazing in the subtleties they can detect. If you've ever judged with such a guy you know what I mean.




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We both provided the OP with useful information, based on experience.
Yes, we did and I would hope others reading this thread (if there are any) would profit from the discussions - not necessarily that they would be driven to accept one POV over the other but that they would see the reasoning used by each of us.

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All the rest of the noise / history lesson in this thread is just that. Noise.
I don't think so. The history is quite pertinent here. Back in 1853 the combination of bottom fermenting yeast and soft water in the same time period in which inexpensive, clear drinking vessels became available, revolutionized brewing forever. Today, the combination of international megacorporations and accountants have revolutionized it again with, in my opinion, detriment. I find this interesting and hope (and assume) others would too. Not only is it interesting but it amplifies two of the essential facts: PU is/was clear and PU ain't what it used to be.

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We're better than that. Not every HBT thread needs to devolve into a d*ck swinging contest
I don't think we've been bad. The discussion has been gentlemanly. You have presented your POV. And I mine. This is not a case of I'm right and you are wrong. I simply feel that you are a little rigid in your apparently strict adherence to the 50 ppm rule of thumb. The investing book I mentioned earlier shows people how to make money by debunking rules of thumb and investing myths. There is profit to be had in debunking brewing myths and rules of thumb as well. The 50 ppm rule is one. The chloride sulfate ratio is another. The correlation of beer color and "required" residual alkalinity is a third. Sparge water acidification a 4th, the use of 5.2 a 5th and I'm sure there are more.

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...especially over a measly 20ppm of calcium chloride.
I guess I don't think 20 ppm is insignificant - not if it is the difference between 20 and 40. Between 220 and 240 perhaps. But I think the dramatic differences I taste in varying at these levels is caused by the chloride that goes with the calcium - not the calcium itself.
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Old 09-16-2011, 02:49 PM   #18
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I'll give a fresh report on the PU beer, brewery and its processes in 3 weeks. I'll be getting a VIP tour the first week of Oct. I have MANY questions to ask them.

I can't recall the exact Ca levels of the beer that earned me this trip to Prague/Plsen, but it was mostly certainly under 50 ppm. I used 50% distilled and 50% lime treated tap water with an original Ca somewhere around 70 ppm (I'll double check that). It was just over 2 months from brew date to judging. I did add gelatin when I kegged it. Lagered for just over one month and was crystal clear - a week before the judging it was still a little cloudy.

Rules of thumb have their value and I certainly do follow some, but then again I do get pleasure from going against conventional wisdom/practices. I think it is the old punk rock fan in me

Off topic:

I remember my wife and I going to hear a local punk band play at a house party in the mid 80's (we knew a band member through grad school). The crowd had the typical punk rock fan look. Piercings, weird hair, dark worn clothing, etc. Everyone looked "the same" - except us, who were wearing jeans and simple shirts. I was pleased and felt very punk as we were the ones who stood out in that crowd!

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Old 09-16-2011, 03:25 PM   #19
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Thanks for all the feedback. Well, I just mashed in and I'm confused. I used the EZ Water calculator and the advice here, and I still missed my numbers by a lot.

I mashed in 4.6 gallons of water 1.5 qt/lb. 3 oz. of acid malt, all distilled water and 2 grams of calcium chloride which gave me 30 ppm ca.

I should have hit 5.4 ph but it's only 5.02!! I waited 15 minutes for it to stabilize and the ph meter was calibrated right before the reading.

What could have gone wrong?

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Old 09-16-2011, 03:41 PM   #20
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I guess the other question I have is, can I do anything about it during the brew right now to fix it?? I'll be sparging in about 20 minutes, but is there anything I can add to the sparge or boil to help missing this ph.

Is this low of a ph going to make for a bad bohemian pils?? I'll check back in a few minutes in case someone has an "on the fly" suggestion. Thanks!

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