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Old 04-09-2008, 01:16 AM   #1
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Default Munich Helles and Style Guides

Maybe it's my scientific nature to get to the root of things, or maybe it's my German ancestory making me always try to find rules to follow , but what's the deal with the style guidelines from various sources being so different?... and then other books/authors being different from them?

I'm really talking about the difference between the Brewers Association and BJCP on the Munich Helles. Then to make matters worse, Horst Dornbusch, in his Classic Beer Styles book, Bavarian Helles, is different from both of them. Primarily in color:
BJCP = 3 - 5 SRM
BA = 4 - 5.5 SRM
Dornbusch = 2 - 3 SRM

Also, in grist composition, many recipes have a not-insignificant amount of Munich malt, but Dornbusch calls for no more than 1.5 %, if any. This correlates with his color difference.

I know style guides are exactly that... guides, but I'm curious what a Bavarian brewer would say about the Helles color and Munich malt. Any thoughts?



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Old 04-09-2008, 03:54 PM   #2
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Oh, you didn't realize that you just kicked a hornet's nest, did you? I have had this discussion with other brewers before. Many folks out there feel that 5 is too dark for a helles and that 3-4 is fine.

Really, the difference between 3 and 4 SRM is not much. You would have to be the Superman of judges to look at a beer and tell whether it was 3 or 4. Put a 3 and 4 side by side, and it's a fairly easy choice. However, just look at a single beer, and it's impossible, or nearly so. A 3 beer is a pleasant, paler yellow, and a 4 is a deeper yellow, maybe pale gold, but not at all amber.

Now, the difference between 2 and 5.5 is HUGE. Heck, 5 is approaching amber, and seems too dark for a helles. Make it a little darker, and you've definitely crossed the North Sea into pale ale land, which is no place for a helles to be. Likewise, 2 is on the order of Bud, and that's no place for a helles, either. How do you get the proper maltiness of a helles in a 2 SRM beer? I guess if someone can do it, then more power to them. I will give Horst the benefit of the doubt on the low side, though, and I trust he thoroughly researched the matter.

We think BA and BJCP allow something darker as a fudge factor for homebrewers. We don't know much about how the BA guidelines come about, but we think BJCP does not want to discourage homebrewers from brewing helleses and entering them in competition because they got a little too dark during the boil. However, that bit of kindness really leads to a whacked out set of guidelines.

In summary, we think they all missed a bit. However, we also feel that Horst probably knows his stuff better than we do, so we do not have much of a gripe with the low side of the collective range. The high side seems way out, though.


TL



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Old 04-09-2008, 04:39 PM   #3
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Thanks, TL. Great comments. I don't know much about Horst as an author/brewer, but writing a book on one style must have been done with significant research. The cover didn't inspire me though... with a hard pretzel in the picture... Sacrilege!. I might take you up on your challenge though... getting maltiness in a 2 SRM beer!

I'm just trying to perfect this style and thought I was getting close on my last batch until I read Dornbusch. I used 85% German pils, 10% Munich, and 5% Carapils for an SRM of 3.6. I used only bittering hops, per Jamil, et al., but Dornbusch also calls for some flavor and aroma hops, which I question as well (plus he passively poo-poos decoctions and designates step mash temps w/o regard to malt analysis). I used my malt analyses to dial in a single decoction per Noonan. It was one of my best brew days ever as far as temps go. I fermented it with WLP 838, lagered for a month, and bottled. After 2 weeks in bottles, it's tasting awesome... fresh-grain malty with subtle, but balancing bitterness. I think it will be even better after 3-4 weeks in the bottles since they are 1/2 liters.

I guess I thought I was doing everything to perfect the style, and then I read Dornbusch and was like, "what the heck?"

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Old 04-09-2008, 04:46 PM   #4
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Hornets nest...I like it!

Actually, I think you are putting too much into it. How many people here have even been to Munich that would make you worry about your recipe?

What's the worse comment you can get...oh, it looks darker than the one I had in Munich...???

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Old 04-09-2008, 06:02 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by homebrewer_99
Actually, I think you are putting too much into it. How many people here have even been to Munich that would make you worry about your recipe?
Me! and I'm the only one worried about it Yes, I am a bit detail-oriented (No!). I'm just trying to understand this style more. I respect Jamil a lot for having the goal (and accomplishing) brewing every BJCP style well. But in my fairly early brew-life, I'm trying to perfect certain individual styles to my liking... not just a "good" version of the style.
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Old 04-09-2008, 06:19 PM   #6
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All perfectly good goals...

Why not grab all those numbers and average them out and try to brew one to that spec?

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Old 04-09-2008, 06:25 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by homebrewer_99
All perfectly good goals...

Why not grab all those numbers and average them out and try to brew one to that spec?
A compromise? That's crazy talk! Just kidding. I guess I already did that without trying to... a 3.6 SRM plus a tenth or 2 for the decoction and I think I got it. So, you're telling me I already brewed the perfect Helles. Thanks!
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Old 04-10-2008, 04:55 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by menschmaschine
A compromise? That's crazy talk! Just kidding. I guess I already did that without trying to... a 3.6 SRM plus a tenth or 2 for the decoction and I think I got it. So, you're telling me I already brewed the perfect Helles. Thanks!
Only the tongue can tell...and the eyes...and the nose...
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Old 04-10-2008, 02:41 PM   #9
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I'm a bit with HB here, in that styles only go so far with me as a brewer. I know a lot of brewers who derive a great deal of satisfaction and enjoyment from brewing perfectly to style, but I am not one of them. Actually, most of those brewers derive most of their enjoyment from competitions, but I do not brew to compete. As a brewer, the style guidelines serve more as a menu and, often, as an inspiration, than anything else.

However, I do enjoy judging competitions and, as a judge, I tend to drill down quite a bit on the guidelines.

As for your beer, well, you need to brew it the way you want it and interpret, rather than replicate, the whatever guidelines you may find. If you went to Munich, you would find any number of examples, none of which are the same. Those guys could not care less about what the BA, BJCP, or Horst Dornbusch has to say about the "style." They just make it.


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Old 04-10-2008, 02:59 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TexLaw
I'm a bit with HB here, in that styles only go so far with me as a brewer. I know a lot of brewers who derive a great deal of satisfaction and enjoyment from brewing perfectly to style, but I am not one of them. Actually, most of those brewers derive most of their enjoyment from competitions, but I do not brew to compete. As a brewer, the style guidelines serve more as a menu and, often, as an inspiration, than anything else.

However, I do enjoy judging competitions and, as a judge, I tend to drill down quite a bit on the guidelines.

As for your beer, well, you need to brew it the way you want it and interpret, rather than replicate, the whatever guidelines you may find. If you went to Munich, you would find any number of examples, none of which are the same. Those guys could not care less about what the BA, BJCP, or Horst Dornbusch has to say about the "style." They just make it.


TL
I agree with a lot of you post. Style guidelines are guidlines. There is a range that fits the style not a bulls eye only approach. I definately like the ger helles style. I use mostly pils malt with about 15% munich. I find the most important part is duplicating the nice sweet grainy flavor with a subtle hop to balance. I use a bittering addition at 45 minutes and a flavor addition at 20 mins. The hop additions are naturally not very high. I have brewed a step mash as well as a single infusion and have had very good results both ways. The most important factor I have found is to use a good german malt. Today's ger malts are usually more modified than years ago. I also do a 60 min mash out of habit just to make sure I have a good conversion.


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