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Identify that taste: kolsch-style

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jyda

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Hello,

I'm trying to find out what grain provides the after taste in some kolsch style ales. I know that's vague so let me give two examples of commercial versions that I'm trying to replicate and see if that helps.

The first is from a smaller, lesser known Bay Area brewpub called Sonoma Chicken Coop in Campbell, CA. This is my favorite kolsch style beer of all time.

The second is probably a little more known but is an average example. It is BJs Brewery Blonde.

In each of these there is a faint/prominent taste that lingers on the tongue that I am having trouble describing and attributing to an ingredient. At first I thought it was wheat, but I've since made 4 or 5 batches and can not get even a semblance of that flavor.

Anyone familiar with either of these two enough to help me describe/identify?
 

markg388

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Does it taste... almost creamy? Is it a rich grain flavor, yet subtle and easy-drinking at the same time?

I don't know about those specific two breweries, but if you mistook it for wheat I'd guess it's German Pilsner malt flavor, which gets washed out by things like excessive late addition hops. Do German examples of Kolsch (Sunner is the one that I drink) or Alaskan Summer Ale share this same flavor?
 
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jyda

jyda

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I've tried Alaskn and it's not the same. I think the maltiness overtakes the flavor I'm looking for if it's present. It is very much a grain flavor (I think) and is subtle and very easy to drink. Hope this helps :)

I don't know how else to describe it so this may sound silly. After a sipand swallow if I were to breathe out sort of into my mouth and out through nose at same time the grainy flavor is highly accentuated.
 

markg388

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Hmmm.. my only other guess would be maybe a hint of Munich or Crystal10L. I've seen those ingredients in a few homebrewed kolsch recipes, ranging from 1/2 to a full pound. I'll have to try those kolsches you drinking, it's one of my favorite styles. Some people also use 4oz of melanoiden or equivelant aromatic malt to simulate the flavor of decoction mashing. Or maybe these microbreweries are doing decoction mashes, I guess there's a lot of options now that I think of it.

But if you're brewing your kolsch with american 2-row or pilsner malt and it isn't satisfying, give it a go with german pilsner, it has a different kind of maltiness to it.

anyone else have ideas?
 
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jyda

jyda

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It's my favorite too. I'll have to give it a try with german pils because I have been using the american version.

Thanks for the tips.
 
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jyda

jyda

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I was in town and decided to ask the head brewer for the grist, and he said 2 row and 8% or so wheat. Dang it.

I think I'm going to make a 2 row, 8% wheat, 5% Vienna batch. Or would you all recommend something different to try and issue that flavor I'm looking for?
 

markg388

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I hate the term 2-row, it's so vague. I have a brewing book dedicated entirely to Bavarian Helles and the author writes that 2-row barley malt is the malt that is used, when all the German breweries are using pilsner. I think technically pilsner malt is made from 2-row barley, so he's not wrong, but it's still confusing as hell. Someone correct me if i'm the guy whose wrong :D.

A batch with vienna would probably be a good idea.

Subtle tasting beers like kolsch are tough to nail down, it could likely be that their balance of the ordinary, standard kolsch ingredients are in perfect harmony and it isn't a particular ingredient at all you're tasting. In beers like kolsch, the absence of certain additions might as well be their own flavors because the base malt, bittering hop and yeast all get to do more of the heavy lifting than say, an APA.

I'd recommend you try that formula, along with 10 or so other formulas over the next few months to get your recipe nailed down on your system. Can you post the base recipe and process of the kolsches you've been brewing? We may be able to find something missing in your recipe, or something there that could be masking the flavor you're looking for. I need to get out to BJ's and try it, there's one like 15 minutes way from my house. No excuse =[.
 

jgourd

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I've always found that a Kolsch kind of has the taste of my mash collections after mashout and sparging. It's not sweet, mind you, but it is very reminiscent of that.
 
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jyda

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I just brewed this:

9# German Pilsen Malt
.5# White Wheat
.5# Munich Malt

I agree with jgourd in that the mash collections do retain some of that flavor I'm looking for, but the aroma smells a lot more like the flavor. We'll see what happens.

After this I'll swap out the Munich for Vienna and compare.
 

foltster

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It might be silly to ask, but you are using a proper kolsch (eg. WY 2565) yeast in your home attempts right? Fermented in the lower 60s?

-Scott
 

Ichthy

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As others, I'm sure it's Vienna. I doubt most German examples use wheat malt.

I've used a dab a munich malt and really enjoyed it.
 

foltster

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If you have never brewed a beer with vienna that might be what you are missing. It does have a unique light crisp, yet complex bread note that I haven't tasted from any other malts.

After sampling your current batch and assuming it isn't what you are looking for, I would try about 90% pils 10% vienna on your next one.
 

Ichthy

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For a dab, what % of grist?
My kolsch usually has an OG of 1.055. I use .5lbs of either munich or vienna and enough pilsner malt to get my OG. FG is usally around 1.010.

You may also consider the use of acid malt to lower your mash pH. Amounts will vary depending on your water profile.

Gelatin will be an immense help in clearing up your beer.
 
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jyda

jyda

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Tasted the kolsch today and it is very close. The bad part is that I switched to a German pils and added Munich so I'm not sure which it was.

Think I'm going to start another tomorrow with Vienna.
 

Ichthy

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Hope it's enjoyable. let us know what you learn from the side by side.
 

ArcaneXor

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A decoction mash really helps in getting the typical Koelsch flavor into the beer, which is typically based on Pilsner malt with optional additions of Vienna (or a very light Munich) and Pale Wheat malt. The decoction adds some balancing graininess to the sweetness of the Pilsner and Vienna/Munich malts.
 
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jyda

jyda

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Ichthy said:
Hope it's enjoyable. let us know what you learn from the side by side.
It was delicious and definitely brought to mind the two samples I was shooting for. So I could really be happy just sticking with this as it was close. I'm going to try the second recipe just to see if I can get closer.
 
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jyda

jyda

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Just another update:

I've settled on a recipe that I enjoy and provides what I was looking for (and a little more pronounced than the commercial samples):

Target OG: 1.050
Final OG: 1.012
Target ABV: 5.0%

9.00 lb of German Pilsner Malt
1.00 lb of US Vienna Malt
0.50 lb of US White Wheat Malt
0.38 lb or 6oz of German Sauer(Acid) Malt

24 IBU Hallertauer Hersbrucker @ 60 minutes

Mash Temp: 149F
Boil Duration: 90 minutes
Ferment Temp: 62F
 

Ravenshead

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That looks good to me. I was gong to say it's probably Vienna but several have beat me to it. If I understand the taste you are describing, Real Ale's Fireman's 4 is another example. I love it too.
 
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jyda

jyda

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That looks good to me. I was gong to say it's probably Vienna but several have beat me to it. If I understand the taste you are describing, Real Ale's Fireman's 4 is another example. I love it too.
Interesting, I'm in Austin quite often and I'll have to swing by the brewery next time for a taste :rockin:
 
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jyda

jyda

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jyda said:
Interesting, I'm in Austin quite often and I'll have to swing by the brewery next time for a taste :rockin:
Headed there next week, going to stop on by. Any other must haves?
 

Ravenshead

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Real Ale also has a good Rye Pale Ale. St Arnold's has some decent beers and I think they only distribute in Texas so you ought to try them. They're nothing compared to what you're getting at home though.

If you're going to be in the Houston area, there's a new (month's old) brewery in Katy called No Label. They have a great Hefe. They are currently only distributing to bars in Katy so you'd have to find one there.

I'm sure Austin has some good local brewpubs but I haven't been there since college.
 
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