While listing down all the places that have contributed to brewing innovation, we can’t miss Germany’s name. Over hundreds of years, that entire region has given us so many new methods and recipes of brewing the same grains and ingredients but for different colors, tastes, and intoxication levels. If you’ve established a craft brewing setup and experimenting recipes from different regions, you surely don’t want to miss out on German ones.
While there exist multitudes of recipes, a lager with malt accenting represents a quintessential pint of German beer. This combination gives German beer pleasant malt sweetness with restrained bitterness and a floral aftertaste of hops. If you wonder how to brew German beer from your backyard craft brewery, keep reading this article. Here, we’ll discuss all the equipment and tools you need and the steps you’ve to follow for brewing a standard keg of Deutschland beer.
Things You’ll Need to Brew German Beer
- A boiling pot or a hot liquor tank
- A mash tun
- Non-rinse sanitizer
- Kitchen scales
- Funnel/ bottling wand
- Fermenter and airlock
- Wooden barrel(s)
- Empty bottles and caps
It’s important to mention here that we’ll discuss the preparation right from the start till the end. This means we’ll begin with the process of malting to the packaging of the final product in bottles.
Malt Your Grains
Malting lays down the foundation of any brewing process. If you don’t have malted grains, you can’t extract a pint of bonafide beer. For home-based/craft brewing, we’d recommend you use barley or wheat grains as your malts. Crush the grains and soak them into the water to set off the germination. This controlled germination is carried out to induce some structural changes to the grains’ kernel. This kernel modification is essential for converting the starch into sugar.
After 2-3 days of soaking, drain out the water from the grains. Let them completely dry and then roast them in a kiln. The level of roasting will determine the final color and taste of your brew.
Make the Mash of the Malted Grains
Once you roast the grains and convert them into malt, they’re ready for the mashing process. In this step, you add warm water (not scorching hot) to the malted grains. This warm water activates the dormant enzymes (amylase) that set off the hydrolysis of starch. In short, the mashing of malted grains means converting grain starch into maltose sugar.
Lauter the Mash
An ideal mash is the one that has almost all of its starch converted into sugar. But to make sure that all this sugar content ends in the wort, you need to lauter the mash. Lautering is the process where you pass the hot water through the mash over and over again to extract all the converted sugar trapped into the grain mush. While taking out all the maltose from the mash, you simultaneously increase the mash volume as well.
Prepare the Wort for Fermentation
After lautering the mash, you obtain the filtered wort with maximum sugar content and minimal grain residue. Cook this solution for one hour at medium heat. You’ll also add hops to the wort during this step. Hops will give a bitter and floral undertone to your German beer. The number of hops you’ll add here will determine your beer’s taste and “strongness”. More hops mean more bitterness and an overall strong taste and aroma.
You can add between 18 and 40mg of hops in one liter of wort. At 40mg/liter, you can get the most “hoppy” German beer. Don’t exceed the hop content beyond this value because it can throw the entire taste profile of the beer off balance.
Cool Down the Wort
After heating the wort for good 60 minutes, switch off the stove/burner and let the solution cool for an hour or two. Don’t rush into fermentation and add yeast while the wort is still lukewarm. You need to make sure that wort is cooled down to the temperature of regular unheated tap water. Once wort cools and settles down, pour it into a fermenter or other sealed container while filtering it with a strainer for hop residue.
Ferment the Wort
The next step in brewing German beer is adding the yeast to the filtered wort. This is where the magic happens when the yeast converts the sugar content of the malt into alcohol. Since we’re sharing a standard process of brewing German beer, there’s no particular duration of fermentation. If you want to make a strong and heady supply, let the wort ferment for a month or so.
If you want to be specific about the alcohol content in your crafted beer, calculate it yourself. You’ll need a hydrometer and the back of an envelope to run some calculations. First, measure the Specific Gravity (SC) of the wort before starting the fermentation. Then, measure it again once fermentation has begun. Subtract the previous SC from the final SC and multiply the obtained value by 131.25.
The resulting number will be the percentage of alcohol in your brew (ABV% given on labels of beer bottles). Keep checking the final SC of the solution during fermentation and run this calculation. When the desired alcohol level is achieved, filter out the yeast particle from the solution.
Transfer the Liquid in Wooden Barrels
Once the desired fermentation level is achieved, transfer the liquid in wooden barrels and keep them in a cold and dark place for a couple of months. You can skip this step and directly package the beer from the fermenter into bottles. However, the 60-90 days of conditioning in the wooden barrels will give the beer its authentic German profile.
Our Final Thoughts
Like any other brew, you need to strike a perfect balance between all the brewing steps to prepare good German beer. From the right level of malt roasting to mash preparation for maximum sugar conversion and fermentation for the desired level of alcohol content—diligently complete every step of preparation, and you’ll end up with the original German lager.