New Brew — Bangkok Summer Pilsner

As I write this, the Bangkok Summer Pilsner is on the stove. Summer Pilsner is what I call it simply because it’s intended to be something light, refreshing, and flavorful for the summer. If you’re interested, I’ve written up the “recipe” and procedure in the extended section of this post. This beer is my last (for the moment) kit beer, from the extract cans and DME that I ordered when I got back from Indonesia: the next beer I move on to will be all-grain, but that’s happening sometime next week. So anyway, the details:


  • ESB Pilsner beer (1.7L liquid malt extract)
  • 1kg light spraymalt
  • just a tiny bit of Cascade hop pellets (60 min)
  • a little Ssaz hop pellets (30 min)
  • kaffir lime leaves, dried (~6-8 large leaves equivalent)
  • 3-4 smallish pieces of galingale (galangal)
  • some dried lemongrass (or fresh if you can get it)
  • 2-3 small, dried hot chili peppers, any variety you like

OG: 1.036

FG: ?

This is all a little vague because I don’t currently have a gram scale. I will be getting one next week — they’re cheap on Gmarket — and that will help. I’m not putting too much in the way of hops because the can of Pilsner kit malt extract is already hopped, and because if it gets too hoppy it will interfere with the tropical seasonings I’m adding.

As for deploying those seasonings, it’s up to you, but for my part, I’ll be adding the galingale about 10-15 min before the end of the boil (along with the liquid malt extract), the kaffir lime leaves will be steeped at the end of the boil and filtered out when the beer goes into primary fermentation (with more lime leaves added afterward if it needs more), and the lemongrass and chili peppers will go into the carboy when the beer is racked over for secondary fermentation. If I can get a lime as well, I may add a little lime zest to the secondary — just a touch.

The beer should be a lighter pilsner, not so much body and not very high alcohol; it’s supposed to be light, supposed to be for summer.  That’s why I’m working with light DME and pilsner malt, and lager yeast. It’s my first lager.

I have no data on expected final gravity; I’ll discover that when it’s done. It’s a bit fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants because basically I know that using a kit, adding the right amount of sugars, it should working out fine.

My general plan for now is this: I’ll let the wort cool on the balcony, pitch the starter I made yesterday, and then, once it’s started fermenting in the bucket, it’ll go out into the (dark) closet on my balcony, where the cooler temps will allow the lager yeast to do what it does best — it seems warm enough now that I don’t think the yeast will get shocked or anything, though I’ll check it carefully tomorrow.

I’m not sure what I’ll do in the way of lagering: it’d have been nicer if I’d been around in the winter, as I could have stored a carboy somewhere in the building much more easily. But the normal temperature inside a fridge is about right, so I think I’ll do it in the unused fridge down in the basement, I guess. This means carrying the beer down in a fermentation bucket, and then transferring it to carboy, and stowing it in the fridge for a while. I don’t know if I dare leave it there as long as is preferred — supposedly 6 weeks at the normal temperature inside a fridge.

If I haven’t eaten the mangoes in my fridge by then, I may also dump a small part of the batch (less than four liters) onto some peeled mangoes and see how that affects flavor, mouthfeel, alcohol level, and so on. It’s tropical, after all, and mangoes are gooooood. If it works, a later (all grain) batch could use mango or some other tropical fruit, too. It’ll be hazy, as I have no pectinase, but I don’t mind that too much in a test batch if it tastes glorious or even just decent.)

Meanwhile, I’m tasting my IPA after just about a week in bottle — I always do a few small bottles so I can taste its progress as it conditions — and while it’s shockingly hoppy at first sip, for a green beer it’s quite tasty. I’m relatively confident it’s going to come out well in the end.

That’s brewing for today. I have some cleanup to do, and then a trip to the gym, grading, and so on. But tomorrow, I’ll start off a 1-gallon test batch of JAO mead (recipe here), after a quick trip to the market to get some raisins and cassia bark, which is what passes for cinnamon in most of the world these days…

If it seems like I’m brewing a lot, well, I am, because I know that July will be here soon and because July-August tend to be hot enough to make brewing relatively impracticable, or at least not so very much fun around here. (Though I suppose I could do lagers in the basement fridge, and the air conditioning might help make it not so bad… as well as the fact I could focus on no-boil meads and such.) In any case, I’ll be doing another beer sometime next week — all grain! — though that’ll have to wait till I have my new carboy. And I shall have to get my new kegs sometime next week, too, if I’m to have somewhere to put all this brew…

UPDATE (25 April 2010): A funny thing happened. I think the lager yeast I pitched just didn’t have it in it to do the job. I’ve been thinking about what to do, since it’s now two days with no airlock activity and no change in gravity. I posed my question here. I’m now leaning towards making an ale yeast starter and pitching it in the morning if nothing’s happened by then. I don’t think it needs to be a huge, supercharged starter, just enough to get things going.

On the plus side, not having to lager the beer would be nice. Cream ales are done much faster, and this could be in the keg in a very reasonable amount of time.

UPDATE (5 May 2010): Let this be a lesson: the shortcut solution isn’t always. So the beer seems to have a certain amount of diacetyl sitting around in it. It’s actually undergoing a long, slow secondary fermentation, as far as I can tell — when I siphon a little into a beaker to check specific gravity, it bubbles reactively and has the faintest of fizziness. There was an oily mouthfeel, though no apparent flavor of instant popcorn button associated with diacetyl; still, the mouthfeel was enjough to get me thinking seriously about what to do.

I think what I’ll do is give it another few days, and see how it’s turning out. If it doesn’t need serious krausening, I’ll rack some into a 4L carboy and drop a couple of dried hot peppers in, leaving them in till it’s got the spice level I want. Into my 11L carboy, I’ll rack some of it along with mangoes, which will up the alcohol level a little but also hopefully impact some sort of flavors. (If not, I have some other canned tropical fruit I can play with adding instead. I’m thinking over the cans of jackfruit I have in my brewing pantry, for example.) The remainder, probably about five or six liters, will go into bottles just as it is.

Though, honestly, I’m not getting much effect from the kaffir lime leaf I used –not in the boil, nor that which I added to secondary — and the lemongrass likewise seems to impart very little effect when added dry. So part of me is hoping that krausening it becomes necessary just so I can boil a strong infusion of those flavors, add some DME, and impart the flavors I wanted that way. We’ll see…

UPDATE (16 May 2010): Infection! At least, the batch seemed infected, after I added some kaffir lime leaf and fresh lemongrass. I decided I would rack from under the whitish pellicle and see what happened. The racking happened a couple of nights ago, and the beer looks okay, so some of it is now sitting in a 4L wine bottle with a few hot peppers, and the rest is in a big carboy. I think I will be krausening it, but I need to get some DME first. That’s one of the things I’ll be ordering tomorrow. Well… or I could use honey. Hmmmmmmmm. I’ll decide today.

I decided not to go with mango for either batch, simply because I’d rather not waste the fruit if the beer turns out weird. I think I’ll wait and see how it looks at the end of the week. If I like the looks of it, I may simply rack another 4L into another bottle, put in a hot pepper and some mango (or other tropical fruit) and leave it to ferment out.

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