Finesse is the word that best describes brewing a great, light, pils. There are no corners to be cut here as the boil is as important as using the proper ingredients. Every flaw will stand out. German malt works best, and there are a number of them available. Weyerman alone has 4 different Pilsner malts (Extra pale Premium, Regular, Bohemian, and Floor Malted Bohemian). Each Pilsner malt will have a slightly different character, and even blending a couple of different malts can provide a little balance if so desired. Feel free to experiment. True German pils does not have a hop aroma, and this is reflected in the guidelines below.
Grain Bill: 9 lbs Pilsner Malt of German Origin (Weyerman or equal)
2 oz. acidulated malt (lowers PH of mash)
Hops: 35 IBU's worth of a German Origin hops
1/2-1oz pelletized Hallertau, Tettnanger, Spalt, or other German hop(flavor)
Irish Moss or other clarifier : 15 minutes left in boil
White Labs German Bock Yeast, with active and robust starter, works very well for making a clean beer (it is rather forgiving, but there are various Pilsner yeasts that work well with proper care.
Mash in at 120F and hold for 10-15 minutes (dough-in, use just enough water to wet the grains)
Raise temperature slowly up to 155 F using remaining water and hold until conversion is complete. I do this in steps, where there is a rest in between where I take a temperature measurement, and hold for 5-10 minutes before adding more water to get the temperature up to 155. Let sit for 20 minutes, then pull of 1/4 of the mash and put it in another pot. Boil for 10 minutes, then add back to main mash tun. There will be a little temperature loss during this time, but the boiling mash will bring it back up. Let sit, preferably between 155 and 160 for 10 minutes, then repeat while getting the sparge water ready. After the second 10 minute decoction has been added back, finish raising the temperature to around 170F. Sparge and collect around 6 gallons of wort.
Boil for 15 minutes, then add bittering hops. Boil for 75 minutes and add irish moss or clarifying pellet. Boil another 5 minutes and add the cooling coil to the pot for sanitization, along with the flavor hops. Boil last 10 minutes then cool and transfer to carboy. Aerate (we use a stone). Pitch the starter.
Fermentation usually takes about 2 week, give or take depending on temperature. The colder the longer, but the less lagering time that will be required later. When the fermentation is winding down, let stand at 60F for 2 days (Diacetyl rest). Transfer to secondary at this time and let sit another week, cold, where the fermentation took place. My method is to bottle at this time with one and a quarter cups of malt extract (DME). Bottle a couple smaller test bottles, and when the carbonation is full, place all bottles in a refrigerator as close to 32F as possible, or if there is another very cold space available, that works as well. 4 weeks of conditioning cold is recommended.
OG usually ends up in the 12-12.5 Plato range (1.048-1.050). I don' measure the final gravity, as I find it to be a waste of beer, but ABV will be in the 4.5-5% range.
1) Hops should all be German here for best results.
2) I am using water in the 70-100 ppm solids range.3) I have used several different malts over the years, Durst, Weyerman (Regular and FM Bohemian Pils), Czech Undermodified, Canada Malting, Castle, and now Avangard (there will be a blog on this). With proper care and technique, they will all produce an excellent beer. I have heard that Best pilsner malt is also very good and hope to get some to try soon.