Urážka Imperial Pilsner

Upping the stakes on what a Pilsner can be
  • Grain bill:  Belgian Pilsner, Aromatic Malt, Carapils
  • Hops:  Saaz
  • Yeast:  Wyeast Czech Pils 2278
  • Secret Ingredients:  Belgian Blanc Candi Syrup


Origin Story:

Ignatz throwing a literal brickbat

Brickbats can be a sign of love too

I had been thinking about the Captain Beefheart song “Brickbats”, from Doc at the Radar Station.  According to The Internet, a brickbat is “a piece of brick, typically when used as a weapon”, or, colloquially and more commonly, “a remark or comment which is highly critical and typically insulting.”  It’s a great word.  It’s a great song.  It deserved a beer.

This coincided with an urge to do something simple.  I had gotten into a brief Pilsner phase and thought it would be fun to amp a Czech Pils up to Imperial levels, a la Mu Imperial Cream Ale.  The list of ingredients for a Pils is simple—mainly Pilsner malt, Saaz hops, water, and yeast.   Not a lot of froofraw to hide behind:  it’s a show of technique.

Eric's brew kettle system

The HLH brewhouse, featuring the new pulley arm

Two challenges here.  First, maintaining the balance between the elements of flavor:  alcohol, sweetness, and bitterness.  The increased grain bill needs to be paired with an increased hop bill so that it tastes appropriately, but not too, bitter.  I also anticipated that I needed to balance the higher ABV with some more body, so I added some Carapils and a bit of aromatic malt to a hefty Pilsner bill.  This rule-breaking will keep me from winning any awards, but that boat has sailed.

Second challenge:  working with my new 10-gallon electric brew kettle.  18 pounds of grain is a lot for this vessel.  Mashing 18 pounds of grain in 6 gallons of water is fine, but once the sparging brings your liquid level to the full 9 gallons you’ve got to pull the grain out really fast or you’re going to overflow.  I learned this the hard way when I made Eric’s Brett Imperial Turmeric Dark Ale, and as a result I located a metal shop in Chatsworth to make me an armature that would allow me to lift my very heavy grain basket with a pulley.  It works great, but my timing has to be right or I’ll make a mess of the kitchen.

With this new system, I’ve been having some trouble with my efficiency—with this amount of grain I would have expected an 8.7% ABV, and after fermentation this has topped out at 6.8%.  It remains quite generous for a Pils, and it’s spicy and delicious.

Somewhere along the way it occurred to me that since this was a Czech Pils, it deserved a Czech name.  If I can trust Google Translate, the Czech word for “insult” is “urážka”, which has a great ring.  It makes the label art of literal brickbats—inspired by some street art we saw on a walk with Henry in Queens this summer, and executed by Yaci from Spain—a bit more confounding.

Queens street art

Queens has some of the best street art

Music Pairing:

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