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Spaten vs Homebrew

Hi all,

I brewed my first lager, a Helles, back in late December 2011. Tapped the keg in March and just finished it this weekend. To rave reviews from friends and I really enjoyed it. Since I knew I was near the end of the keg, I bought a case of Spaten Premium to cover the loss of the keg for a party over the past weekend. However, I’m finding some fundamental differences in the two. Spaten is tasting much more bitter and overall less malty, though they are very similar otherwise. My Helles is more like what I remember drinking in Munich last September at the Biergarten in the English Garden. Spaten tasted surprisingly bitter and not that rounded maltiness.

My Helles recipe was:

94% German Pilsner malt
4.8% Munich Malt
1.2% Melanoidin malt

Single infusion mash at 151F

20 IBUs of German Hallertau Mittlefruh @ 60 minutes

Fermented on a BIG starter of WLP 833 German Bock Lager.

Fermented for the month of January at 50F, lagered around 38F until mid-March, drank it way too fast (or didn’t make enough :slight_smile:

It could just be that I don’t like Spaten, as I toured the Ayinger brewery and LOVED everything they had on tap in their bar, especially the samples they poured out of the tank during the tour.

Is Spaten the “representative” Helles, the original? Can anyone recommend a commercial example that is more malty and less hoppy? The Spaten had a “crisp” bite, where my Helles has round maltiness with an aftertaste of hoppiness. Does any of this sound familiar or am I way off base?

Could Spaten in a keg be different? Or differences between US and German brews/markets?

Thanks for any thoughts!

Spaten Premium isn’t a Helles it’s a German Pils.

It tastes like a German Pils to me, but unless I’m mid-reading, BJCP says it’s a Helles.

I wouldn’t call Spaten hoppy at all. Have you tried Bitburger? It’s much hoppier and to me is the quintessential German pils while Spaten is a great helles, but hardly hoppy. Are you confusing the grainy pilsner flavor with hoppiness?

Yep, I have tried Biturger. I agree, Spaten was less hoppy than many, but more hoppy than I was expecting. But who knows, it gets very subjective at some point. My version was my first attempt, Spaten’s been brewing it for a while now. :slight_smile: I wondered about water chemistry, as my default tap water comes in closer to Pilzen than Munich, though still somewhere in between. I want to make a malty, not too bitter, slightly sweet Helles and thought I was on the right track. The difference with Spaten threw me off. The crispness of Spaten was good, but mine was smoother and seemed more malty. I’d like to nail the style first, then deviate if necessary, to meet my goals.

It tastes like a German Pils to me, but unless I’m mid-reading, BJCP says it’s a Helles.[/quote]

Well, then they’re wrong. :cheers:

[quote=“bbrew”]Hi all,

I brewed my first lager… My Helles is more like what I remember drinking in Munich last September at the Biergarten in the English Garden. Spaten tasted surprisingly bitter and not that rounded maltiness.

[/quote]

^^^ this is why I very seldom buy commercial beers any more. :wink:

:cheers:

It tastes like a German Pils to me, but unless I’m mid-reading, BJCP says it’s a Helles.[/quote]

Well, then they’re wrong. :cheers: [/quote]

Some of the BJCP descriptions and categorizations can be off the mark (or just vague).
Since their descriptions are all based on opinion anyway, and developed with the purpose of judging homebrew, one really shouldn’t always accept what they say as gospel (especially when evaluating commercial beers).

The Spaten tastes more like a PIls to me as well.
But then again, there is always a lot of wiggle room when attempting to define or evaluate any ‘style’.
So in the end, who’s to say?

Some of the BJCP descriptions and categorizations can be off the mark (or just vague).
Since their descriptions are all based on opinion anyway, and developed with the purpose of judging homebrew, one really shouldn’t always accept what they say as gospel (especially when evaluating commercial beers).

The Spaten tastes more like a PIls to me as well.
But then again, there is always a lot of wiggle room when attempting to define or evaluate any ‘style’.
So in the end, who’s to say?[/quote]

Interesting. I figured a Helles vs others would be a clear distinction. Jamil Z’s descriptions of Helles vs German lager vs Bo Pils, for example, sounds totally obvious and I could target each style and make clearly different beers.

Can anyone recommend a maltier than hoppy less “Pilsner” Munich Helles as when one requests “ein bier bitte” in Munich? I know my local store carries at least HB, Paulaner, and Hacker-Pschorr.

Thanks!

If Spaten Premium is a Pils, I might actually buy it. I wish they would quit using green bottles, though.

I have observed the same thing. Spaten tastes like a pils to me. Paulaner, on the other hand, tastes like a Helles should, with the malty sweetness up front.

:cheers:

In my experience, there is a big difference between beer produced in Germany for the German market, and beer produced in Germany for the US market… but it also depends on the brewery. Went on a trip to Bamberg Germany last fall, and after sampling some local lagers (Mahr’s Helles = mindblowing) I’ve determined it is pretty much impossible to find the same quality of lager here, even if it is imported from one of the big German breweries. I honestly prefer the good American interpretations now over the imported German stuff.

Its a pils although the distinction between a straight light lager, pils, and helles is not as clear as you might think even over there. Also there can be a difference in the maltiness, hoppiness, and even ABV of German helles lagers. Your big beer hall helles’ (like Hofbrahaus) will be less malty and a little more hoppy, which makes them great with pretzels or brauts sitting in the biergarten. Some of the other big Munich style helles’ like Augustiner will be more malty and little bigger ABV- wise. When you go to the smaller towns around Munich you will find the helles to be much more malty (almost no hop flavor at all) and often in the 5.25-5.5% ABV range. Charlie Papazian’s book Microbrewed Adventures has a great recipe for a small town helles. More than you ever wanted to know, but I have a heck of a lot of time researching this topic first hand. Prosit!

[quote=“chaglund”][quote=“bbrew”]

Could Spaten in a keg be different? Or differences between US and German brews/markets?
[/quote]

In my experience, there is a big difference between beer produced in Germany for the German market, and beer produced in Germany for the US market… but it also depends on the brewery. Went on a trip to Bamberg Germany last fall, and after sampling some local lagers (Mahr’s Helles = mindblowing) I’ve determined it is pretty much impossible to find the same quality of lager here, even if it is imported from one of the big German breweries. I honestly prefer the good American interpretations now over the imported German stuff.[/quote]

We are planning a trip to Germany this summer as we have a new baby due any day now and my wife’s family all live there. We are coordinating some “us” time and it looks like Bamberg is the first/primary destination. If so, I’m excited about visiting Mahr’s and the other breweries/pubs and stopping by Weyermann’s (do they give any kind of tours?). Do you have any other recommendations for the area? We’ll spend a few days there, then I’m working on the last day or two in Wolznach to see some hops before we head to the airport.

I had another few Spaten this evening and, while it is well made, it’s not putting me over the top on uniqueness, creativity and maltiness. I do need to try some different local versions (German and here in the U.S.). I also had a Gaffel Kolsch in the mix and it was different, but pretty similar overall. Several month old (likely) filtered/pasteurized beer in a bottle is what it is I guess.

FYI this is base recipe for the 5 gallon recipe from Charlies’ book. Makes a great small town Bavarian Helles:

IBU: 27
ABV: 5.5%

7.5 lbs-German Pils
1 lb-Belgian Aromatic
4 oz-German Caramunich
4 oz-Acidulated/Sour Malt

He lists Hood and Tradition as bittering with crystal as aroma @ 1 minute. I have substituted both Tradition and Herkules as bittering with Hersbrucker or Hallertau for aroma with even better results. I used WLP 833 to get a nice balanced malt profile. Have also used WY2206 and it comes out a little more malty-so whatever floats your boat (I prefer 833 for almost all German lagers).

**I think the Acidulated/Sour really gives you an authentic taste. I actually have to add H2O chemical additions to bring up the Ph since I already have low Ph, but the end taste is worth it.

Good luck, hermano!

[quote=“mlsouth”]FYI this is base recipe for the 5 gallon recipe from Charlies’ book. Makes a great small town Bavarian Helles:

IBU: 27
ABV: 5.5%

7.5 lbs-German Pils
1 lb-Belgian Aromatic
4 oz-German Caramunich
4 oz-Acidulated/Sour Malt

He lists Hood and Tradition as bittering with crystal as aroma @ 1 minute. I have substituted both Tradition and Herkules as bittering with Hersbrucker or Hallertau for aroma with even better results. I used WLP 833 to get a nice balanced malt profile. Have also used WY2206 and it comes out a little more malty-so whatever floats your boat (I prefer 833 for almost all German lagers).

**I think the Acidulated/Sour really gives you an authentic taste. I actually have to add H2O chemical additions to bring up the Ph since I already have low Ph, but the end taste is worth it.

Good luck, hermano![/quote]

Thanks! I’ll try it. I too like WLP833. I toured the Ayinger Brewery last year and the place smells incredible. Yeasty that is. In a good way. I have a Vienna lager finishing up fermentation now that I fermented with 833 and it already tastes great and malty. I’m curious about the acidulated malt. I was going to try it in a previous batch and decided not to until I have the basics figured out. And my water is fairly good for these beers.

Thanks!

Definitely try the acidulated because I am convinced it gives the right taste. Ditto for Bocks and Dopplebocks by the way. Just make sure you really look at your Ph levels so you dont end up too low.

[quote=“mlsouth”]FYI this is base recipe for the 5 gallon recipe from Charlies’ book. Makes a great small town Bavarian Helles:

IBU: 27
ABV: 5.5%

7.5 lbs-German Pils
1 lb-Belgian Aromatic
4 oz-German Caramunich
4 oz-Acidulated/Sour Malt

He lists Hood and Tradition as bittering with crystal as aroma @ 1 minute. I have substituted both Tradition and Herkules as bittering with Hersbrucker or Hallertau for aroma with even better results. I used WLP 833 to get a nice balanced malt profile. Have also used WY2206 and it comes out a little more malty-so whatever floats your boat (I prefer 833 for almost all German lagers).

**I think the Acidulated/Sour really gives you an authentic taste. I actually have to add H2O chemical additions to bring up the Ph since I already have low Ph, but the end taste is worth it.

Good luck, hermano![/quote]

Why not use just Hallertau hops and stay true to the region? I don’t know enough about Mt Hood, Tradition or Crystal to compare or know the benefits (availability, cost?). I have some first year Liberty growing along a fence that I thought I’d try once I have a good harvest.

Braukaiser has a Helles recipe with Pisner, Vienna and Acidulated. Hopped with Perle and Tradition. I might go with the Vienna instead of the Belgian Aromatic and Caramunich. Though I’ll probably try both. :slight_smile:

I have subbed Munich I and Vienna. It just comes out a little lighter bodied and lighter color wise. Good though. Again-try it all and see what you like. I always say-you have the rest of your life to get it just the way you like it…

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