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Transforming Kolsch Kit into Altbier

A few months ago, I purchased NB’s all-grain Kolsch Kit during a big sale.

  • 9# Pilsener Malt
  • 1oz German Tradition
  • 1oz Hallertauer Hersbrucker

Since that time, I decided I really didn’t want 5 gallons of Kolsch and looked to see what else I could make with these ingredients. I settled on an Altbier and tried to mash together some recipes I found online and also utilize some leftover malts and hops. Here’s what I went with. What are your thoughts (aside from the OG being out of range for an Altbier)?

Batch Size: 5.5 gallons

Fermentables:

  • 9# Pilsener (on-hand)
  • 2# Vienna (purchased)
  • 1# Munich (purchased)
  • 1# Aromatic (purchased)
  • 1# Caramunich (purchased)
  • 5oz Biscuit (on-hand)
  • 5oz Pale Chocolate (on-hand)

Hops:

  • 1.5oz German Tradition [60 min] (on-hand)
  • 0.25oz Northern Brewer [60 min] (on-hand)
  • 1oz Hallertauer Hersbrucker [30 min] (on-hand)
  • 1oz Spalt [10 min] (purchased)

Yeast:

  • 2 Packs, Wyeast 1007 German Ale

2-hr Mash starting at 154°F dropping to 150°F
168°F Mashout
60 Minute Boil
Estimated IBUs: 47
OG: 1.065

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Did you run that recipe through an online recipe creator? If not then I would, so you can be sure to be in the Altbier specs.
I do a couple batches of Alts each fall, so am pretty familiar with the style. Your recipe looks pretty OK without putting through Brewtoad. I do question the 1lb of aromatic though, not sure it would fit. Also, what variety of Caramunich? I, II, or III? I haven’t used Cara I (I use Carared instead), but do know that Cara II is about SRM 43 and Cara III about SRM 56. I do love the Caramunich malts.
A 2-hour mash would be extreme, unless it’s fits in your life schedule to do it that way (ie. start mash and then have to go bring the kids to T-ball practice). I usually start mine at 145-147 for 40 minutes, then raise to 155-157 for another 20. Actually, I do a decoction, but that’s maybe more than you want to go with.
Now the hops- Me, I would use the Northern Brewer (more than .25oz) as the bittering charge, then the Tradition at 20, Hersbruker at 5, and dryhop with the Spalt. Or use the Spalt at 5 and dryhop with the Hersbruker. Reason- I like the flavor of Tradition and aroma of Hersbruker. Haven’t used Spalt so don’t have any strong opinion on that.
Also check an online pitch calculator to make sure 2 packs of 1007 are enough. I suspect it is for a 5G 1.065, but check to make sure. Good luck! Alts are amazing beers!

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Since I was starting with all the Pilsner malt, I searched for alt recipes based on that malt. All of them I found used Aromatic. The CaraMunich that my local brew shop carried was at about 45L. Your intuition is correct about the two hour mash. I mashed in before going to church on Sunday morning. I kept the hop schedule of the Kolsch kit with 1 ounce of tradition for 60 and 1 ounce of Hersbrucker at 30. I read that spalt was the iconic hop for altbiers, and that it’s mainly used for aroma so I purchased the one ounce to use near the end of the boil. And finally, I wanted to get the IBUs up a bit, so I added the leftover hops I had on hand at the beginning of the boil. I realize I picked the wrong time of year to brew this as we’re in a bit of a heat wave in Kansas, but I’m experimenting with an ice bath in my basement, and have kept the temps between 55 and 60 so far.

Sounds like you did your research- well done. I’m sorry if I came across as if you hadn’t.
I do my Alts usually in September and October when temps here are generally in the 60’s and 70’s. The 1007 is a good yeast for ambients around that range, and I do use a swamp cooler with ice bottles to keep fermentations in the low 60’s. If you do that for the 1st 3-4 days, then you can let it rise to upper 60’s-70’s without problems. The 1st 24-48 hours tend to set the flavor characteristics (which with 1007 are minimal- it’s close to a lager yeast in character). Be ready with a blowoff tube. 1007 can be vigorous at times! I let it ferment for a couple weeks, then I do my best to try and ‘lager’ it- back in the swamp cooler with double the ice bottles to get the temp down to 40-45 (sometimes weather helps and I can utilize a cold snap to get down to 35ish). I try to leave it there for 2-3 weeks and do hit it with gelatin. I think the lagering process helps get that alt/almost lager character. I do dryhop it with 1 oz. of usually hersbruker. Dryhopping is within the altbier parameters.
My Alt turns out like a slightly more hoppy Oktoberfest, and my Doublealt is even better. There’s a brewery in Vermont called ‘Longtrail’ which have an Alt as their standard (Longtrail Ale) and a Doublealt as their best seller (Longtrail; Doublebag) Doubt they distribute out to Kansas, but if you see it, grab a sixer. I based my recipes on what I could find from their website as well as this forum and HBT forum, and Daniel’s “Designing Great Beers”. Good Luck!

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