Tweak my 'fest

I’m sitting, watching MNF, and enjoying this year’s Oktoberfest. I have a wonderful beer but would like a bit more malty body and sweetness. My favorite 'fest is Ayinger. I get plenty of toasty malt and overall the hops are fairly balanced, but I think I want to make this sweeter. I do a hochhurst deconcoction, per Kaiser, with 70% Vienna and 30% Munich and used the Wyeast Oktoberfest blend.
I am thinking about going 50:50 rather than adding caramel malt. I am open to any suggestions but would like to keep the deconcoction and stay relatively authentic.

I do a about 48/48 pilsner and Weyermann Munich 10L (that’s the ‘dark’ stuff). The remaining percentage of grain is a small amount of CaraMunich (which I know you don’t want) and also Aromatic which does lend a deep, malty character. I will somtimes add some biscuit or melanoidin in small (2 oz in 5 gallons) amounts. I also only add hops at 60 and usually it’s around 6 to 6.5 AAU. When you do this, the finish of the beer is sweeter because there are no late hops. I have done a FWH+60 Festbier before that was fine but there’s something about the “60 only” that I like. I also like Ayinger but I think my favorite is Paulaner. I also happen to like 2308 for the Festbier but have also done 838, 2633 and even 2124 with good results. The other option is to mash slightly higher if more sweetness is what you’re looking for. Or maybe a yeast that attenuates less. Also, I consider a Festbier to be a sort of finesse beer and I think the water could play an important role. If you had more sulfates in your water than chlorides, this could take some of the sweetness (or perception of sweetness) away. My water is pretty balanced and I typically add calcium chloride to get my calcium number up as opposed to using gypsum. Of course, it’s a balancing act with all of the ingredients. Cheers & good luck.

i thought 20 was the dark stuff

I’d go with what the op suggested plus the higher mash and a longer boil. no need to complicate it

what ken said is all good advice.

mashing higher might be the key. I sacc’d at 158 this year because I had the same issues you did the previous few years - much bigger body and more residual sweetness, though I think I will back off to 156 next year, and only do a 60 min hop addition as opposed to the 60 plus 15min that I have always done - seems like that will help leave more malt flavor up front too.

[quote=“eelpout”]i thought 20 was the dark stuff
You have to be careful with Munich. There are some American malting companies making products called “Munich 20” and these are more like specialty malts than true German Munich. Denny mentioned using this stuff and ruining a beer. Real German Munich (which usually comes in “light” which is 6L and “dark” which is usually around 10L) can be used for a majority or all of the grain bill because it’s a true base malt unlike these products called Munich 20. Weyermann makes some fantastic Munich 10 that I have in my brewhouse at all times.

I also agree that simple is better. Many brewers much better than I have suggested keeping things simple and it’s almost always the best bet. If you have a great Festbier recipe that just needs some residual sweetness in the finish, I suggest only using 1 hop addition at the beginning of the boil and possibly looking at the mash temp. Cheers.

I’m glad I came upon this thread. I made Jamil’s Marzen/Ofest (off the top of my head, 40% vienna, 40% munich, 20% pilsner) this year and it was my first lager. Pitched about 4 cups of slurry, fermented at 50 degrees for 3.5 weeks, had about 80% apparent attenuation.

Then I lagered at 40 for 3 weeks, then 2 more weeks at 35.

The resulting beer is good. It has a deep malt profile, rich body, and a somewhat firm and very clean finish.

However, I do have a good bit of caramel sweetness upfront, which BJCP says is a flaw for the style. I tasted it next to Schlafly’s Ofest and found the same thing. The Schlafly was much more biscuity, while mine had a definitive upfront sweetness. I really can’t tell what might have caused it, my mash temp was 151 or 152. Maybe back off on the vienna?

the biscuity flavor I usually attribute to vienna, whereas the sweeter makes me think of munich.

I would maybe compare to more commercial oktoberfests? could just be that the one you have (schlafly?) has more emphasis on vienna or something like that?

[quote=“blatz”]the biscuity flavor I usually attribute to vienna, whereas the sweeter makes me think of munich.

I would maybe compare to more commercial oktoberfests? could just be that the one you have (schlafly?) has more emphasis on vienna or something like that?[/quote]

I don’t think so, my beer just seems to have some elevated and inappropriate upfront sweetness/caramel. Its funny, because a lot of BA/Ratebeer reviews I read of Okfest/Marzens have ‘caramel’ listed in the flavor descriptors (as a positive), but BJCP says its a flaw.

There’s a lot of hair-splitting when talking about some of these descriptors and sometimes talking about them is very difficult as opposed to just drinking them (you guys want to get together for some beer? :smiley: ). Some people say that you should not use caramel/crystal in an Festbier although the darker Munich can contribute a very deep, malty and slightly caramelly character. Some people say that ‘sweet’ and ‘malty’ are completely separate and that you can have one without the other. Bottom line is that the vast majority of grain bills should be “base malt” (2-row pale malt, pilsner, wheat, vienna, munich) and very small amounts of specialty grains, especially for this style. Does mashing higher give you more sweetness or more maltiness? I have concluded that munich, melanoidin and aromatic are the best ways to “maltiness” for me.

thats the weird thing: it FINISHES dry, but is very sweet/malty up front. I guess I just haven’t learned to distinguish the two yet. Better get on that before my BJCP exam in February!

that’s what it is supposed to do - be malty/sweet in the front and dry in finish so that you quaff more!

Just a couple of comments. First of all, when you mash hotter you end up with more dextrins which increases the body of the beer (but you knew that). Dextrins are however, flavorless therefore I contend that mashing hotter doesn’t really increase the sweetness of the beer although the ending gravity will be higher. You can increase sweetness a couple of ways, use a less attenuating yeast strain and/or mess with the malt bill, usually by increasing/adding crystal type malts. Also of course as mentioned, decreasing the hops will add to preceived sweetness within reason.

I personally think that most German beers are better if you can dry them out, including malt monsters like Double Bocks. Since an Octoberfest is meant to be drunk by the liter, I personally think that you will like the beer better if you can keep it from gettin too heavy but again that is a personal opinion. If you decoction mash, you’ll end up creating melonodin reactions which will make the beer malty and of course you can add various specialty malts to increase the maltiness as well (bisquet, victory, special roast, melonodin malt etc.). I personally think that this style is extremely difficult to do well because it’s a balancing act with several variables to consider. Good luck and have fun.

[quote=“Pietro”]thats the weird thing: it FINISHES dry, but is very sweet/malty up front. [/quote]A high percentage of Vienna does this for me - I have a 100% Vienna IIPA on tap and it’s sweet up front, dry at the end, really shows off the massive hop bill this way. I’m about to re-brew it with 2:1 Vienna:2-row in an attempt to keep that dry finish while muting the up-front sweet thing just a little.

I absolutely agree. But it’s fun to keep trying. :wink:

that’s what it is supposed to do - be malty/sweet in the front and dry in finish so that you quaff more![/quote]

Right, but its got a pronounced upfront caramel flavor and aroma (which is distinct from ‘malty’, and BJCP guidelines for both VMO say that caramel in the nose or in flavor are flaws.). Don’t get me wrong, this is one of the best beers I’ve done, but I am bringing out a bit of style geek.

@Ken re: mashing higher: that makes sense. This beer has a solid body, but isn’t approaching chewy. You can easily drink a couple of them.

@ Shadetree I think thats what did it. I keep meaning to check the recipe, but my wife took the wrong power cord to work for her work laptop, so my home laptop is on empty. Will check tonight and post back (assuming she remembers to grab it).

Thank You for your input. I think I will just up the munich to 50%, and keep the hochkurz the same. The current beer was made prior to my manipulation of water phase and more CaCl2 may help as well.
One final question would involve moving away from the Oktoberfest blend yeast to the Bock yeast (supposedly Ayinger’s). Has anyone made a 'fest with this yeast?

Yeah, I used WLP833 in the batch I just carbed up and put into my kegorator earlier this week. I plan on doing some semi-rigourous testing when I get home from work this evening. I can tell already though that the beer attenuated well, I’ll just have to see if I like the balance now that it’s carbonated. I like mine pretty dry but I did do a double decoction on the stuff so it is malty. The main reason I used that strain is because I wanted to do a Double Bock with the yeast so I wouldn’t have to bother making a starter and I really don’t have a problem with a malty Oktoberfest. :smiley:

a lot of the NHC medal winning V/M/O recipes use WL833 so I’d say your good to go. I’ve been wanting to try that one in fest at some point too.

So, after rigorous testing I have decided that I like the way my version came out. How well it will do in contests however remains to be seen because as I stated mine is pretty dry since I added zero crystal type malts. I added bisquet malt to this one, I want to say about 1/2 a pound in a 5 gallon batch. What I was trying to achieve was a fairly bready type effect (although not as much as say a dunkel or bock). The problem you run into when putting a beer like this in contests is that sometimes the best what I’ll call “drinkers” don’t necessarly score well because they don’t just jump out there with a judge after just a sip or two. Compared to some dometic commercial Oktoberbests I’ve tried recently, mine is definately drier and you can tell that the commerical stuff has a fair bit of crystal malt in the grist.

I took the yeast off the Oktoberfest and made a Double Bock, I also like the way it came out. I essentially used Jamil’s formulation except that I cut the crystal in half which again served to dry out the beer (if you can call a 1.083 O.G. beer dry that is). The next lagers I do will be a Helles then a Munich Dunkel and I won’t put any crystal malts in either one of those either. I have had really good success with the Dunkel and the formulation which works really well for me is pretty simple, Munich malt, a little melonodin malt and some Carafa II for color (just a smidge). Of course I do a double decoction which is a pain but it seems to be worth it. :shock: