There’s a phrase that goes “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” That was not always the case. Back in the day when a mug of beer was a nickel, there WAS a free lunch. And it came with a pilsner beer that was about six percent alcohol. “Six point” beer pretty much disappeared after the great American experiment called Prohibition. Here that tradition is revived with Sixpoint CAP, a Classic American Pilsner.
This all-grain CAP version uses American six-row barley malt for historical accuracy, as well as a touch of grainy sweetness. Because it is higher in starch-converting enzymes, six-row malt is able to transform the other key ingredient in Classic American Pilsner: corn grits. This is an East-Coast Pilsner recipe, by the way. If it were a West-Coast recipe it would likely substitute rice for the corn, giving a dryer, more neutral flavor.
More specifically to this particular recipe, the corn grits are substituted with polenta, which is not processed with an alkali the way corn grits are. The result is a bit of added corny sweetness that is subtle but definitely there. I used Golden Pheasant Polenta from South San Francisco.
The mash consists of 76 percent six-row malt, 18 percent grain. To add malty complexity, 6 percent specialty malt is added. Carapils gives it the thick head and creamy mouth feel associated with CAP. Munich malt contributes subtle, caramelly umami. To aid clarification, the mash contains about .75 grams per liter of black malt.
The grains are mashed using the American Double mash schedule. Essentially, the corn grains are boiled to gelatinize them, and this boiled mixture is added to the main mash to raise its temperature after a half-hour saccarification rest. The raised temperature completes the conversion of the cornmeal mush.
A smooth Pilsner needs nice soft water. This one is brewed with Southeast British Columbia mountain branch water. I like calling it branch water. It gives it a classic American vibe.
Classic American Pilsner exhibits a refreshingly bitter hop character as well, from the generous but scrupulous application of Noble hops from Europe. For this recipe, first wort hops are added to the runoff, in this case Saaz. Cluster hops add bitterness and Tettnang are used for flavor.
The beer was fermented with White Labs San Francisco yeast, but any good dry-finishing lager strain would do, as long as the fermentation temperature doesn’t get higher than 60F. When fermentation was nearly complete, this batch went into the refrigerator in a carboy for 12 weeks of rest at 38F (3.3 C). With another 12 weeks in the bottle at cellar temperature, the result was a tasty, corny, stony beer, the kind you would have loved if you were twenty-two in 1922.