9 Nov 2009

Making (at least a bit) of sense of it

Some time ago I wrote a post strongly critisising the Protected Geographical Denomination "České Pivo" (Czech Beer). One of the conditions a beer has to meet in order to be eligible for the DGP is that it must be brewed with a decoction mashing. As if Czech brewing tradition started in 1842, I said then.

Well, I didn't know what I know now.

In the comments of one of the post in the Argentinean beer blog Logia Cervecera I ranted that a proper lager should be brewed using a decoction mashing.

Someone answered saying that that is not true anymore and that most German breweries have stopped using decoction. According to him, thanks to the highly modified malts used today, the process is no longer necessary for soft waters to be able to extract enough sugars from the grain, and that a multi-rest infusion mash (don't know if that's the exact term, but you know what I mean) does the job just fine. He also added that the breweries from Northern Germany never used decoction to begin with.

Since he seemed someone who knew what he was talking about, and I didn't have any data to prove him wrong, I agreed with my silence.

Later, during a conversation with someone else, the information was confirmed. Though the reason I was given was that German breweries had dropped decoction for reasons more related to costs than anything else.

It was then that I started to see some sense in the insistence of "Český Svaz Pivovarů a Sladoven" (Association of Czech Brewers and Maltsters) about this brewing method.

For better or worse, pretty much everything that is brewed in the Czech Republic are bottom fermented lagers and, according to people who know more than I, these kind of beers should be brewed with a decoction mashing.

Of course, there's still all the other conditions, among them the ABV limits (3.8 to 6%). That, I still find stupid.

Na Zdraví!

3 comments:

  1. Of the decent lagers made here in America, the ones I really enjoy drinking are made using a decoction mash rather than infusion. I get the feeling though that this debate, if that is the right word, is akin to the CCV vs open fermenter question. When I eventually make my own pilsner, I intend to use only pilsner malt, Saaz and the H strain from PU, and use a triple decoction mash.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Speculating a bit here, but I think the decoction vs. infusion mash for lagers debate has a bit more legs than the open fermenters vs. CCV.

    Somewhere I read (and I wish I could remember where) that decoction gives the beer a fuller body because the boiling bit of it caramelizes some of the sugars, but then, that might all be bollocks.

    Ron, if you are reading this (and can be arsed to comment) enlighten us, please

    ReplyDelete
  3. Not sure I can help much, really. Last time I toured Franconia I didn't ask brewers any decoction questions (a terrible oversight on my part).

    I suspect most of the large breweries (and not just in Germany) no longer decoct, purely on cost grounds. But I don't have any facts to back that up.

    ReplyDelete