Sunday, 17 July 2016

Munich Helles in 1902 and 2014

As promised, more numbers. This time regarding that other great Munich style, Helles.

As you would expect, the numbers look very different to those for Dunkles. We’ll be comparing the two sets later. But first I’d like to concentrate on Helles.

In 1902 it was still a relative newcomer on the Munich scene. The first versions were only brewed in the 1890’s. Munich brewers, who were associated all over the world with dark Lagers, didn’t want to dilute their brand. Eventually they gave in to the inevitable and began brewing beers “Nach Pilsner Art”, which later came to be called simply Helles.

The attenuation of the Helles examples looks more reasonable, averaging over 70%. But the generally lower gravity means the ABV is about the same as for Dunkles.

I’m always surprised by the high level of acidity in old Lagers. As a means of comparison, the acidity in British draught beers measured by Whitbread in the 1920’s and 1930’s is usually below 0.10%. Here it’s averaging 0.17% lactic acid.

If anyone has any suggestions as to why Lagers were so acidic, I’d love to hear them. I always thought they were meant to be very clean beers.

Munch Helles in September 1902
Year Brewer Beer Acidity OG Plato OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation Colour
1902 Unknown Helles 0.18 12.63 1050.87 1015.6 4.53 69.33% 9
1902 Unknown Helles 0.16 11.89 1047.75 1012.5 4.53 73.82% 6.5
1902 Unknown Helles 0.19 12.35 1049.69 1015.7 4.36 68.40% 10
1902 Unknown Helles 0.17 12.26 1049.31 1014.8 4.35 69.98% 11.6
1902 Unknown Helles 0.14 12.14 1048.80 1012 4.72 75.41% 7.5
1902 Unknown Helles 0.19 13.17 1053.15 1017.1 4.66 67.83% 10
1902 Unknown Helles 0.19 12.48 1050.23 1014.3 4.61 71.53% 12.6
1902 Unknown Helles 0.17 12.64 1050.91 1016.1 4.48 68.38% 10.6
1902 Unknown Helles 0.17 12.23 1049.18 1010.2 5.07 79.26% 7.5
1902 Unknown Helles 0.18 11.78 1047.29 1011.4 4.64 75.89% 8
1902 Unknown Helles 0.15 12.33 1049.60 1015.2 4.41 69.36% 10
1902 Unknown Helles 0.16 11.81 1047.41 1016.2 4.00 65.83% 8
1902 Unknown Helles 0.19 12.96 1052.26 1012.4 5.16 76.27% 9.6
1902 Unknown Helles 0.16 12.81 1051.63 1014.3 4.81 72.30% 8.5
1902 Unknown Helles 0.14 11.74 1047.12 1013.2 4.36 71.99% 8.7
Average 0.17 12.35 1049.68 1014.07 4.58 71.71% 9.21
Source:
"Bayerisches Brauer-Journal vol. XII", 1902, page 353.


Unsurprisingly, modern versions have a lower gravity, but higher attenuation, leaving them 0.5% ABV stronger. As you can see in our next table:

Munich Helles in 2014
Year Brewer Beer OG Plato OG FG ABV App. Atten-uation
2014 Paulaner Münchner Hell 11.5 1046.11 1008.5 4.90 81.57%
2014 Löwenbräu  Original 11.8 1047.37 1007.5 5.20 84.17%
2014 Spaten Münchner Hell 11.7 1046.95 1007.1 5.20 84.88%
2014 Hacker-Pschorr Münchner Hell 11.5 1046.11 1007.75 5.00 83.19%
2014 Weihenstephan Original 11.6 1046.53 1007.4 5.10 84.10%
Average 11.62 1046.62 1007.65 5.08 83.58%
Sources:
Brewery websites

There’s not as big a difference in the OG as with Dunkles, only 0.73º Plato. But the big difference in FG and attenuation must mean that modern versions are much thinner than ones of a century ago.

That’s been so much fun, I’ll be back with some more tables and shit derived from the same data.

8 comments:

Moaneschien / Ingo said...

Contaminated bottling/filling equipment would be my first guess.
How acidic where base malts in those days?

Jeff Renner said...

What is the color scale? The numbers look too high for SRM and I don't think that EBC was invented then.

Ron Pattinson said...

Jeff,

it's old Lovibond. Approximately double EBC.

Jeff Renner said...

Ron - that doesn't sound right. I think that Lovibond is approximately equal to SRM, and EBC is approximately double those, not the other way around. See http://beersmith.com/blog/2008/04/29/beer-color-understanding-srm-lovibond-and-ebc/

Ron Pattinson said...

Jeff,

it all depends on the size of the cell.

Elektrolurch said...

Amazing post, amazing data. Which raises a few questions.
How are the accidity levels in modern lagers by smaller brewers? I mean sure, that the big munich brewers' lagers have low levels should be evident, but I can imagine there can be found some in some products from small,tiny franconian village breweries, going by taste alone. Or am i totally wrong with this idea? Esp. some "real" Zoigl or stuff like Heckel Helles doesn't taste "clean" to me at all.

Ron Pattinson said...

Elektrolurch,

sadly I don't have data about modern acidity levels. I would assume at the large breweries they are much lower today. You're probably right about small Franconian breweries. Their beers don't always taste 100% clean.

Brando V said...

Contamination would explain one or maybe two, but the acidity levels are fairly consistent across the board. That would probably be classified as a trend... I compared this data to the Wahl & Heinus tables (which, unlike Ron's table, names names) and found similar acid levels across the spectrum of German lagers, including .2% for Hofbrau and Lowenbrau. In fact, anything below .1% is a rare exception, not the norm.