This past Sunday, October 14th, marked the 40th anniversary of the legalization of homebrewing in this country. Legal homebrewing was not only where my fellow partners and I cut our teeth before we went pro, but it was a catalyst for the entire craft beer movement. No one has done more for the homebrewing community, and probably craft beer in general, than Charlie Papazian. Not only did he literally write the book on homebrewing, he founded the American Homebrewers Association, the Great American Beer Festival, the World Beer Cup, and much more. Therefore, to pay tribute to all Charlie has given us, we decided to brew one of his favorite styles and release it on Homebrew Legalization Day.
Charlie has stated in several interviews that one of his favorite styles to brew is a Dark Czech Lager. Considering it’s not a very common beer style today, imagine how hard it was to find back in 1984 when Charlie wrong The Complete Joy of Homebrewing. Back then, and even in many cases now, the only way to drink this style is to travel to the Czech Republic or brew it yourself. Therefore I think that this beer is very representative of the homebrew culture in general.
I believe my first batch of homebrew was back in February of 2007, and I started brewing with my two future business partners, Grant Babb and Brent Smith, in March of 2009. The resources homebrewers have today are amazing, especially compared to when homebrewing was first legalized. We could never have made the progress that we did without all those resources, and it all started with Charlie’s book. It also has to do with an open exchange of information, which has been ingrained in homebrew culture since the beginning. In that spirit, I wanted to share the homebrew recipe for our Dark Czech Lager, which we named “Relax, Don’t Worry” after Charlie’s famous expression. I haven’t written a homebrew recipe for awhile, so hopefully everything makes sense. I will also give most ingredients in the form of percentages, and you can scale it based off of your own system’s efficiencies. Here it is:
Relax, Don’t Worry
Dark Czech Lager
Targeting 1.052 OG
55% Bohemian Pilsner
8% CaraMunich (30L)
6% Carafa Special 3 (dehusked)
Mash at 150F until conversion is complete. Lauter as normal. 90 min boil.
Targeting 35 IBU’s
Nugget – 80% of IBU’s, added with 60 min left in boil
Czech Saaz – 20% of IBU’s, added during the whirlpool
Czech Saaz – about 1/2 oz per 5 gallon dry hop, added after 3 weeks of fermentation and 2 days before crash
Oxygenate and add yeast nutrient as normal
Fermentation and Cellaring:
Yeast: White Labs WLP862 Cry Havoc (this is actually a strain that is licensed from Charlie himself)
Make sure to pitch about double the amount you normally would for an ale
Ferment @ 55F for 1 week
Raise to 60F for 1 week
Raise to 65F for 1 week
Expected FG is 1.014-1.016
Staggered crash, reducing the temp 5F per day until you get to 35F. Rest at 35F for 3 days.
Transfer to keg and lager for 2 weeks or more
Carbonate to moderate carbonation
Serve and enjoy! We serve ours in a Pilsner glass.
Hopefully this is enough of a road map to make your own version of this beer. Thanks for reading, and remember, “Relax, don’t worry. Have a homebrew (or a craft brew).”