I had made 167 batches of beer over 15 years without once trying to make a Dortmunder Export lager.  The BJCP lumps this style into Category 1, Light Lagers.  It shares this space with such classic styles as Coors Light, Budweiser, and Miller Genuine Draft.  While this is not exactly the stellar space of the beer category list, the Dortmunder Export is made without rice adjuncts like its American cousins, and the hop bitterness is much more evident.  A respectable light lager.

Whenever I decide to brew a style that I haven’t brewed before, I usually begin in the BJCP style guidelines.  The guidelines suggest “minerally water with high levels of sulfates, carbonates, and chlorides, German or Czech noble hops, Pilsner malt, German lager yeast”. Of course the most interesting aspect of that description is the “minerally water”.

Do a search on Dortmund water, and you can find a wide range of reported values for the ions.  Mostly you find high levels of calcium and sulfate.   Dig a little deeper, and things can get cloudy.  An email exchange with a DAB brewer suggest the Germans actually use much softer water.  After listening to Jamil Zainasheff’s brewing network show suggested that little water treatment is required.  In the end, I added 1 teaspoon of calcium chloride and one quarter teaspoon of calcium sulfate to my mash. By calculation this brought my calcium up to 77 ppm with chloride and sulfate balanced at about 95 ppm.

Malt-wise, I had two Briess malt I chose to use in lieu of the traditional European pilsner malt.  I did have a little Weyermalt sitting around, I only used it to get rid of it.  The Munich malt added a bit of color, the melanoidin malt to add some richness.

Grains Amount Percent
Briess US Two Row 2.78 kg 74%
Weyermann Pilsener Malt 0.52 kg 14%
Weyerman Munich (Light) 0.39 kg 10%
Melanoidin Malt 0.10 kg 2%
Hops Amount Boil Time IBUs
German Tradition (6.5% AA) 36 g 60 min 33
Original Gravity 12.5º P (1.050)
Final Gravity 3.8º P (1.015)
Apparent Attenuation 70%
Estimated ABV 4.8%

For yeast I used Wyeast 838, Southern German Lager.  This particular pitch of yeast was problematic from the beginning.  I had about 100 ml of solids which is probably about 200 to 250 billion cells.  Based on the recipe size and the gravity I figured I needed at least 300 billion.  To move things along I pulled 3.5 liters of wort (about a gallon) and crash cooled it while the balance of the wort chilled.  I pitched my starter into this wort to give it a little head start.  The results were just so-so.  The final apparent attenuation was 70%, which falls into the average advertised range for this yeast (68% to 76%), but on the low side.  I fermented at 10 to 11 °C for one week, then raised the temperature to 16° for a couple of days.  I lagered at 2 to 3 °C  for 5 weeks before tapping.

Taste? Since this was a new style for me I wanted to compare to some classic styles.  More on that later.

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