Malt in Lagers

In lagers, brewers ask the raw materials to do the heavy lifting.
  • Randy Mosher


All over the craft beer landscape, we are seeing a steady expansion and exploration of the many classic lager styles and I couldn’t be happier!


This Wet Hopped Kellerbier from DSSOLVR and Wooden Robot is my personal favorite combination at the moment.

in lagers


This topic is always a fun one to have with our customers. Most have strong opinions on which malts (and which malt house) should and should not be included in the grist for classic Czech Pilsner. We thought it would be helpful to provide some guidance from our perspective.


Helles vs. Dortmunder


A great Helles puts malt complexity, not sweetness, at the forefront. Hop character is typically muted, taking a back seat to a blend of biscuits, crackers and fresh baked bread flavors contributed from a carefully crafted blend of malts. Our classic Pilsner is a good bet for this style. It provides the crisp, cracker backbone that can be enhanced with a small addition of our Heritage, Vienna or Light Munich. These three malts combine to develop great complexity even at low starting gravities. Our good friends at Arches have recently gotten rave reviews from a similar grist. Article link:


Dortmunders punch things up a bit on the ABV and call upon an additional 10-15 IBUs of noble hops. Southern Select is your go to for this one. More malt character and a little more color provide a great cornerstone for this recipe. Finish the grist with ~25% Light Munich and a dash of our Dark Munich. The two Munichs will deliver pronounce baked bread and honey notes with just the right amount of toast.


Czech Pilsner vs. German Pilsner


The traditional Czech Pils is revered for its softer, rounder malt character which deftly balances the firm bitterness from the Saaz hops. Color can be slightly darker than the German version which opens the door for our Southern Select to shine as the base malt of choice. The bready notes will play well with the soft water profile, while the green tea/herbal finish will complement the earthy spice from the noble hops.


The German Pilsner leans into a more crisp, dry finish where Noble hop character is more of a dominant player. Base Camp Extra Pale is an excellent choice for this style.  We kiln this malt at cooler temperatures than Southern Select, limiting color development while providing just the right amount of grainy sweetness. The cleaner profile of this malt combined with a slightly elevated mineral level in your brewing water will set the table for excellent attenuation.


Vienna Lager vs. Marzen


A classic Vienna lager should bring greater depth of malt character, highlighting notes of caramel and fresh baked cookie. Noble hop character is present, but malt is definitely the star. For a lighter colored version, try an even mix of our Heritage and Pilsner malts. The Heritage contributes a touch of caramel and toast while the Pilsner adds just the right amount of grainy, sweetness. The color won’t be dark to meet style guidelines, so just keep this one in the taproom!


The Marzen takes even deeper into the “malty” rabbit hole. Traditional recipes layer Pilsner, Light Munich, and CaraMunich for a more intense mix of bread crust, caramel, and toast. The trick is balance, if the brew tips into a cloyingly sweet finish then drinkability can suffer. A safe bet is to steer clear of crystal/caramel malts in your recipe.


For a 100% local Marzen, go with 45% Base Camp, 45% Light Munich, and 10% Dark Munich. Our Dark Munich is very similar to commercially available CaraMunich, lots of dark fruit and toast.


Cheers to all of customers for taking part in reviving and exploring these styles. Can’t wait for the round!


  • Brent