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German Pils – WLP833 vs Saflager W34/70

This brew compares two clean, well attenuating German lager yeasts, WLP833 German Bock Lager and Saflager W-34/70. WLP833 is rumored to have originated from the Ayinger brewery in Bavaria, and W-34/70 is the famous Weihenstephan strain, one of the most popular lager yeasts in the world. 

Both strains are well known for their good malt character and balance, so i decided to brew an assertive Pilsener recipe, stronger in alcohol, grain bill, and hopping than is typical for the style to really see how each yeast would accentuate these elements. The grain bill, color, and hopping schedule are reminiscent of what one would expect to see in a Bohemian Pilsner rather than a German Pils, but the high expected attenuation of the respective yeast strains should allow the beers to finish crisp and dry, a slighty over-the-top example of the German style.

Recipe – 35L batch size

Original Gravity 1.051
Final Gravity (833) 1.011 – 78% AA; (34/70) 1.010 – 80% AA
Calculated IBU 37, BU/GU ratio 0.76
Color 3.8 SRM Alcohol by Volume (833) 5.2%, (34/70) 5.4%

Grist
85% Avangard Pilsen
10% Avangard Vienna
5% Weyermann CaraFoam

Mash
65C/149F Infusion 40 min
70C/158F Decoction 30 min
75C/167F Decoction 10 min
Final water/grain ratio 3L/kg,  1.44qt/lb
Single batch sparge

Boil
70 minute boil time
50g (10 ibu) Czech Saaz 2.4%aa @ First Wort Hop
25 ibu German Magnum 12.4%aa @ 60 min
1/2 tablet Whirlfloc @ 15 min
50g (2 ibu) Czech Saaz 2.4% @ Flameout + 10m stand

Fermentation
100mL each of harvested slurry was activated in 2L starters of wort collected from the kettle after cooling. The wort was split between two 5 gal carboys and placed in the fermentation chamber. 8hrs later, when the carboys had reached 9C/48F and the starters were coming into krausen, the entire starters were pitched.

Both fermenters showed activity within a few hours. High krausen was reached on day 4, and the temperature was increased to 15C.

High krausen day 4

By day 5, the krausens were receding and the temperature was raised to 22C and held for 3.5 days. The beer was crashed to 2C for 5 days before kegging on day 14.

Day 6 - both finished

Packaging

The beers were kegged and held at 30psi for 18hrs, then dropped to 11psi for serving. After a week in the kegs, each beer was fined with 1/2 pack of gelatin.

 

Comparison

833(L) vs. 34/70(R)

833(L) vs. 34/70(R)

The beers were evaluated at 4 and 6 weeks after brewing. A total of 5 triangle tests were done by myself.

Fermentation: 833 was marginally faster, about half a day ahead of 34/70 throughout the fermentation. Otherwise the two behaved very similarly.

Appearance: Both very pale gold, big dense white head with good retention and lacing. Nearly brilliant clarity, 34/70 being the slightly more clear of the two.

Aroma:
Both Bread, crackers, distinctive Saaz floral/spice. No flaws detected
833 Moderate aroma with good balance. Less hoppy in a general sense, but the varietal Saaz character comes through well. Slight mineral character
34/70 Stronger aroma, but still moderate. More hop-forward, with more fresh-hop “grassiness”

Taste:
Both Bread, floral spice, firm bitterness. Hop forward. Very clean and dry taste throughout, with a lingering noble hop finish
833 More depth of malt flavor, hop taste more varietal. Light mineral flavor in the finish.
34/70 Malty initially, but hops take over. Slightly higher perception of bitterness. Cleaner taste overall

Mouthfeel: Both- Medium-lightbody, medium carbonation. Crisp and light

Overall: 833 remains more mild and balanced throughout. 34/70 is slightly more hop forward, but more clean overall. The recipe itself is too hop-forward for my taste. Even with a fairly large percentage of Vienna and Carafoam, the maltiness is obscured by the hop flavor.

Conclusion
This was my favorite comparison so far, and also by far the most difficult. I only succeeded 3 out of 5 times at telling these two apart in triangle tests!

Both of these yeast strains are excellent, and the choice between them comes down to personal preference. For me, I like the touch of mineral flavor I get from 833, it seems more authentically German, but I think 34/70 is the more versatile of the two.

34/70 was previously my “house strain” and I’ve successfully reused it through as many as 4 generations without any change in character, so I’ll always keep a few packets in my yeast fridge for backup. That being said, I think I’m going to start using 833 for most of my recipes.


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