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Munich Helles – WLP860 vs WLP833

This brew was another 6 gallon split batch yeast comparison. One carboy used White Labs WLP860 Munich Helles and the other half received White Labs WLP833 German Bock Lager. Both of these strains are supposedly sourced from Bavarian breweries; WLP833 is rumored to be from Ayinger, and WLP860 from one of the breweries inside Munich.

Recipe
Original Gravity 1.051
Final Gravity WLP860 1.012 – 76% AA , WLP833 1.010 – 80% AA
Calculated IBU 17, BU/GU ratio 0.33
Color ~3 SRM
Alcohol by Volume WLP860 5.1%, WLP833 5.4%

Grist
100% Avangard Pilsen

Mash
60C/140F Infusion 10 minute rest
65C/149F Infusion 40 min
70C/158F Decoction 30 min
75C/167F Decoction 10 min
Final water/grain ratio 4L/kg, 1.9 qt/lb
Single batch sparge

Boil
70 minute boil time
16 ibu German Magnum 12.4%aa @ 60 min
1/2 tablet Whirlfloc @ 15 min
18g Hallertauer Mittelfrüh 4%aa @ 5 min

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OG 12.5°P/1.051SG

Fermentation
Yeast was pitched from White Labs vials into 1L starters and placed into 10°C fermentation chamber 48 hours before pitching. This caused the starters to pass the point of peak activity, and the yeast to flocculate to the bottom of the starters. I probably should have swirled them up some to resuspend the yeast, but I didn’t. Oh well. Next time I won’t make the starters so far in advance. Even from the vials, 24 hours is more than enough lead time to reach high krausen.

After the wort was cooled to 8°C, the starters were pitched. After 24 hours and no visible activity, the temperature was raised to 10C.

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36 hours after pitching, WLP833(R) is showing activity


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Day 5. Both coming into high krausen


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Day 7. Krausen peaked, temp. raised to 15C


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Day 9. Krausen falling, temp raised to 22C


On day 13, after all activity had ceased and FG was confirmed, the chamber was crashed to 2C for lagering.
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After lagering

Packaging
After 12 days at lagering temperature, the beers were kegged and fined with 1/2 pack gelatin per keg, then allowed to carbonate at serving pressure.

Comparison

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L 860 R 833


6 weeks old at evaluation

Fermentation: Mostly similar. 833 started slightly faster, but 860 finished and flocculated faster. 833 attenuated to 80%, 860 finished at 76%. Both numbers are slightly above White Labs estimates, which is the case with most of my beers.

Appearance: Both – Medium yellow. Creamy white head. Brilliant clarity.

Aroma:
833 Mild and clean overall, fresh baked bread, light spice, whiff of mineral/sulfur
860 More prominent. The same malt and spice, with an added floral dimension, possibly yeast-produced esters. Lacks the mineral note, and not as clean.

Taste:
833 Layers of bready malt and bread crust, mild and soft. A little spice in the aftertaste. Very clean and crisp, with noticeable bitterness.
860 Flowers and spice balanced by bready malt. Balanced malt and hop flavor, with less perceived bitterness. Much more complex flavor, more lingering aftertaste.

Mouthfeel:
Medium carbonation, crisp texture. 833 medium-light body, 860 slightly more full.

Overall:
833 Classic helles character, light and subtle throughout, with a balance towards malt in both aroma and flavor, but enough bitterness to counter any sweetness. Crisp, clean, and easy drinking.
860 More character throughout, and a balanced mix of malt and hops/yeast in both flavor and aroma. Still fairly clean and crisp, but noticeably different from the other beer.

Conclusion
This was an interesting one. 833 was about as classic Helles as it gets, but it was a bit lacking in depth of flavor. 860 came across more Kolsch-like than a classic helles, but it was still delicious. Each beer had its strengths and weaknesses, but a 2:1 blend of the two was magical!

If I had to pick one yeast over the other, I’d go with 833. 860 produced a more interesting flavor from the same ingredients, but it’s hard to fake that crisp, mineral character that 833 had. Add a little character malt and a bit more late hops, and the lack of complexity problem is solved.

I’m not writing off 860 totally, but I won’t be holding my breath until next spring when it (possibly?) becomes available again. If I do give it another shot, I may try lowering the primary fermentation temperature slightly to hopefully produce less esters.

That’s all for now, prost!


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