Small Batch Brü

Recipes, techniques and tasting notes

brewing system on my balcony

I Brewed My First Helles….and It’s For NHC!

I’ve been brewing for about a year and a year and a half and I think it’s time to send a few beers to the National Homebrew Competition. This competition is held every year and people from all over the world submit their homebrewed beer, cider and mead to be evaluated in multiple rounds of competition. Ultimately, if your beer makes it through the pre-judging rounds, your beer will be judged at HomebrewCon.

One of my two entries will be one of my favorite styles to drink – the Munich Helles. I first tasted and learned about the style during a trip to Munich. This trip was in my pre-homebrewing days, and I really didn’t know much about beer culture outside the US. On our first night in Munich, we went to dinner and asked for a beer list. The server seemed very confused. I said, “you know, a list of all of your beers”. Little did I know, the beer list was Helles and Dunkel.

I ordered the Helles and fell in love. It was malty, sweet, soft and not overly dry. It had just the right amount of spicy and floral hop flavor and aroma. I could sip on this beer all day.

Fast forward to my 23rd batch of homebrew and I finally have a fridge and the ability to ferment my batches at lager temps. The funny thing is – I’m going to use ALE yeast.

I have a few vials of WLP029 third generation Kölsch yeast that I recently used in my Kölsch. This “hybrid” yeast is known to produce the same clean and crisp beers that you see in typical lager strains.

Here’s the recipe and wish me luck in the first round of the National Homebrew Competition!

Check out the recipe here!


100% Distilled Water

Brew Day Notes


Brewing on the balcony today! I started heating the strike water around 9 AM. Going to meet Mom downstairs for some coffee while the mash water heats up.

This is my first 5 gallon batch trying a full boil volume mash….and it doesn’t quite fit in the RoboBrew. So I pulled 2 gallons and I’ll use that to sparge.

Added my mineral additions to the strike water while it was heating up.

Small drop of lactic acid.

Took a pH measurement 15 minutes into the mash and it was 5.8. Added a little more lactic acid and got the pH down to 5.18. I’ll just leave it there. Oops.

Sparged with room temperature water. This is my first time cold sparging. The boil actually didn’t take that much longer to heat up.

Added the chiller and the lid at 15 minutes remaining to sanitize both.

Chilled with ground water to around 80 degrees and then transferred to the fermonster. Stuck it in the chamber and hooked up the WiFerm Temperature controller to get to pitching temps

Reached pitching temps around 9 PM. Pitched the full 1.8 L starter at 58 degrees.


Showing sign of fermentation.


Started the free rise to 67 for the diacetyl rest. This is a “fast lager” fermentation.


Temp stable at 67. Still activity in the airlock. SG 1.020


SG down to 1.015


FG 1.011. Racked 5 gallons to a keg. Put in the kegerator to cold crash. The sample had a malty backbone with a nice crisp hop finish. Less diacetyl than the last few yallor beers I’ve brewed.

Put some CO2 on and purged the O2 a few times.