It was about a year ago that I first heard about a beer called Gratzer (which I would later learn was the name given after WWII to a beer style known as Grodziskie, Gratzer being the German name for it). It’s a style of beer that appears to have been unique to Poland(originating in the town of Grodzisk). It was a beer that appears to have been made from 100% oak smoked wheat malt. While most smoked beers tended to eschew hop flavors for fear of them clashing with the smoked malt, the Grodziskie seems to have had a generous hopping rate with a fairly firm bitterness. The beer is also a low gravity, easy drinking beer with starting gravities around the 7 or 8 degree Plato range(1.028 – 1.032 SG). A low alcohol smoky beer with a firm hop bitterness? How could I not be intrigued by it!
A couple of days ago I finally brewed my first one. Recipe formulation was pretty easy as ingredient-wise it’s a pretty simple recipe. I did make a few changes. First I used 5/8 oak smoked wheat malt to 3/8 white wheat malt. I made this change as I’ve had some smoked beers where it was like drinking a campfire. So I wanted to back off a bit on the smoked flavor for my first go at the beer. I can use this as a baseline as to whether I want to go with more or less on the next go around. Secondly I couldn’t readily get the Lublin hops that are typically used in this beer. I went with the closest substitute that I had available, Czech Saaz. My gravity also ended up being a little bit higher than is typical (1.036), this was due to the fact I just wanted to use the whole 5 lbs. bag of smoked wheat I had and keep all my numbers simple. I targeted about 36 IBU’s for the beer which seems pretty crazy on something that is only going to finish out around 3.5% alcohol, so I’m curious to see how that’s going to turn out. Finally, for yeast I just used the cleanest yeast I had available which was 1.056. I have it fermenting at 66F so that should keep the yeast profile pretty neutral.
When I ground the grain on brewday the smoke smell was pretty powerful. It reminded me of cooking bacon over an open flame. It wasn’t quite as intense as the German Rauch malt I had used in the past, but it was still pretty potent. I had a few moments of wondering whether it was going to be too much smoke or not. However by the end of the boil the smoky aroma had subsided to the point where it was no longer overwhelming and was much more subtle. The spicy aroma of the Saaz hops actually smelled wonderful with the subtle oak smoke aromatics. The color was incredibly light, a bit of a white hue to it making it appear lighter in color than many Pilsner beers.
With the low gravity and large pitch of yeast it should ferment out fairly quickly. On day 7 of the fermentation I plan on starting to bring down the temperature of the beer by a few degrees each day and will likely keg it on day 14. It’ll lager for another week or two (essentially until a tap opens up on my kegerator). I’m really excited for this beer and am hoping that it’ll be a good baseline for future batches of this nearly extinct style of beer.