The Festbier and How to Brew It

Festbier

Even though Oktoberfest is officially over, this beer style should never go out of style. The festbier is a smooth, clean, pale lager that is designed to be highly drinkable to satisfy the Oktoberfest crowds. The style guidelines are below.

  • Original Gravity: 1.054 – 1.057
  • Final Gravity: 1.010 – 1.012
  • Alcohol by Volume: 5.8% – 6.3%
  • Bitterness: 18 – 25 IBU
  • Color (SRM): 4 – 6

Festbier Ingredients

Malt

Unlike the Marzen, the festbier does not have any color to it. There are no dark or crystal malts in this grain bill, and it is actually closer to a maibock or a Helles lager. To do this, you’ll want the bulk of this grain bill to be a German Pils malt. You could use up to 100% German Pils malt, but most brewers use between 75% and 85%. In addition to the German Pils malt, add some Vienna and/or Munich malts. Use a light Munich malt, and don’t add so much as to raise the color beyond 7 SRM. You can also add Victory malt up to about 5%, but it is not necessary.

Hops

The festbier has medium bitterness and hop flavor, and finishes with a crisp, but not dry, finish. I would use the same hop for all additions. Use a German noble hop such as Tettnang, Spalt, Mittelfruh, or Saaz. I would add around 10 IBUs of both bittering hops and flavoring hops.

Yeast

For the festbier, the following are good choices.

  • Munich Helles Lager Yeast – WLP860
  • Munich Lager – 2308 (Wyeast)
  • Oktoberfest Lager – 2633 (Wyeast)

Water

Last but not least, the water. For all beers I brew, I use a reverse osmosis filtration system and build up my water profile from scratch. My water profile looked like this:

  • Calcium: 50 ppm
  • Sodium: 5 ppm
  • Sulfates: 75 ppm
  • Chloride: 60 ppm

Recipe

The following is a 5-gallon version of a festbier. The numbers for this beer are listed below.

  • Original Gravity: 1.054
  • Final Gravity: 1.010 – 1.012
  • Alcohol by Volume: 5.4%
  • Bitterness: 20.7 IBU
  • Color (SRM): 5.5

Grain Bill

  • German Pilsner – 8 lbs (78%)
  • Vienna Malt – 1 lb (9.8%)
  • Munich Malt – 12 oz (7.3%)
  • Victory Malt – 8 oz (4.9%)

Hops

  • 0.75 oz of Mittelfruh at 60 minutes (10.2 IBU)
  • 1 oz of Mittelfruh at 30 minutes (10.5 IBU)

Yeast

Munich Helles Lager Yeast – WLP860

Mash

Festbiers are traditionally brewed using step mashes. If following a step mash, add your salts and acids, if needed, and heat your strike water of 3.2 gallons to 132 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature should drop to 122 degrees Fahrenheit and hold there for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes at 122 degrees, raise the temperature to 148 degrees and hold for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes at 148 degrees, heat the mash up to 156 degrees and hold for 30 minutes. Finally, after 30 minutes at 156 degrees, heat the mash up to 168 degrees to mash out and begin to transfer to the boil kettle. Sparge with 5.1 gallons, or until you reach a pre-boil gravity of 1.046.

You can do a single infusion mash, but it may not have quite the same malt depth you are expecting. If doing a single infusion mash, add your salts and pH adjustment, if needed, and fill your mash tun to the required volume and temperature for your mash to drop to 152 degrees Fahrenheit. For me, the strike water was 3.2 gallons at 163 degrees Fahrenheit. After 60 minutes, raise your mash temperature to 168 degrees for mash out. After mashing out, begin to sparge the same as above.

Boil

Boil the wort for 90 minutes and add the hops at 60 minutes and 30 minutes. Make sure you have a vigorous boil due to the higher probability of DMS from all the German Pils malt. At 10 minutes, I added a yeast nutrient, and at 5 minutes I also added whirlfloc tablets as my clarifying agent. Once the boil is complete, whirlpool the wort for 10 minutes and then let it wind down for 10 minutes.

Fermentation

Knock the wort out in your heat exchanger so that the pitching temperature is 50 degrees and measure the gravity/pitch the yeast. Initial gravity should be around 1.054. I let this free rise to 52 degrees as fermentation starts. Hold the temperature at 54 degrees for 7-10 days until the primary fermentation starts to slow down, and then let the temperature free-rise up to 72 degrees. Hold it here for at least 3 days to have a good diacetyl rest. After 3 days, lower the temperature by 4 degrees a day until you reach 33 degrees. Once you reach 33 degrees, hold it for at least a day, and then transfer to the brite tank to carbonate it to 2.6 vols. After 3 days in the brite tank, keg it, let it lager for at least 12 weeks, and enjoy!

If you decide to try this recipe, or another festbier recipe, feel free to send us a comment and let us know how it went! And if you want to see more recipes like this, sign up for our newsletter below to be notified when a new post is released. Cheers!

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