German Beer Lager Pilsner

Birra Perfetta

Italian pilsner: despite what a lot of people think when the first hear the phrase, it’s not Peroni. (That’s a generic Euro export lager.) No, it’s a sub-sub-style of German pilsner (like the West Coast aka SoCal pils I profiled in a previous post) that’s dry-hopped (politely, delicately) with traditional European noble hops.

Why a whole sub-sub-style, you ask? Aren’t many German lagers dry-hopped anyway? Yeah, sure. But the prototypical Italian pilsner, Birrificio Italiano’s Tipopils (literally “a kind of pilsner”) has inspired a whole wave of American brewers—most notably, Firestone Walker’s Matt Brynildson—to riff on its “dry, immensely drinkable” template.

I’ve never had the pleasure of drinking Tipopils, but I’ve had a number of the beers inspired by it, not least Brynildson’s own Pivo Pils. The Pacific Northwest is positively brimming with breweries making craft lagers these days, and Oregon in particular is blessed with several of the best lager breweries in the US: Wayfinder, pFriem, and Heater Allen. Suffice it to say, I’ve been drinking a lot of lager lately, and it’s been making want to brew more lagers. Of course I had to give an Italian pils a try.

So, inspired by a post at Jeff Alworth’s Beervana, I set about creating my own recipe. I reached out to Alworth via Twitter, and he was more than happy to help me refine a few details. The result is what you see below.

What’s in it?

The Vitals

  • Method: BIAB, python squeeze
  • Batch size: 4 gallons
  • Mash: 75 minutes @ 152F
  • Boil: 90 minutes
  • Ferm temp: 52F (diacetyl rest at 66F for 2 days)
  • OG: 1.045
  • FG: 1.007
  • ABV: 5.2%
  • IBU: 35

The Grain

  • 6 lbs. Best Malz Pilsner (95%)
  • 0.35 lbs. Mecca Grade Metolius (5%)

The Hops

  • 16g Hallertau Magnum [10.8% AA] @ 90 minutes (27 IBU)
  • 40g Tettnang [3.9% AA] @ 10 minutes (8 IBU)
  • 7g Tettnang @ DH (with ~1P to go in active fermentation)
  • 14g Tettnang @ DH (at 55F during crash after diacetyl rest)

The Rest

  • Water: 5.25 gallons Bend tap + 0.5 tsp Gypsum, 0.5 tsp Calcium Chloride, and 4g lactic acid 88%
  • Yeast: Saflager W-34/70 (1 packet, dry—no rehydration)

The Process

There’s a lot of argument over whether a proper pilsner should be decocted, and a lot of it breaks down according to sub-style. Czech pils? Hell yes, and you had better do it three times. German pils? Sure, and especially so if you’re using undermodified malt.

And Italian pils? Well, I had to do a little digging to find out whether Agostino Arioli does it for Tipopils, but the answer appears to be no. Instead, he uses a simpler step mash. I went one step cheatier and did a single-infusion mash at 152F, for 75 minutes.

The rest was pretty simple. A 90-minute boil, just to head off any threat of DMS. Chilling down to lager temps before pitching a healthy starter of Saflager W-34/70 (third generation). Arioli reportedly ferments in the mid-50s for slightly more ester production, but I pegged my fermentation fridge at 52F and let it ride before a brief d-rest at about 60F.

One of the things that makes Tipopils unique is its dry-hopping philosophy. First, the additions are small—like, really small. Second, they come in two stages: one during active fermentation and one during “maturation” aka lagering. My first addition, made just before the d-rest, was a mere 7 grams (remember this was a 4-gallon batch, so it’d be fractionally higher for a 5-gallon batch). The second, made during the crash down to lagering temps, was 14g. Yep, that’s less than an ounce of 3.9% AA dry hops. I wasn’t sure I’d even taste it in the end product, but I trusted in Arioli and Alworth. They didn’t let me down.

In the end, primary fermentation took about 12 days, after which I kegged it and fined with gelatin. It was already very good a week later, but after about a month and a half it truly hit its stride and became one of the best beers I’ve ever brewed. (Crystal clear, too!)

How’s it taste?

Fucking phenomenal.

Appearance: Crystal clear, at least after about a month of lagering and a shot of gelatin. A beautiful golden color with visible trails of bubbles rising to a dense, persistent cap of white foam. Nice lacing around the glass as the level drops. Pilsner perfection.

Aroma: I mean, there’s no mistaking noble hop aroma. Herbal, floral, very lightly fruity. You also get the typical lager aroma, which I’m still not sure how to describe. Just crack a can of Bitburger from your local Trader Joe’s and you’ll see what I mean. The malt profile is subdued, as you’d expect, but there’s a hint of light toast from the Munich malt atop the characteristic pilsner graininess.

Flavor: Like I said, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to detect the dry hop in this beer, given the miniscule amounts used, but in the end it came through beautifully. The restrained dry hop really balances this beer perfectly between malt and hop profiles. I think I’d prefer Hallertau Mittelfrueh here (the other noble hop I’ve used extensively) to Tettnang, but it’s a close thing. To me, Tettnang is a bit earthier and more herbal, while Mittelfrueh is more obviously floral.

Mouthfeel: Dry, crisp, and refreshing—especially after it finally dropped totally clear. I’d stop short of calling it watery, but at 5.2% it was definitely on the light side of what I’m used to. Still, the dense foam gives it a hint of body, and the added minerals keep it from being too flabby or boring.

Would I brew it again?

This is a beer I plan to brew every summer, maybe twice or even three times. I’d really like to try this recipe again with some other noble hops, and maybe even a super-noble like Loral. Brynildson uses Saphir, which I’ve never tried but also sounds wonderful. (And Pivo is an unimpeachable product.) I’d also like to try the same beer with 100% pilsner malt and see what difference it makes. Hell, I might even try decoction.

This is one I can riff on forever.


  1. Definetly do a decoction! No matter if its under-modified malt or not, it will bring more taste to the table. Mouthfeel, at least in my opinion will also contribute from the decoction. Single-decoc? triple? I would start off with a single decoction, 40% of the mashed malt goes into the boiler, keep it thick, low amount of liquids, just enough not to scorch the malt. 10-15 minutes boil, then return it to the kettle. You probably researched this yourself, but when i did years ago, i found it hard to get a precise description of the process. I like your blog, I visit it from time to time and enjoy reading it!

  2. You may want to try one of the American Hallertau derivatives. I LOVE Crystal. Sterling, bred from Saaz, would be another great choice.

  3. Thanks for detailing your (thought) process for this beer! May I ask what you’d do differently were you brewing a “German” or “American” pilsner instead? It all seems pretty standard to me (not that that was a bad thing, just curious about what in particular makes this “Italian”), except maaaaaaybe for the dry-hop, but even that is not unheard of in a German pils.

    With all the hype on homebrewtalk and the likes, I was curious to try Tipopils when I was in Trento, Italy. It’s certainly a good beer, but not something I’d actively seek out. What reallydistinguishes it from most “German Pilsner”s is (to my taste, at least) not the dry-hop, but the very thin body, which actually borders on watery.

    (Side note: I really dislike the fact this is now called “Italian Pilsner” just because some Italian brewery started the trend of brewing pils like that. 99% of pilsners brewed in Italy are not “Italian Pilsners” and most “Italian Pilsners” are not brewed in Italy.)

    1. Hey Daniel, I get the agita re: adding another sub-style to an already crowded category of beers. When I made this beer, I tried it against HPB’s Pleasant Pils (their version of an Italian pilsner), as well as Bitburger and pFriem Pils. To me, the Italian pilsners tasted and in particular smelled quite a bit different than the traditional German pilsners—a sharper hop aroma, a little zingier on the palate, and as you suggested, a little lighter/thinner/less sweet. The dry hop was apparent in the aroma, if less so in the flavor.

      As to what I’d do differently: When I’ve made German pilsners in the past, I haven’t dry-hopped at all, and I’ve rarely added any hops later than 20-30 mins from the end of the boil. (Arioli apparently ferments Tipopils warmer than the average German pils, as well, but in the case of this beer I just treated it like a typical pils.)

      While I think there’s room for this sub-style in the canon, I agree that “Italian pilsner” isn’t a great name—it’s too easily confused with stuff like Peroni, and as you suggested there are only a few breweries in Italy making it. But I do think it’s distinct enough from American pilsners like Prima (more aggressively hoppy), IPLs (hugely hoppy, boozier), and the West Coast pilsners being popularized by HPB (NEIPA-style WP and dry-hopping with fruity/juicy hops).

      If you’re interested, there’s a discussion on this topic going on right now over at BA. Most of the posters seem to agree with you, but I’ve always found that forum to be very “get off my lawn!” about new styles. 🙂

      1. Thanks, Ben, for taking your time to write a detailed response!

        One last piece of nitpicking: “birra” is of female gender in Italian, so the correct expression would be “birra perfetta”.

  4. Great article, much appreciated. One point I’d appreciate some confirmation on: it sounds like you put all dry hops into the fermenter and then transferred off into the keg, correct?
    From what you’ve written and the links you’d shared my interpretation is that the original beer is matured on at least the second charge of dry hops? Would you agree or am I misinterpreting?
    It may not make a big difference, but I’m deciding whether dry hopping in the keg and conditioning on those hops would get me closer to the original process. I’m a bit hesitant to leave to beer on the hops for that long (4+ weeks) although I’ve never dryhopped at lager temps either.

    Would appreciate your opinion since you seem to have dug pretty deep into this style!

    1. Hey Ben! Good question.

      You’re correct: For this batch I left both rounds of dry hops in the fermenter until FG and then racked to a keg once the second DH had been in there for about 3 days.

      I made this beer again recently, but with all Saphir hops, and this time I fermented in a keg with a floating dip tube. In this case I tossed the dry hops in and actually left them there all the way through serving and actually served from the fermentation keg. (I’ve been doing this a lot lately, especially with lagers and NEIPAs. Trying to limit cold-side oxygen exposure, you know?) I didn’t notice any big difference from the first batch, aside from the different flavor of the Saphir hops.

  5. Thanks for the feedback!

    Sounds like leaving the beer on dryhops in keg for an extended period didn’t have any adverse effects which is great! Do you have a rough idea how long that last Saphir batch would have sat on the dry hop before the keg kicked?

    Based of what you shared, I’ll ferment your recipe out in one fermenter/keg/keg with no dryhop, and then split the batch into two smaller, purged serving kegs: one with the dry hop and one without. I’ve never dryhopped a pils before and will be interested to compare side-by-side.

    If you have any other tips learned in your most recent batches of this style, please share!

    1. At this point it’s been in there for 40 days. Still hasn’t kicked. I’d say it’s still tasting roughly the same as the day it was put in the keezer—just a bit crisper and cleaner after the extended lagering period.

      Your plan sounds like a good one. Please report back and let me know how it went!

      1. Update: Brewed up that batch, fermented out and spunded in a single keg (no dry-hop in fermenter), then split into two 10 liter kegs where one was dry-hopped with a small charge of Spalt/Aurora. Both kegs were left for 8 weeks to condition at 5°C, and the dry-hopped batch sat on those hops for the duration of that time.

        First taste after that condition period is interesting, but not really surprising:
        -dry-hopped batch has stronger and different aroma (more minty, green wood, maybe some slight fruit)
        -dry-hopped batch maintains a slight haze even after extended conditioning (other batch is crystal clear)
        -strong personal preference is for the non-dry-hopped version which comes across much crisper, maltier, and cleaner. My best explanation is that the dry-hops mask some of the malt and kettle-hop character.
        -non-dry-hop version was like a good example of a German pils – first time using Aurora hops in this recipe and they really come through strong
        -pH (4.2) and gravity (2.5° Plato) remained steady and similar on both batches. I’d expected a pH increase through dry-hop that did not show up

        I summary, I likely won’t dry-hop future batches of a more classic Pils style based on personal preference. This mirrors my preference with more west coast lager recipes (Mosaic lager) where I have moved away from dryhopping as well.

        Thanks again for the article and inspiration!

        1. Very interesting, Ben! Makes sense that the DH would mask the malt and kettle hops, and I can totally understand your preference there.

          For what it’s worth, I recently re-made this recipe using all Saphir hops and, surprisingly, totally hated it. The hop character was very weird—wildly fruity and just… off, at least for what I expected from Saphir. I think as homebrewers we often default to thinking that Hallertau is Hallertau and Citra is Citra, but hops can vary a lot in character from crop to crop, farm to farm. I wonder if you made this again with different batches of Aurora/Spalt if it’d come out differently. But then again, it sounds like your preference is pretty well established regardless.

          1. Would be interesting to see if you would have liked the latest Saphir batch with only kettle additions (assuming you followed a DH schedule similar to the one in your recipe above). I certainly like what I got from the kettle additions of the Aurora/Spalt combo in this batch and not what it added as a DH.

            Mosaic is the only hop I’ve used regularly enough to tell differences in batches or crop years (or storage/packaging/processing, who knows…), but I was impressed how large the differences can be. I’ve likely unfairly stopped using some great varieties when a first and only attempt didn’t deliver what I expected… too many varieties out there and not enough time to give them a fair chance!

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