Sunday, December 5, 2010

December 6th is the day to brew Samichlaus

Samichlaus is brewed once a year on December 6. When it was first brewed in 1980 by Swiss brewer Hürlimann, it was the strongest lager beer in the world at approximately 14% ABV. Production of Samichlaus was stopped when Hürlimann was purchased by Feldschlössen, but production started again when the brand was acquired by Eggenberg Castle Brewery in Austria.

I've been wanting to brew it for a while, so I started to do some research but didn't find a lot of solid info out there. Here are the numbers according to All About Beer:
ABV: 14
ABW: 11.1
Color: (60 EBC)
Bitterness: 30
Original gravity: 1114
But that doesn't seem right. The advertised ABV is well known, but the actual ABV varies a bit from year to year. The color listed by 'All About Beer' is dark enough to be a stout, so the actual EBC must be something in the 30's? The OG is too low unless ALL the sugar was 100% fermentable and the chances of that are nil. The bitterness doesn't seem right - not enough there to balance out all that malty taste and residual sugar. Maybe more like 50? Maybe they accidentally swapped the IBU and EBC numbers?

There are more clues in Michael Jackson's review from several years ago.
"Trouble was that a beer so dense (original gravity 1228) can hardly be pale, and the Samichlaus interpretation had a markedly ruddy complexion. In recent years the brewery has accepted the traditional view that Christmas and winter beers should be dark. It seems to have done this almost reluctantly, still using more pale malt than dark, although it employs three different kilnings of the latter. Two varieties of hops are used."
So we're now looking at two hops and at least one pale malt and three dark malts. It would be nice to know which malt and hops. My recipe does have two hops, three kilned malts, and the light stuff is more than the dark stuff. But we now know that there is enough OG to make a beer of 17% alcohol if all the sugars were fermentable and the yeast could attenuate to that degree.

Which brings up a bit of bad news on the yeast. According to the folks at White Labs, it looks like I will have a tough time getting to an ABV of 14.
"With proper care, this yeast can be used to produce lager beer over 11% ABV."
I understand that they would want to under-promise a bit to allow some leeway, I'm thinking that I would need to do something extra to get to 14. I've seen other recipes where they finish out with Pasteur Champagne yeast, but that's going to have unwanted consequences. Maybe I need to rouse the yeast regularly during the ferment? How regularly?

Samichlaus Clone (working version)

Recipe Specs
Batch Size (G): 5.0
Total Grain (lb): 25.75
Total Hops (g): 106.52
Original Gravity (OG): 1.143 (°P): 32.7
Color (SRM): 20.0 (EBC): 39.4
Bitterness (IBU): 50.9 (Tinseth)
Brewhouse Efficiency (%): 73
Boil Time (Minutes): 120

Grain Bill
11.000 lb Pilsner (2 Row) Ger (42.72%)
10.000 lb Munich Malt - 10L (38.83%)
2.500 lb Munich Malt - 20L (9.71%)
2.000 lb Sugar, Table (Sucrose) (7.77%)
0.250 lb Special B Malt (0.97%)

Hop Bill
64.0 g Northern Brewer Pellet (8.5% Alpha) @ 60 Minutes (Boil) (12.8 g/Gal)
14.2 g Northern Brewer Pellet (8.5% Alpha) @ 10 Minutes (Boil) (2.8 g/Gal)
28.4 g Hallertauer Mittelfrueh Pellet (4% Alpha) @ 5 Minutes (Boil) (5.7 g/Gal)

Multi-step infusion mash to maximize the amount of fermentable sugars.
Boil for 120 minutes.
Fermented at 50°F with Zurich Lager for 10 months.

Notes: Actual IBUs for this recipe should be over 50. This is because the sugar would be added near the end of the boil, but the IBU calculator doesn't recognize that. Target OG before sugar addition is about 1.112. It will be adjuncted with sugar because I'm worried about having a syrupy mess if I go all malt, and fortunately the Reinheitsgebot doesn't apply to me.

I won't be brewing this on the 6th (tomorrow), but I need to get the final pieces in place and brew it soon.


  1. I would think about feeding the sugar in increments. You can get it up there quite a ways, at least with the ales I've played with...

    The only problem I see is having to build a Ginourmous starter for the Zurich yeast and build it and prepare it to attack such a huge beer. If a dry lager yeast was used, you could just rehydrate 4 or 5 packs, set it, and forget it. I think it would be hard to pick out a yeast profile with such a huge boozy beer. But I digress,it would be nice to use that breweries yeast. I'm reallye excited to hear how it goes and even more so to try it.

  2. Well, supposedly Fermentis S189 is the same strain as Zurich, and they do sell in 500g containers. If you do do a starter, you can do two starters and add the second one 12-18 hours after the first with another dose of oxygen. With a beer this beer, you may even want to do three starters (1.5-2L each) spaced 12 hours a part.
    Bob, did you ever actually brew this?

  3. No I haven't brewed it yet. I need to get a stir plate, and then set up my lagering fridge so I can have the stir plate inside it. My plan is to ferment normally for the first couple of weeks, then agitate the wort daily after that.