What’s in a Style: Piwo Grodziskie (Historical Polish Beer)

October 1, 2018

2016, General posting

If there is one thing about beer that fascinates me, it is the history. Like everything, beer styles have waves of popularity, right now we’re going through a phase of hazy IPA’s, Brut IPA’s and pastry stouts. With the market being so strong for these styles, it’s very easy to find information about them. For some styles, that isn’t always the case.

I was intrigued by a less popular style, a style in fact that almost became extinct. Piwo Grodziskie (pronounced Pee-Vo Grow-Jees-K’ya), otherwise known as a Grätzer, is the true original champagne of beers. Popularized in Poland, this beer is typically 100% oak smoked wheat malt and uses Polish hops (Nowotomyski/Tomyski or Lublin) and is brilliantly clear with a mountainous white head of beer foam. The beer was famously brewed and strictly regulated in the Grotziskie region of Poland, and survived much turmoil in the area, including Poland losing its independence in 1793, and subsequently regaining it in 1918.  It even remained popular well into the late 1900’s due to Grotziskie being placed under regional protection by the Cabinet of Poland.

It wasn’t until the last brewery producing Grodziskie was bought out by a larger corporation in 1994, and production of the style stopped. The style, was officially dead. That is, until Randy Mosher brewed some for Michael Jackson (beer journalist), included the recipe in his book Radical Brewing, and introduced a whole new generation to the beer. In 2010, the Polish Association of Home Brewers was founded and they set forth to revive the style. It took some effort, but eventually, in 2015, Browar w Grodizisku opened its doors and began brewing the originally recorded recipe with original yeast from one of the final produced batches in 1993.

A 1914 description in ‘Bierbrauerei’ by M. Krandauer tells us a bit more in depth about the process of making Grätzer:

Tips-icon

“3. Grätzer Bier, a rough, bitter beer, brewed from 100% wheat malt with intense smoke and hop flavor. The green malt undergoes smoking during virtually the whole drying process, is highly dried and has a strong aroma in addition to the smoked flavour. An infusion mash is employed. Hopping rate: for 1 Zentner of malt, 3 kg hops. Gravity just 7° [Balling]. Fermentation is carried out in tuns at a temperature of 15 to 20°C. Since the beer in the tun, as a result of the expulsion of great quantities protein and resin, doesn’t break, it is mixed with isinglass and pumped into barrels. After two or three days it is completely clear and ready to be filled into delivery casks or bottles with the addition of 2 to 5% Krausen.”

 

100% oak smoked wheat, eh? It’s not as bad as you’d expect. When I first approached this beer I had Peated Malt and Cherrywood Smoked Malt in mind and thought, “100% is going to be very strong. Am I making liquid smoke?” Turned out, oak smoked wheat malt has a very light and even pleasant smoke component.  This is a relatively small beer that maxes out around 3.3%, so we’re talking about 6-7lbs for a 5-gallon batch. The harder part is locating the Polish hops, which if you can’t, you can feel comfortable substituting with Saaz.

Also, you may find you need a month or two of lagering for this beer, and potentially even some clarifying agents. As you may have noticed, the description above mentions using isinglass. This is because a Grätzer, albeit 100% wheat malt, should be brilliantly clear. I brewed mine a 6 weeks ago, and used a sizable amount of gelatin, and my beer is still fairly hazy. I did not try isinglass as suggested, and perhaps I will next time – completely clear in 2-3 days sounds pretty enticing.

It can be difficult to find a commercial example of this style; however, I recently discovered that Castleburg Brewery and Taproom in Richmond, VA has a very nice example of this on tap. I strongly recommend heading down there to check it out. If you’d rather just take the plunge, you can find the recipe below. Jay’s Brewing does have some of the Weyermann Oak Smoked Wheat Malt, but it is in limited supply, so don’t miss out!

Parental Guidance (Piwo Grodziskie)

OG: 1.032
FG: 1.009
ABV: 3.0%
IBU: 28
SRM: 2.9
Batch Size: 5.5 Gallons
Mash:
Option 1 (preferred):
Acid Rest: 100°F (30 min)
Protein Rest: 125°F (45 min)
Saccharification: 150°F (10 min)
Saccharification: 158°F (30 min)

Option 2: Single Temp. Infusion – 150°F for 60 min.

Grain Bill
6.75 lb. – Weyerman Oak Smoked Wheat Malt

Hops
2.15 oz – Saaz (2.6% AA) @ 60 min.
0.85 oz – Saaz (2.6% AA) @ 30 min.

Yeast
Dusseldorf Alt Yeast WLP036 (Fermented @ 68°F)

Water Chemisty: Yellow Balanced (Under 6 SRM)
Calcium: 52.5 ppm
Sodium: 20.0 ppm
Chloride: 58.4 ppm
Magnesium: 10.9 ppm
Sulfate: 74.6 ppm
Bicarbonate: 58.0 ppm

 Until next time, happy brewing!

stephenStephen Boyajian has been an avid homebrewer for 4 years. A fan of many styles, with a particular love for IPA’s and Stouts. He lives in Gainesville, VA with his wife, 3 kids and dog. When not brewing, he enjoys playing golf or playing bass guitar.

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