The National Homebrew Competition is the largest home- brew competition in the world, judging 4,335
entries from 1,708 homebrewers across 50 states, Washington, D.C., and 13 countries. To progress
from the first round to the finals is an accomplishment unto itself, but to bring home an NHC medal
is one of the most diﬃcult feats in homebrewing.
Several members of the LAGERS have had success in the final round of the NHC, winning several
silvers and bronzes, but not the coveted gold medal. That is, until this year when Alex Rezmerski
beat out 131 other entries to bring home gold at the NHC. We visit Alex during his brew-day and
find out what it takes to brew a gold-medal winning European Pale Malty Lager – Festbier!
From the BJCP: “ A smooth, clean, pale German lager with a moderately strong malty flavor and a
light hop character.
Deftly balances strength and drinkability, with a palate impression and finish that encourages
drinking. Showcases elegant German malt flavors without becoming too heavy or filling.
This style represents the modern German beer served at Oktoberfest (although it is not solely
reserved for Oktoberfest; it can be found at many other ‘fests’), and is sometimes called Wiesn
(“the meadow” or local name for the Oktoberfest festival). We chose to call this style Festbier
since by German and EU regulations, Oktoberfestbier is a protected appellation for beer produced at
large breweries within the Munich city limits for consumption at Oktoberfest. Other countries are
not bound by these rules, so many craft breweries in the US produce beer called Oktoberfest, but
based on the traditional style described in these guidelines as Märzen.”
“Cliftyfest” – 4B: Festbier
Brewgrass German Malts 73% Pilsner (16lb)
18% Munich (4lb)
9% Vienna (2lb)
Mittelfruh (4.1%) 2oz @ 60 min 2oz @ 20 min
Alex begins by underletting the mash in a 10 gal cooler, targeting 145F for the first rest at
1.25 qts per lb at a pH of 5.4 using Louisville water. After 35 minutes, he pulls his first (and
only) decoction, about 25% of the mash, and boils for 30 minutes. Using the decoction to raise the
main mash to 158F, he holds for 45 minutes and then begins to sparge. After collecting 13.5 gal of wort from the mash, it gets boiled down to 11gal over 90 minutes (~18%), adding hops after 30 minutes and then again 20 minutes before the end of boil.
After knockout, he transfers to a 7-gal glycol- chilled conical fermenter, where a 3L starter of
German bock (WLP833) yeast is waiting to get to work. Primary fermentation occurs at 52F for 5-6
days, then is raised to 60F. Alex naturally carbonates (spunding) using the last few gravity
points. After 2-3 weeks of lagering, the beer gets shipped oﬀ to the first round NHC. He continues
to lager the batch, submitting from the same brew to the NHC finals 8-9 weeks later.
LAGERS exclusive tips: The only thing he would change moving forward is to add another 1oz hop
charge at 5
minutes to oﬀset the hops loss from long lagering periods. He also split the batch using 34/70,
which resulted in higher attenuation and a perceptively more bitter version.
Thank you to Alex for sharing his winning secrets and congratulations on being the first LAGER to
bring home the coveted NHC gold medal. Thank you to Henry Hunt for the photography work during the
brewday. You can read more about the NHC, Alex and winning recipes in the recent issue of Zymurgy: