Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Session Beer Series: The Best Bitter

This is one of my favorite styles of beers. But it is very difficult to find a good version in the US. The bottled Bitters really just don't do a lot for me. They are often too carbonated and lack that great smooth creaminess that only beer on cask can achieve. But most importantly they miss the fresh hop aroma that I believe is only achieved by serving this from a dry hopped cask or mini keg for me.

I have been working on my recipe for a couple years and it is getting closer (Last year's Best Bitter). I started with Jamil's recipe for a Best/Special Bitter and tweaked it for my tastes. I wanted more of the full carmel flavor than the slight fruit taste so I used more Special Roast than Crystal 120. I am also a big fan of the bready taste in English beers. I used Maris Otter but to elevate the bread, biscuit, toast flavors I added some Victory (or American Biscuit Malt). For the hops, I really like a big floral hop taste ( I'm thinking the hop aroma from Samuel Smith's Organic Ale). I also brewed this at the top end of the gravity range because supposedly that helps you stand out in competitions. And I think I'll enter this beer in a few this spring.

I am also very proud of myself for listening to lesson I learned last year. ALWAYS HAVE DRY YEAST ON HAND in case something happens to a batch you wanted to re-pitch from. Well, I was going to re-pitch the WLP005 yeast from the my Brown Ale, but the second half of that batch that was going to get some maple syrup got a Brett infection. ( I decided to transfer that Brown Ale onto the figs and dates after I kegged the Dubbel).

Recipe: The Best Bitter
O.G.-1.048   F.G.-1.012   IBU-30 
SRM-11   ABV-4.7%  5.5 Gallon

Grain Bill (75% Efficiency):
7.5 lb Maris Otter (81.1%) 
1 lb Victory (10.8%)
8 oz Special Roast (5.4%)
4 oz Crystal 120L (2.7%)

.5 oz Goldings, 4.9%, pellet, First Wort Hopping 10.3 IBU
.75 oz Fuggles, 4.75%, pellet, 60 min 16.6 IBU
.5 oz Goldings, 4.9%, pellet, 20 min 3.9 IBU
.25 oz Goldings, 4.9%, pellet, once wort is at 140C 1.2 IBU
.5 oz East Kent Goldings, 4.9%, pellet, Dry Hop in Keg

1 Packet of S-04

Brew Day:
Brewed: 12/19/10
Kegged: 12/29/10

San Diego (Alvarado) Tap Water
1.5 campden tablet for 8 gal.

Mash Details:
H2O/Grain Ratio: 1.3qt/lb
Mash Volume: 3 gal
Sacc Rest. Temp/Time: 154F @ 60min
Strike Temp: 167
Batch Sparge Volume: 5 gal
Sparge Temp/Time: 170F

Boil Details:
Boil Volume: 6.5 gal

Boil Time: 60min
Post Boil Volume: 5.5 gal

Ferment Details:
O.G.: 1.049
Ferment Temp: 66-68F
Length: 10 days
F.G.: 1.012

I did not do a formal tasting for this beer so just see below for my judge comments from the Club Only Contest.

From what I remember they are dead on. And if you read my description above on what I wanted with huge floral hops you can see I nailed it. It was a bit over-the-top for the style so the score is not that good. The tip about using high alpha hops is a good one that I have started to use in all styles I brew. I also think what contributed to the big floral notes is because I had to use dry yeast. I have read about this yeast producing some huge esters, so next year I'll use a more tame English yeast.

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