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Old 11-02-2010, 01:28 PM   #1
onelegout
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Default English Best Bitter Recipe Development

Hi,

I'm from the south of England. We drink lots of ale here!
My goal is to try and create a very simple recipe, which will be a classic Best Bitter. This recipe has to make a very good, very drinkable Best Bitter which is exactly to style. It will then be used as the foundation for every beer I will make in 2011, so I have to get this one right.

I'd really like your input as to what makes a typical Best Bitter. We're not trying to be innovative, we're trying to create a definitive benchmark for what a best bitter should be.

Here's my starting point:


Batch size: 23l
Style: 8B. Special/Best/Premium Bitter (Best Bitter)
Type: All Grain
Estimated OG: 1.046
Estimated FG: 1.011
Estimated ABV: 4.59%
Estimated Efficiency: 75%
IBUs: 35.7

Grain:
4000g Maris Otter Pale Malt
450g Crystal 80l
50g Crystal 120l

Hops:
75g Fuggles 3.8%AA @ 60min
25g Fuggles 3.8%AA @ 15min
1 protofloc tablet @ 15min

Primary for 1 week
Bottle & Keg for 1 month


What do you reckon?
H

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Old 11-02-2010, 02:39 PM   #2
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Looks standard enough to me, a bit of torrified/flaked wheat would be another classic addition (but not a necessary one). What sort of yeast are you going to use? I'd probably give it 10-14 days in primary just to be sure fermentation is complete, and I bet it will be ready to drink sooner than a month after packaging.

Good luck.

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Old 11-02-2010, 03:40 PM   #3
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IMHO, your yeast selection will be your biggest driver in the flavor of your bitter. I am currently trying a different yeast everytime I make my bitter, and they all turn out different. I use Kent Goldings in addition to Fuggles. I also use pale as opposed to M.O. because I don't care for a ton of biscuit flavor.

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Old 11-02-2010, 04:58 PM   #4
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Well, you picked a good time to brew a bitter. Two of Wyeast's 4th quarter special strains are 1469 West Yorkshire (Timothy Taylor) and 1026 British Cask. White Labs also has WLP037 Yorkshire Squares (Sam Smith) through the end of the year.

As far as grainbill, I really like Bob's 80/10/10 pale/crystal/adjuct rule. A little sugar, even at this low of an OG is pretty traditional and helps offset the generally lower attenuation of British yeasts.

Cheers!
Kevin

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Old 11-02-2010, 05:20 PM   #5
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Special/Best bitter is one of my favorite styles and I brew it VERY often. Actually, I brew it about twice a month and have been doing so for a long time. For me the perfect special bitter has a deep, malty biscuit flavor with lots of complex stone fruit esters, a firm hop bitterness, and a mild floral hop aroma.

IMO, the two biggest factors for this beer style are yeast choice and the grist. My favored yeasts are wy1968, wy1469, and wy1187, with a ferment temp around 68F for two weeks minimum. As for grist, I like a MO base with about 6% crystal 40L and 3.5-4% extra dark crystal (120, or 160L) for an O.G around 1.045. If I want a more biscuit flavor, I will toast some base malt in the oven for around 6-8% of the grist. I like EKG hops, 0.70-80 BU:GU, with some hop flavor and aroma.

Here is my standard "session bitter." Good luck!

http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f64/yeoman-special-bitter-192039/

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Old 11-02-2010, 05:58 PM   #6
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Disclaimer: Fuller's Fanatic Speaking...

[Edit: Corrected, as per 14thstreet's guidance. Apologies for going off of memory on this.]

The Jamil Show ran a few podcasts that built upon an interview with John Keeling (Head Brewer at Fuller's). What was interesting is that they use a parti-gyle and keep the running separate - basically a high-gravity running and a low-gravity running. They then combine them to create all of their higher production run beers (things like Vintage Ale are a different beast, done as one-off batches).

What is interesting is their grain bill. All of their standard brews start off with a 95/5 of pale malt (were not specific, but Maris Otter would probably be a good bet) and 150 EBC Crystal - approximately 75L, such as Simpon's Dark. Not sure what the gravity of either of the runnings are, though.

Back to the point, though, is that this would be the same grain bill (the 95/5) that they use for Fuller's ESB, although the ratio of the running would need to be experimented with. The immediate upside to this could be the ease of making multiple beers off of the runnings. Throwing random numbers out there, but assume that ESB. is something like a 3:2 ratio of first runnings to second runnings. You could then take what is left to do a 2:3 ration to come up with something like a London Pride.

The interview, and some good speculation/breakdown of John's interview is found split between three separate podcasts (ordered from oldest to newest - i.e. recommended listening order):


As to your current recipe, I like the ratio. I would definitely look towards something like that to build off of. Might consider Target for some of the bittering, too.

Do you plan on Burtonizing?
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Last edited by jmferris; 11-03-2010 at 03:11 PM. Reason: Technical corrections
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Old 11-02-2010, 08:37 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bierhaus15 View Post
IMO, the two biggest factors for this beer style are yeast choice and the grist. My favored yeasts are wy1968, wy1469, and wy1187, with a ferment temp around 68F for two weeks minimum. As for grist, I like a MO base with about 6% crystal 40L and 3.5-4% extra dark crystal (120, or 160L) for an O.G around 1.045. If I want a more biscuit flavor, I will toast some base malt in the oven for around 6-8% of the grist. I like EKG hops, 0.70-80 BU:GU, with some hop flavor and aroma.
+1 to this. This is exactly how I think of bitters, and the cited yeasts are definitely the best options, IMO. (WLP002 and WLP007 are also great choices.)
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Old 11-02-2010, 08:55 PM   #8
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Subscribed! I'm very interested in following this project.

On this side of the pond, I find many people who brew excellent bitters don't serve them properly. They are usually over carbonated and served too cold. IMHO, the whole idea is to have a session beer with layers of subtle character and serving a fizzy cold beer tends to hide many of the subtleties of this style.

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Old 11-02-2010, 09:07 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by caskconditioned View Post
They are usually over carbonated and served too cold. IMHO, the whole idea is to have a session beer with layers of subtle character and serving a fizzy cold beer tends to hide many of the subtleties of this style.
Could not agree more. Recently found an "English Pub" that has some great names on tap. Unfortunately, everything is served at the same temperature, probably close to 33 degrees or so. I aim for 50-55 degrees for most of the ones I imbibe at home, even if that means cellaring most of my stock.
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Old 11-02-2010, 11:34 PM   #10
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Best Bitter is my favorite.
Your recipe looks good, but I would make two changes.
I'd change the 450g of Crystal 80L to 250g of Crystal 55L. That's not to say you are wrong, just that I don't like more than 6 - 7% crystal.
I'd also replace the Fuggles with EKG at about 5% AA, using about 50g for 60 min, and 25g at 15 and 0 min.
One other thing that makes a tremendous difference is the mash thickness and temperature. I mash for 90 minutes at 1 US qt per lb grain at a temperature of 150F. The thick mash (recommended for English Ales by both Noonan and Daniels) makes a very big difference to the character of the beer, and the relatively low mash temperature results in a very drinkable beer, as opposed to something that is cloyingly sweet.

-a.

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