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Old 02-15-2009, 08:33 PM   #1
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Default Good English Best Bitter?

When I'm in England (my parents used to live there), I love to go to pubs and order "best bitter". I'd love to try and duplicate that - and I've found kits that have ordinary bitter, or ESB. I like the middle of the road, special/best/premium... So I was fiddling with Brewmasters Warehouse Brew Builder and came up with the following (I've only done extract so far, so I stuck purely with extract):

Munton's Amber DME: 5 Lbs
Challenger Hop Pellets (7.0% AA): 1 oz @ 60 min
Willamette Hop Pellets (4.2% AA): 1 oz @ 15 min
Wyeast Labs English Special Bitter - Private Collection

Min Max Mine Status
OG 1.040 1.048 1.045 OK
FG 1.008 1.012 1.011 OK
IBUs 25.0 40.0 30.2 OK
SRM 5.0 16.0 6.7 OK
ABV% 3.8 4.6 4.5 OK
Overall Brew Status OK

I know it's on the light side with SRM & IBUs, but that's the way I remember my favorite bitters in England.

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Old 02-15-2009, 10:39 PM   #2
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If you can still get your hands on the private collection wyeast, it's awesome. I just used it on an ordinary bitter and am very pleased with the results. As for the recipe, personally, I prefer a bit more color and maltiness to my English ales. But that's why we homebrew, to make what we like! So if it looks good to you, do it.

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Old 02-16-2009, 12:10 AM   #3
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phrogpilot, it is so seriously easy to steep grains, there is almost no excuse not to do it....there are plenty of grains that you can simply soak in 150-165 degree water for 30 minutes that will vastly enhance your flavor profile. you could add 1/2 lb of crystal 40L or 60L and that alone would go a long ways toward improving the malt profile without making a huge difference in color.....

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Old 02-16-2009, 12:14 AM   #4
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I suggest you use Light DME and rely on some specialty malts to give color and additional flavor.

Were I you, I'd replace the Amber DME with Light, and add a half-pound of Simpsons Caramalt and quarter-pound of Simpsons Dark Crystal. Muntons extracts tend to ferment quite dry, and you'll need something to add some body as well as color; the malts specified will provide that.

I like your choice of bittering hops; Challenger are great in Bitter. I'm finding the Challenger listed on the website too low in AA% to provide the IBU you listed, however. I suggest you have a look at Brewer's Gold, which is another fine traditional bittering variety.

I'd opt to delete the 15-minute addition and instead load the flavor/aroma hops at flameout. Willamette is a decent choice, as it is a derivative of Fuggles. I suggest you opt for actual Fuggles or, better yet IMO, Kent Goldings. An ounce at flameout ought to suffice for a very nice flavor and aroma.

By this time, the VSS packages ought to be a bit long in the tooth, as old yeast is not your friend. If you do decide to go ahead with that yeast, be sure you make a starter before pitching. Even if the package was shipped direct to you from Wyeast tomorrow, it wouldn't have enough yeast to properly pitch that beer; combine that with the age of the package and you really need to make a starter to ensure success.

Cheers,

Bob

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Old 02-16-2009, 12:42 AM   #5
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Thanks for the input. I should have clarified - I haven't done any all-grain, but I have done extract + specialty grains. I've only done 3 batches and they were all kits, so I wasn't sure what grains would be good. Here's the revised recipe (instead of substituting the Challenger, I upped the amount):

Munton's Light DME: 4 1/2 lbs
Simpson's Caramalt: 1/2 lb
Simpson's Dark Crystal: 1/4 lb
Challenger Pellets: 1.5 oz @ 60 min
Fuggles: 1 oz @ 5 min
Wyeast Labs English Special Bitter - Private Collection

OG: 1.044
FG: 1.011
IBUs: 38.3
SRM: 8.0
ABV %: 4.3

Oh, and I don't know that I understand what you mean by the "VSS packages are long in the tooth?"

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Old 02-16-2009, 01:26 AM   #6
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I like your revisions. Well done!

By 'long in the tooth' I mean they're old. That yeast was in the last series of VSS, which makes them at least a couple of months old.* I like my yeast to be as fresh as it can possibly be, and I suggest you should, too.

For this beer, any English ale strain should be just fine. Personally, I prefer S-04 for dry and Wyeast 1098 and 1187 for liquid.

Cheers,

Bob

* Wyeast 1768 English Special Bitter was part of the October to December 2008 VSS.

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Old 02-16-2009, 01:48 AM   #7
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Ahhh, got the long in the tooth comment. How would I know (since I'm ordering from a website) if the strain I'm getting is old or new? Or is it just a crapshoot? Also, what does VSS mean?

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Old 02-16-2009, 12:24 PM   #8
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It's a crapshoot, unless you call the store and specifically tell them to root through their stock and put the freshest (most recent date) smack-pack in the box.

'VSS', if I understand correctly, stood for Very Special Strain. Now they call it 'Private Collection'. The current Private Collection is found here.

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