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Old 06-18-2011, 01:56 PM   #1
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Default King Brian's 2011 British Bitter Brew-Off!

Congratulations to the winners, and a big thank you King Brian for putting this one on! Below will be a compilation of recipes and techniques posted by many of the participants of King Brian's 2011 British Bitter Brew-Off!

1st place: Randar's ESB Yeast 4
2nd place (tie): AnOldUR's Befuggled Ordinary Bitter and Randar's ESB Yeast 2
3rd place: JuanKenobi's Ordinary Bitter

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Old 06-19-2011, 10:41 PM   #2
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Ok, time to drink some crow and eat humble pie.

Being shocked and dismayed by the results returned to me by King Brian, Scott and Erin, I am posting a follow-up, bruised ego aside, as a big looser (and hopefully the greatest winner from knowledge gained for all) of the 2011 British Bitter Brew-Off.

IF YOU WANT TO BREW A WINNING BITTER, DON'T FOLLOW MY DIRECTIONS BELOW! (If you want to learn from my mistakes, you are invited!)

I sat down well rested, Saturday morning, 8:30 am (yes I drink beer for breakfast) with a fresh mind, a shear determination to prove the judges wrong, and a cup of ground coffee and a biscuit for aroma and pallet cleansing.

I poured the first of two reserved samples of special bitters, at 50*f. And much to my dismay, I tasted "light diacetyl, stale, old, thin, highly bitter but with no hops aroma or flavor, no malt, over carbed, tart, with a sharp underlying astringent toasted malt/cheese taste that lasted until the finish)

Ugghh! this is not the same beer that I thought it was. It was now orange, not brown, and I can see why they scored the way they did... So here's how they scored it:

Entry 7, Cat. 8B Judge 1
Aroma: 6/12 Light fruit esters, and strangely I'm getting red bull and cranberry juice aromas. Reminds me of the smell of a bar.
Appearance: 3/3 Bright copper color. Good Clarity. Poured with good sized off white head. Fell to a thin lacing on top of beer.
Flavor: 9/20 Starts with sweet, slightly tart malt. Low bitterness. Finsih is dry with a slight chemical aftertaste.
Mouthfeel: 3/5 Thin body. Medium carb. Slight tingly on the toung.
Overall Impression: 4/10 A bit too thin and dry for my taste. Slightly chemical aftertaste is a distraction. Both seam to suggest a possible infection.
Total score: 25/50

Entry 7, Cat 8B Judge 2
Aroma: 3/12 Plastic? Very odd. No malt.
Appearance: 3/3 Bright orange with a pretty good sized head for a bitter. Excellent clarity.
Flavor: 5/20 Tastes like this lime salt that they sold at this liquor store I used to live by. Very odd, tart. No real malt flavor. Harsh bitterness and dry. Puckering.
Mouthfeel: 2/5 Overall harshness that I cant get over.
Over all impression: 2/10 Something is very off with this beer. very unlike 1968's character. What happened? Infection if very possible...
Total score: 15/50

I'd go on to post the other entry, but my taste test confirmed what they reiterated. BAD BITTERS!

Now I think I know what happened. It was not an infection, nor excessive sanitizer, nor my water profile, nor salt additions (none), nor heat and agitation in shipping, nor plastic and hot wort (none I'm all copper and stainless), it was my method combined with two months bottle conditioning which finished thinning out the beer and exasperated the foul flavors.

Here's what I did wrong (common to all three entries):

I added 10% toasted malt to the mash only one day out of the oven (even though everyone suggests leaving it in a brown paper bag to mellow for at least a week.)

I ramp mashed 133*f to 154*f over twenty minutes (hence thin beer) then 154*f for an hour.

I over hopped the bittering addition for a 1.048 beer:
1.5oz at 60 EKG pellets @ 4.8%.
1.0oz at 5 min EKG leaf @ 4.5%,
1.0oz dry hops for one week after three weeks in the primary.

The beer tasted great one week after conditioning with DME and 10 gallons went fast, but by two months the reserved bottles had settled down into something truly unpleasant.

Sorry if I ruffled any feathers, I am a passionate novice brewer with a lot to learn if you'll have me. Thank you again King Brian et all, and most of all:

Congratulations to all my fellow Bitters competitors to follow with their recipes below!

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Old 06-20-2011, 12:25 AM   #3
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Here's a .pdf of our water quality report for Roseville, CA 95678

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Old 06-20-2011, 12:51 AM   #4
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Hey Hex, thanks for posting the results of your tasting. Looking at your water report, it looks like your water is very soft. You may want to try adding salts to get your calcium levels up to over 50 ppm. You may find you'll get better ferments and quicker clearing. Sounds like the only problem this time was too much time though. I'm sorry not to have tasted the beers earlier.

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Old 06-20-2011, 02:02 PM   #5
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Hex, thanks for posting your process, judges' comments and your own personal tasting notes. I'm encouraged by your determination that you'll find something that works. But wow, strange that a bitter turns south that fast. I mean, I've made several that I've kegged (that may be a difference) that have lasted two months and while not as good as they first were (for that short while) they didn't seem to go south in a bad mood as yours seems to have.

I'm curious about the toasted malt though as I'd like to use that for some added character. I tried it once and waited 1 week before brewing an IPA (15% of grist) and a year old bottle was still quite drinkable. I've seen a lot of people wait and others not but not much real practicable mention of what works or is a waste of time. You may have hit on it?

Thanks to all for putting this together, I wish I could have participated (got a Landlord clone in primary only now).

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Old 06-20-2011, 02:10 PM   #6
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Good job Hex. If we don't win we want to learn and it looks like you're trying to get the max out of this.

Mornings is when our sense of smell is most keen. I've been known to steal a sample early for just this reason.

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Old 06-20-2011, 04:04 PM   #7
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I figure I'll add my results here and maybe get this thread going a bit. Good write-up Hex, hopefully you'll have a better go of it the next time. Sorry, long post.

I submitted two entries, a special bitter and an ESB. Both recipes were pretty standard for bitters, with the one exception of an addition of No. 2 invert syrup for the ESB. For those of you who may not be familiar with invert, this is NOT the same stuff as rock sugar or the D1/2 syrup used in Belgians. British invert is not entirely fermentable and will add significant flavor to a beer. Here are the recipes:

ESB: O.G: 1.054, F.G: 1.010, 12 SRM, 40 IBU, (UK) EKG and Fuggles. 81% Pale MO, 8% C120, 11% Invert. Mash 154F. WY1968 London ESB.

Special Bitter: O.G: 1.044, F.G: 1.010, 11 SRM, 35 IBU, (UK) EKG and Dryhop. 90% Pale MO, 8% C120, 2% Amber malt. Mash 154F. WLP022 Essex Ale.

Similar recipes, both use a good bit of C120 that is a bit unusual for most traditional bitters. I often like using a higher % as it adds a lot of toffee/caramel flavor, though this has a downside in that it can hurt drinkability or make the beer cloying if the yeast does not attenuate or there is not enough IBUs. Yeast choices were standard for the ESB and the WLP022 was one I had never used before. As I ran out of DME, I did not make a yeast starter for the ESB.

My normal process for fermentation is same as in the other thread, pitch a good amount of yeast below ferment temp (64F) and let rise to 68F within a day. Ferment at 68F until 3/4 of gravity drops then lower back to 64F until finished. If the beer needs a diacetyl rest I will sometimes give it a few days at 70F. By day 12 or so, I crash cool the beer down to 38-42F before kegging. Serving and drinking by day 17. However, for both batches of beer for this comp, I did not follow this. Due to work conflicts, I had to go out of town for two weeks and was not able to crash cool or keg both beers on time. I kegged the ESB after 24 days in the primary and the special bitter after 33 days, with a two week (!) dry hop. Both beers were kegged, force carbed, and bottled the next day. Needless to say, this is NOT how to make proper bitters.

Here are the judges comments;

Special Bitter, Judge 1.
Aroma: Sweet and sour aroma. Sweetness if full of caramel and dark fruit. Orangey-citrus. Toffee as it warms. 9/12
Appearance: Dark orange/copper. Slightly hazy. Poured with very little head. Clears up as it warms. 2/3
Flavor: Nicely malty. Well-balanced bitterness. Finishes dry. I'm getting a bit of tartness on the back of the palate that is accompanied by fruity-apple flavors. 16/20
Mouthfeel: Medium body, med-low carbonation. 4/5
Overall: Very enjoyable beer. Nicely balanced with malt/bitterness. My personal preference would be to a little more overall malt flavor but is to style. The slight tartness detracts a little. 6/10
Overall: 37/50

Judge 2:
Aroma: Caramel dominates the aroma. A little plum. Faint herbal aroma. 8/12
Appear: Dark amber, a little haze, almost no head - strings of foam look like a spider web. 2/3
Flavor: Good bitterness, lingers on the palate. Some peat smokiness up front that fades as the bitterness takes over. Slightly spicy hop flavor. Easy drinker, but not so refreshing. Dry finish. 14/20
Mouthfeel: Prickley at first, then drying bitterness. Definately has a warmth to it. 4/5
Overall: Again, an easy drinking beer but there is something about the flavor that I can only describe as peat smoke that keeps everything from really coming together completely. Still, solid with no major flaws. 7/10
Overall: 35/50

ESB, Judge 1:
Aroma: Great aroma. Fruity esters combine with a rich malt and caramel/toffee. Slight diacetyl lends a richness and butterscotch character. 9/12
Appear: Chestnut brown with strong red hues. Fairly hazy. Poured with some off-white head with large bubbles. 2/3
Flavor: Really digging the flavor. Strong malt character with lots of toffee. Relatively low but balance of bitterness. A little fruitiness carries through to the finish. Very slight bitter aftertaste. A hint of (?) with the fruit. 16/20
Mouthfeel: Medium body, med-low carbonation. 4/5
Overall: Very good beer but I can't help but feel it is missing something. Unfortunately, I cant say what. It's got nice flavor + aroma but it somehow wasn't as satisfying as it should have been. 7/10
Overall: 38/50

Judge 2:
Aroma: Definite diacetyl, but Brian and I appreciate it at the right levels. Perfumey English hop, almost rosy. Actually, I think the diacetyl in this is a bit high. 7/12
Appear: Reddish with orange highlights. Bubbly head-big bubbles with little retention. Decent clarity, though a little hazy. 2/3
Flavor: Caramel flavor with a little diacetyl complementing it. Esters come out here in full force. Fermentation products are a little overpowering. Good bitterness. 12/20
Mouthfeel: Slick, carbonation is appropriate. No obvious flaws here. 4/5
Overall: Fermentation products were the problem with this beer. They overpowered otherwise decent caramel flavor and aroma. Bitterness gave a refreshing quality to it. 6/10
Overall: 31/50

In summary, I was ok with how both beers came out, considering the circumstances. I will not be using wlp022 again, as I do not like the tartness it gives - similar to wy1098/99. I should have used a yeast starter for the ESB, doing so would have reduced the production of diacetyl to a more acceptable level for American judges palates. However, I do like some diacetyl in a caramel forward beer. Obviously, judge 2 did not like it. Overall, this was a good learning experience and I hope we do this type of thing again.

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Old 06-23-2011, 10:43 AM   #8
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Great job everyone! Thanks again.

Score sheets and recipe:
(yeah that 's right, 2-1/4 hrs of mash time. you guys with your 4 hr brew days are missing all the fun. )
befuggled1.jpg   befuggled2.jpg   befuggled3.jpg  
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Old 06-29-2011, 03:37 PM   #9
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I posted this on the competition thread as well... but I want to say again- THANK YOU to everyone who contributed to this discussion by entering the competition and posting information about recipes and process. This is what it is all about!

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Old 06-29-2011, 04:02 PM   #10
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I promise I will post up my original results from my beer and the follow up tasting of the same beer by KingBrianI once it aged out a little while longer (the original tasting was done when the beer was 18-19 days from grain to his glass), I agree with the original results and was also pleased that KB was kind enough to revisit my second bottle I sent him.

I did post up the recipe here though.

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