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Old 09-21-2010, 12:17 AM   #1
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Default Special/Best Bitter Recipe Review

Please review the following recipe and comment. I have made this a couple of times and it's "good" just not "great". Any feedback would be appreciated. BTW the addition of Victory Malt is new and I haven't tried it yet. I use Maris Otter as my base malt.

I have done a search for "special bitter" and got several hundred results all with no reference to this style of ale.

Output courtesy of BeerSmith. I don't know how you do this, there must be an easier way. Replacing spaces with underbars is a PITA!

Recipe Specifications
--------------------------
Batch Size: 5.00 gal
Boil Size: 6.82 gal
Estimated OG: 1.043 SG
Estimated Color: 15.9 SRM
Estimated IBU: 32.8 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 65.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Ingredients:
------------
Amount_____Item_________________________Type_____% or IBU
6.25 lbs____Pale Malt (2 Row) UK (3.0 SRM)___Grain_____65.36 %
1 lbs______Caramel/Crystal Malt - 60L (60.0 SRM)Grain___10.89 %
1 lbs______Victory Malt (25.0 SRM)____________Grain___10.89 %
5.9 oz_____Aromatic Malt (26.0 SRM)__________Grain____4.03 %
4.0 oz_____Special B Malt (180.0 SRM)_________Grain____2.72 %
0.75 oz____Fuggles [4.50 %] (60 min)_________Hops___15.1 IBU
0.50 oz____Goldings, East Kent [5.00 %] (60 min)Hops__11.2 IBU
0.25 oz____Fuggles [4.50 %] (30 min)_________Hops____2.6 IBU
0.25 oz____Goldings, East Kent [5.00 %] (30 min)Hops____2.9 IBU
0.25 oz____Goldings, East Kent [5.00 %] (10 min)Hops____1.1 IBU
1.00 tsp___Irish Moss (Boil 10.0 min)
5.0 oz_____Tate & Lyles Golden Syrup (0.0 SRM)_Sugar___3.37 %
1 Pkgs_____English Ale (White Labs #WLP002)
[Starter 1000ml]


Mash Schedule: Temperature Mash, 1 Step, Light Body
Total Grain Weight: 8.87 lb
----------------------------
Temperature Mash, 1 Step, Light Body
Step Time___Name___________Description_________________ _Step Temp
75 min______Saccharification__Add 2.77 gal of water at 159.1 F_148.0 F
10 min______Mash Out_______Heat to 168.0 F over 10 min_____168.0 F

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Old 09-21-2010, 01:38 AM   #2
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Before I go into how I'd approach this, answer the following questions:

What about the recipe makes it "good" just not "great"?
Does it lack something?
Do you want a certain flavor, aroma, color, what?
Is there a flaw which needs to be removed?

Otherwise I'll be making stabs in the dark, which doesn't really help.

Cheers!

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Old 09-21-2010, 01:41 AM   #3
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I'd tone the specialty grains down and up the base. I'd ditch the syrup and maybe the special B too.
My favorite ratio so far for that style has been:
80% base
10% Munich
5% Cara60
2.5% Biscuit
2.5% Aromatic

That's with a BU:GU of 0.65, which is a bit lower than yours.

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Old 09-21-2010, 01:53 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 3 Dog Brew View Post
Please review the following recipe and comment. I have made this a couple of times and it's "good" just not "great". Any feedback would be appreciated. BTW the addition of Victory Malt is new and I haven't tried it yet. I use Maris Otter as my base malt.

I have done a search for "special bitter" and got several hundred results all with no reference to this style of ale.

Output courtesy of BeerSmith. I don't know how you do this, there must be an easier way. Replacing spaces with underbars is a PITA!

Recipe Specifications
--------------------------
Batch Size: 5.00 gal
Boil Size: 6.82 gal
Estimated OG: 1.043 SG
Estimated Color: 15.9 SRM
Estimated IBU: 32.8 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 65.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Ingredients:
------------
Amount_____Item_________________________Type_____% or IBU
6.25 lbs____Pale Malt (2 Row) UK (3.0 SRM)___Grain_____65.36 %
1 lbs______Caramel/Crystal Malt - 60L (60.0 SRM)Grain___10.89 %
1 lbs______Victory Malt (25.0 SRM)____________Grain___10.89 %
5.9 oz_____Aromatic Malt (26.0 SRM)__________Grain____4.03 %
4.0 oz_____Special B Malt (180.0 SRM)_________Grain____2.72 %
0.75 oz____Fuggles [4.50 %] (60 min)_________Hops___15.1 IBU
0.50 oz____Goldings, East Kent [5.00 %] (60 min)Hops__11.2 IBU
0.25 oz____Fuggles [4.50 %] (30 min)_________Hops____2.6 IBU
0.25 oz____Goldings, East Kent [5.00 %] (30 min)Hops____2.9 IBU
0.25 oz____Goldings, East Kent [5.00 %] (10 min)Hops____1.1 IBU
1.00 tsp___Irish Moss (Boil 10.0 min)
5.0 oz_____Tate & Lyles Golden Syrup (0.0 SRM)_Sugar___3.37 %
1 Pkgs_____English Ale (White Labs #WLP002)
[Starter 1000ml]


Mash Schedule: Temperature Mash, 1 Step, Light Body
Total Grain Weight: 8.87 lb
----------------------------
Temperature Mash, 1 Step, Light Body
Step Time___Name___________Description_________________ _Step Temp
75 min______Saccharification__Add 2.77 gal of water at 159.1 F_148.0 F
10 min______Mash Out_______Heat to 168.0 F over 10 min_____168.0 F
I have one word for you: Simplify! Get rid of most of the specialty malts and use a more basic hop schedule. I suspect you have fallen into the common homebrew recipe trap of "more must be better".

Here are my specific suggestions: Step up the pale malt, reduce the medium crystal to a half pound, eliminate the victory and aromatic using that weight for more pale malt, lose the Special-B and sub an ounce of chocolate malt if you want deeper color, increase the amount of sugar to 10% if you are going to use it, use two hop additions of 90 and 10 minutes keeping the IBUs at the same 32 rate.

Something like this:

9 lbs UK pale malt
.5 lb medium crystal
1 oz chocolate malt
1 lb plain sugar, or Lyles'

90 min hops: 2 oz Fuggles (or Goldings or WGV or 1 oz Challenger)
10 minute hops: 1 oz Goldings
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Old 09-21-2010, 03:39 AM   #5
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Sometimes "less really is more". I just made a bitter using just Marris Otter and British crystal 80L. I had a taste tonight and It's pretty flat and there's still a lot of yeast in suspension (It has only been in the keg a couple of days) but it tastes great already. I promised myself that I wouldn't touch it again for at least a week.

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Old 09-21-2010, 04:07 AM   #6
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IMO, Special B has no place in an English beer. Wrong caramel flavor. Maris Otter, dark crystal, medium crystal, biscuit malt, and your in buisness. I'm not sold on sugar additions either; makes for a watery beer.

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Old 09-21-2010, 11:33 AM   #7
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Au contraire, sir. Don't fear the sugar. The blokes who get paid to brew Bitter don't; why should you? Have a dekko at my Bitter recipe.

I'll agree with the Special B comment, and also with those who recommend simplification.

I still want to hear from the OP, though...

Bob

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Old 09-21-2010, 11:55 AM   #8
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I owe you some replies:

I didn't know how to respond to the first reply until reading the rest of the replies. I think everyone has picked up on what makes this beer good and not "great". Where I was going for layered complexity with all the specialty grains, what I got was "muddy" and I think everyone picked up on that.

Special B and Victory malt addition were right out of BYO some time ago and this recipe has evolved over time. If Special B doesn't belong in here for the reasons stated, I can't see how Munich malt does either. Am I missing something?

So far, I'm leaning to the recommendations of BigEd.

Quote:
9 lbs UK pale malt
.5 lb medium crystal
1 oz chocolate malt
1 lb plain sugar, or Lyles'

90 min hops: 2 oz Fuggles (or Goldings or WGV or 1 oz Challenger)
10 minute hops: 1 oz Goldings
If I were to evaluate myself as a brewer and how this recipe came into being what it is, I'd say that I was adding additional malts to compensate for flaws in my water, techniques and/or processes and I don't need them anymore since I've figured all that out. At least I'd like to think I have.
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Old 09-21-2010, 12:48 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 3 Dog Brew View Post
I didn't know how to respond to the first reply until reading the rest of the replies. I think everyone has picked up on what makes this beer good and not "great". Where I was going for layered complexity with all the specialty grains, what I got was "muddy" and I think everyone picked up on that.
It's really, really hard to actually pull off 'layered complexity'. There are so many complex things going on in beers with the most basic of ingredients lists, when you start to complicate one subset of that list - or add another subset entirely - you stand an excellent chance of screwing things up.

Look at Belgian-Style Tripel. Five ingredients: Pils malt, sugar, hops, water, yeast. And a well-made Tripel is incredibly complex! Now, start adding more ingredients to that. Try adding five different malts. Try adding five different malts before really thinking through how each malt is going to interact with the yeast, the hops, the water. Now determine how the melange of malts will interact with each other.

You've just increased your potential for screwup by a factor of five. Not a pretty sight!

Yeah, you can achieve 'layered complexity' with a kitchen-sink grist. But it's not likely, not without a considerable amount of thought. Better to brew a very, very simple recipe over and over until you get it exactly right. Then add one variable at a time. That's real 'dialing in' or tweaking.

Quote:
Special B and Victory malt addition were right out of BYO some time ago and this recipe has evolved over time. If Special B doesn't belong in here for the reasons stated, I can't see how Munich malt does either. Am I missing something?
I don't think it does, no. Munich, Victory, Aromatic - these all accentuate the malt aspects of the beer. Bitter, Special or otherwise, doesn't need that. It needs a certain amount of malt aroma with Crystal-malt notes. Maris Otter and 60L Crystal will do that. There should be a firm bitterness, some UK-variety hops flavor and aroma, some malt in the mouth (again, Maris Otter will supply that), and it should finish dry (there's the adjunct at work).

Quote:
So far, I'm leaning to the recommendations of BigEd.
Good idea.

Quote:
If I were to evaluate myself as a brewer and how this recipe came into being what it is, I'd say that I was adding additional malts to compensate for flaws in my water, techniques and/or processes and I don't need them anymore since I've figured all that out. At least I'd like to think I have.
Learning should never cease. I've been brewing on a variety of levels for 15 years, and I'm stunned regularly by the amount of stuff I don't know!

Cheers,

Bob
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Old 09-21-2010, 01:59 PM   #10
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Everyone has good advice. I'd break your original recipe down to something simple because you've already established a base that is good. Brew something like BigEd's and you'll be able to tell what you miss (or don't) and it will allow you to better look at process (water, etc).

That said, I've made a bitter with Special B along with C55-75L and while I'm no authority, I like it. 4 oz is not going to kill anything, it's similar to C120 or even british extra dark crystal 135-160L. It all depends on what you prefer. However, a stronger caramel presence may be better suited for a stronger bitter. Keep crystal (whatever varieties you use) to around 5% total and you'll be okay.

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