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Old 12-28-2007, 01:16 PM   #1
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Default What Makes a Smooth Bitter Beer?

Greetings All,

I'm a new extract brewer with 4 brews under my belt (not counting Mr. Beer). Two of my brews have been incredible, one good, and one a harsh bite. I was curious as to what made my two beers so good. They were bitter but soooo smooth. The good beer had all the bitterness, but lacked the smoothness and perhaps in time it will mellow out. The worst one was just harsh. Here are some Brief Facts minus the hops.

My Incredible Beers: Very Brief Facts
One was Northern Brewer's Extra Pale Ale Recipe, the other Austin Home Brew Liberty Ale Clone.
One had liquid yeast one dry- Nottingham
One used Crystal 20L, the other I believe Carapils??

My Good Beer Brief Facts:
Austin Home Brew Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale Clone
Windsor Dry Yeast

Sharp Beer Facts
Dry Yeast
60L Crystal
Washed bottles in Dishwasher with Dish Soap

I realize my facts are brief, especially hops (I'm not around my recipes at the moment). I was just extremely curious how some beers turned out so good - bitter but smooth? Someone told me it was the yeast strain I used.

Any help would be appreciated.

Also I'm going to try NB's Toungue Splitter - Any Reviews on that one? Thanks

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Old 12-28-2007, 01:21 PM   #2
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Some hops are much "smoother" than others. For example, I have two beers done completely with "harsher" hops for bittering, flavor, and aroma right now. I happen to like them, but they take a little longer to age out and they are not for everybody. My Anchor Steam clone is 100% Northern Brewer hops, and the Arrogant Bastard clone is 100% Chinook hops. Both types are notable for being a bit harsh.

The same level of bitterness from a milder hop variety would be just as bitter, but smoother. There are some hops (cascade) that leave a citrusy taste behind, while some hops (Saaz) leave a slightly spicy finish behind.

I would say post the recipes and let's look at the difference, and then you could pinpoint what it is you taste and like about the beers you made.

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Old 12-28-2007, 03:36 PM   #3
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Thanks for the responses so far. Specifically, here's the recipes. The first two were awesome. So why so smooth and bitter?

Here's The Smooth Bitter Recipes

Liberty Ale Clone - Smooth Bitter
Crushed Grain 3/4 lbs Crystal 20L
9 lbs Extra Pale
1.5 oz Northen Brewer - 60 min
0.5 oz N. Brewer - 15 min
Nottingham Ale Dry Yeast

Extra Pale Ale - Smooth Bitter
1 lbs Dingemans Caramel pilsner
6 lbs gold extract
1 oz chinook 60 mi
1 oz Cascade - 15 min
Wyeast - Activator Pack

These are my two incredibles! Why so smooth? What's the common factor?

The one below is good, but lacks the smoothness. It is a SN Celebration Ale Clone

1lb Crystal 90
9 lbs extra pale extract
1/4 lbs Malto Dextrin
1 oz chinook 60 min
1 oz cascade 15 min
1 oz cascade 5 min
1/4 centennial & cascade dry hop
Windsor Ale Dry Yeast
Has a slight bite at 6 weeks, lacks the smoothness.

Beer With a Bad Bite
Hop Schedule
1.5 oz Fuggles & 0.5 Cascade 60 min
15 min Fuggles 0.5, Bullion 0.5 and 1 scoop irish moss
dry ale yeast

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Old 12-28-2007, 04:23 PM   #4
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Things that affect your perception of bitterness:

1) As Yooper pointed out hop variety choice is key
2) Gravity to bittering ratio - the balance of the beer
3) Water chemistry - high sulfates result in a "harsher" bitterness
4) The level of carbonation - this creates its own harshness and bitterness

GT

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Old 12-28-2007, 05:46 PM   #5
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I just started drinking nb's tongue splitter (AG) and my wife and I both give it an 'A'. It is very bitter but in a tasteful way. Overall a strong bitter apa that is unique in it's hop palatte. i highly recommend it.

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Old 12-28-2007, 05:52 PM   #6
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What is NB's? Just curious cause I love hoppy beers.

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Old 12-28-2007, 06:25 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by postman

Beer With a Bad Bite
Hop Schedule
1.5 oz Fuggles & 0.5 Cascade 60 min
15 min Fuggles 0.5, Bullion 0.5 and 1 scoop irish moss
dry ale yeast
I'm not sure how much fermentables you have here but off the top of my head, 2 ounces of hops added during the first 60 minutes of boiling will taste much more bitter than if they were added later in the boil. The other recipe that was good but not great also has more hops which could cause more bitterness. With more hops it helps to age the beer longer because the bitterness smoothes out over time.
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Old 12-28-2007, 06:28 PM   #8
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There are also different type's of harshness. You can get harsh alcohol flavors from high fermentation temps, tannin harshness from excessive grain washing, hop harshness from variety, malt to hop balance, carbonation, beer serving temperature, adjuncts.

On topic of hop variety... hops like warrior or chinook are pretty harsh while other high AA hops like simcoe have a nice flavor to them but are still bitter.

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Old 12-28-2007, 09:49 PM   #9
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As has already been mentioned, some hop varieties have a smoother bitterness than others. I understand this has to do (at least partially) with the humulone/cohumulone content of the hops; specifically, low-cohumulone hops seem to give a milder aspect, and higher cohumulone levels make for a harsher bitterness.

But I wonder if the bitterness the OP is talking about might actually be astringency. If specialty grains were steeped too long or too hot, or even boiled, there might be a dry, harsh. bitter "feel" to the beer which would be distinct from the hop bitterness. I think I've read that some contaminations / infections can also cause an astringent flavor.

So, questions for the OP:

-- What is your technique with your specialty grains?
-- Is the wort astringent/harsh, or just the finished beer?
-- Is the finished beer harsh/astringent in the bottling bucket, or only after being bottled for a while?

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Old 12-28-2007, 10:55 PM   #10
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Default Thanks So Far

Thanks Everyone So Far.

To clarify some things....

-- What is your technique with your specialty grains?

I use standard techniques of 15 minute steep at temps no higher than 170F

-- Is the wort astringent/harsh, or just the finished beer?

The finished beer was harsh, I din't taste the wort.

-- Is the finished beer harsh/astringent in the bottling bucket, or only after being bottled for a while?

The bad beer was harsh out of the fermentor, prebottling. Some beers seemed to have mellowed out. Once again, this could be due to the inconsistancy of washing in the dishwasher.

Any advice or recommendations are appreciated. Truly though, I just want to know what make certain pale ales/ipa's smoother than others.

Also, NB is short for Northern Brewer Supply Co.

Thanks for everything so far. Just Brewed an ESB today!

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