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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > General Techniques > Anyone done a "real" ale (English Bitter)
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Old 05-01-2006, 02:38 AM   #1
sonvolt
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Default Anyone done a "real" ale (English Bitter)

So, I'm reading this book right now.


It is really good. I have learned a lot about pale ales - especially about the differences (historical and otherwise) between English Bitters and Pale Ales. Reading this has got me very interested in trying to experience ales that are very authentic to the tradition of the English IPA and Bitter. For instance, the author claims that the earlier IPAs brewed in England (by Bass, etc) started around 1.070 OG and had about 125 IBUs . That seems like a lot of hops! Anyone ever done a seriously authentic IPA to get that kind of bitterness?

I am even more interested, though, in the authors discussion of real ale and the manner in which the bottling and conditioning of English Bitter creates a product very different from the "real" ales that are rapidly dissappearing from the planet .

This means that even purchasing a commercial English Bitter in a can or bottle cannot qualify as real ale. Since there is no cask conditioned ale anywhere near where I live (and I've looked), I am finding myself very interested in making one at home.

How can a homebrewer, with homebrewing equipment do an authentic "real ale"? I don't have an oak barrel, but it seems that even early English Bitters were conditioned in pitch lined barrels to avoid oak flavors.

Is it possible, in any way, to make a "real ale" in a bottle? If not, (and I assume that this is the case), I would make the real ale and then have a party when it was ready to drink. I would love to have some way of serving this by gravity rather than carbonation in an half-way original manner. It would have to be consumed at once because of the lack of carbonation, right.

Anyone ever attempted or succeeded at doing an authentic English Bitter . . . served as it might be in an English Pub?

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Old 05-01-2006, 03:26 AM   #2
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I love that book, and ive done some recipes out of it with success. Ive never made a so-called 'real ale' (using an oak barrel, and gravity pump) but i have had them in a bar. The problem with camra is exactly what i experienced: a relatively flat, warm, stale beer that cost 5 bucks a pint. Id rather have a fresh, nicely carbed, 3 dollar beer chilled, out of a keg that pushes the beer out with co2 thus keeping the beer fresh.

but if i were in England im sure it would be way better!

just my opinion if i pissed any real ale enthusiasts' off

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Old 05-01-2006, 04:22 AM   #3
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Have you ever heard of CAMRA - the CAMpaign for Real Ales
CAMRA is a British advocacy group founded in the early 1970's. At that time, there were many small breweries throughout Britain producing "Real Ales", that were being taken over by larger breweries that were more interested in cost than tradition.
Their efforts were extremely successful. The larger breweries still took over the smaller ones, but instead of replacing the traditional brews, they continued to brew the "Real Ales"
During the 60's and 70's, you had to search for a pub that served real ales, but in the last ten years, I have never found a pub that doesn't.

From the CAMRAS web site:

What is Real Ale?

Real ale is a beer brewed from traditional ingredients (malted barley, hops water and yeast), matured by secondary fermentation in the container from which it is dispensed, and served without the use of extraneous carbon dioxide.

Brewers use ingredients which are fresh and natural, resulting in a drink which tastes natural and full of flavour. It is literally living as it continues to ferment in the cask in your local pub, developing its flavour as it matures ready to be poured into your glass.

Real ale is also known as ‘cask-conditioned beer’, ‘real cask ale’, real beer’ and ‘naturally conditioned beer.’

The term ‘real ale’ and the above definition were coined by CAMRA in the early 1970s.


How can I tell if it’s real ale?

Real ale has a natural taste full of flavour with a light natural carbonation (i.e fizziness) produced by the secondary fermentation that has occurred in the cask. A real ale should be served at 11 – 13C so that the flavour of the beer can be best appreciated. You can recognise real ale in a pub as it is usually served using a handpump.


In Britain, almost all real ales are cask conditioned, but there are a very few bottle conditioned beers.

In America, I have never found a cask conditioned ale, but there are numerous bottle conditioned ales available.

From the CAMRA definition, most naturally conditioned homebrew is "Real Ale", but please don't chill it to the point where you can't appreciate the subtle flavo(u)rs

Looks like a great book. I'm going to get it.

-a.

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Old 05-01-2006, 04:31 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bjorn Borg
IIve never made a so-called 'real ale' (using an oak barrel, and gravity pump) but i have had them in a bar. The problem with camra is exactly what i experienced: a relatively flat, warm, stale beer that cost 5 bucks a pint. Id rather have a fresh, nicely carbed, 3 dollar beer chilled, out of a keg that pushes the beer out with co2 thus keeping the beer fresh.
That's funny. Every non-English person that I have met in England that has been there for more than a couple of months has loved the English beer, and has said they could never return home because they couldn't get the beer.
But I only ever met them in pubs

-a.
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Old 05-01-2006, 04:40 AM   #5
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The best brewpub in new mexico, the il vicino tap room, creates a cask-conditioned ale every wednesday evening. Your above description is right on, these beers are delicious. This past week was a brown ale dry hopped with amarillo hop- excellent, i asked them to tap mine without the sparkler, plenty of CO2.

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Old 05-01-2006, 04:59 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ajf
In Britain, almost all real ales are cask conditioned, but there are a very few bottle conditioned beers.

In America, I have never found a cask conditioned ale, but there are numerous bottle conditioned ales available.

From the CAMRA definition, most naturally conditioned homebrew is "Real Ale", but please don't chill it to the point where you can't appreciate the subtle flavo(u)rs

Looks like a great book. I'm going to get it.

-a.

I know of one place in America that has them, and it's within a few hours of where you are. It's called McNeil's Pub, in Brattleboro VT, and they brew the best beer I have ever had anywhere. Generally, they have three real cask ales on tap, a bitter, an ESB, and an IPA. Worth a day trip at some point, if you really love your beer done right...
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Old 05-01-2006, 12:26 PM   #7
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You can make real ale at home. I do it all the time. Some of it I bottle condition and some I put in party pigs to condition. No extraneous CO2 is added. The book by Graham Wheeler and Roger Protz called Brewing Your Own British Real ale is great with excellent recipes. Real ale is not warm and flat but is served at higher temps than most keg beers that are ice cold and somewhat tasteless.

Look up the Gotham Imbiber on the web and a gentleman named Alex Hall. He has a site that lists all the pubs and bars in every state of the US that serves cask conditioned real ale. NYC alone has about 15 places that serve it. Cheers

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Old 05-01-2006, 12:26 PM   #8
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You can make real ale at home. I do it all the time. Some of it I bottle condition and some I put in party pigs to condition. No extraneous CO2 is added. The book by Graham Wheeler and Roger Protz called Brewing Your Own British Real ale is great with excellent recipes. Real ale is not warm and flat but is served at higher temps than most keg beers that are ice cold and somewhat tasteless.

Look up the Gotham Imbiber on the web and a gentleman named Alex Hall. He has a site that lists all the pubs and bars in every state of the US that serves cask conditioned real ale. NYC alone has about 15 places that serve it. Cheers

Johann

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Old 05-01-2006, 01:30 PM   #9
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There are not that many in Illinois, and most of them are in Chicago - a city I try to stay away from at all costs! The closest to me is Champaign, Illinois - still too far to go for a few pints of real ale.

Do you simply put some of your beer in the party pig with no extra sugar or DME for conditioning? Then chill a bit and start drinking? How long do you condition it like this? At what temp?

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Old 05-01-2006, 02:17 PM   #10
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After about a week of secondary I do add sucrose and DME to get conditioning in the pig and bottles. The pig takes half of the 5 gallon batch and I bottle the other half. Once in the pig I let it condition at 68 degrees or so(room temp) to get up some carbonation. I chill to around 55 degrees or so. It takes a couple of days to a couple of weeks depending on the style. Higher gravities need more time. I hop this helps. The Youngs bitter I pigged Thursday was delicious. Just like being in London.

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