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Old 08-12-2008, 12:10 AM   #1
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Default Domestic Best Bitter?

I'm trying to make a best bitter clone of a Hogs Back Traditional English Ale, the brewery is in England, and tiny, so they don't sell their beer here.

So, does anyone know of a best bitter, low carbonation and around 4.2% ABV, available in the states? Specifically, Texas? I want to try the style out with my clone to see if I'm coming close. Thanks for any help!

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Old 08-12-2008, 12:29 AM   #2
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If you can get Coniston Bluebird Bitter, it's both very good and hits your abv right on the head. If the carbonation is higher than you want, you can pour it from one glass to another to "flatten" it a little. I don't know if you can get in Texas, but I could get it in NC even before they reformed their beer laws and I can get it here. Fuller's London Pride is also good, and might be easier to find. Fuller's can do no wrong in my book.

I've got Jamil's Best/Special Bitter in secondary right now. Bitters are probably my favorite beers.

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Old 08-12-2008, 02:34 AM   #3
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If you can get Coniston Bluebird Bitter, it's both very good and hits your abv right on the head. If the carbonation is higher than you want, you can pour it from one glass to another to "flatten" it a little. I don't know if you can get in Texas, but I could get it in NC even before they reformed their beer laws and I can get it here. Fuller's London Pride is also good, and might be easier to find. Fuller's can do no wrong in my book.

I've got Jamil's Best/Special Bitter in secondary right now. Bitters are probably my favorite beers.
I'm not sure I'd compare with Bluebird. IIRC, Bluebird contains exclusively Challenger hops as opposed to the usual focus on EKG or Fuggles. I've had Bluebird here in the States and recall that it didn't taste typical of the ales I've had in the UK. Now, it could be that the long voyage or shelf storage helped to skew the flavor from the freshness of it's home country, but I think the sole use of Challenger makes it somewhat atypical. Hog's Back's TEAs description in my "Eyewitness Companions: Beer" (Michael Jackson) states:
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A pale brown, well-crafted, malty bitter with a hoppy and slightly fruity aroma, some bitter-sweetness, and a long, dry finish.
It does sound delicious. Kind of reminds me of my Redden Bitter. I'm racking my brain and can't think of one readily available in the states that would come close... maybe Fuller's London Pride.
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Old 08-12-2008, 02:59 AM   #4
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You're right menschmachine, the Bluebird is all Challenger, so it will have an entirely differently hop bouquet than most special bitters. The malt character (Maris Otter and crystal) is pretty typical for a bitter, if a little low on upfront maltiness (I love victory malt). Either way, it's a good beer, and I probably just mentioned it because I like it so much. I think you're probably right though- London Pride is the closest Eskimo Spy is likely to get to what he's brewing in terms of commercially available brews. Saint Peter's may have something available as well.

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Old 08-12-2008, 04:13 AM   #5
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Good call! The Hogs Back is fuggles and EKG, although I used all EKG, Briess Golden Light and crystal malt 60ºL. I'm trying to find some Fuller's London Pride now to have a decent comparison, thanks guys.

Hey, would it be more in the style to carb with corn sugar or DME?

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Old 08-12-2008, 01:23 PM   #6
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IMHO I really wouldn't worry too much about any comparison to a commercial bottled or canned bitter. Bitters do not taste nearly the same from a commercial bottle as they do cask conditioned, and you won't be able to get it CC here. If you keep basically to a traditional recipe, your bottles will be effectively cask conditioned as the yeast will stil be active. Your brew will be more than likely be greatly superior to any bottled bitter you are comparing it with.

I used to love Old Speckled Hen on draught. I bought some bottles here a few months ago, and I won't be buying any more. I was very dissapointed with it. In fact every bitter I have brewed has been better than an "original" bottled bitter.

Just brew it and enjoy it, it will taste like the real thing.

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Old 08-12-2008, 01:25 PM   #7
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Good call! The Hogs Back is fuggles and EKG, although I used all EKG, Briess Golden Light and crystal malt 60ºL. I'm trying to find some Fuller's London Pride now to have a decent comparison, thanks guys.

Hey, would it be more in the style to carb with corn sugar or DME?
Corn sugar will be fine... just go easy on it, keep the volumes to be within style.

If I were to guess at fermentables based on the vague description in my beer book and what I know about British beers, I would consider using a Marris Otter malt extract next time. Add some Crystal 60, 80, or 120 along with a little bit of a "malty" grain like Munich or Vienna. I'd put EKG and Fuggles in for bittering and only EKG for flavor and aroma. For yeast (if dry), I'd definitely use S-04. Maybe Nottingham, but I don't think it would come out quite as fruity. For liquid, any of the more fruity English strains would be good. I really like WLP-023 Burton Ale. I'd also keep a close eye on fermentation temps. To get that balance between malt and the fruity characteristics from EKG and the yeast, you'd want the fermentation temp right in the middle of its optimum range. You'd also want a medium sized yeast starter... not too much, not too little.

Hope that's not TMI!
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Old 08-12-2008, 03:55 PM   #8
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IMHO I really wouldn't worry too much about any comparison to a commercial bottled or canned bitter. Bitters do not taste nearly the same from a commercial bottle as they do cask conditioned, and you won't be able to get it CC here. If you keep basically to a traditional recipe, your bottles will be effectively cask conditioned as the yeast will stil be active. Your brew will be more than likely be greatly superior to any bottled bitter you are comparing it with.

I used to love Old Speckled Hen on draught. I bought some bottles here a few months ago, and I won't be buying any more. I was very dissapointed with it. In fact every bitter I have brewed has been better than an "original" bottled bitter.

Just brew it and enjoy it, it will taste like the real thing.
Not really a direct comparison, I'm trying to get an idea of the style and flavors. I've been trying to find Fuller's London Pride or somesuch on tap, just to get an idea of the bitterness and mouthfeel.
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Old 08-12-2008, 03:57 PM   #9
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Corn sugar will be fine... just go easy on it, keep the volumes to be within style.

If I were to guess at fermentables based on the vague description in my beer book and what I know about British beers, I would consider using a Marris Otter malt extract next time. Add some Crystal 60, 80, or 120 along with a little bit of a "malty" grain like Munich or Vienna. I'd put EKG and Fuggles in for bittering and only EKG for flavor and aroma. For yeast (if dry), I'd definitely use S-04. Maybe Nottingham, but I don't think it would come out quite as fruity. For liquid, any of the more fruity English strains would be good. I really like WLP-023 Burton Ale. I'd also keep a close eye on fermentation temps. To get that balance between malt and the fruity characteristics from EKG and the yeast, you'd want the fermentation temp right in the middle of its optimum range. You'd also want a medium sized yeast starter... not too much, not too little.

Hope that's not TMI!
The homebrew shop didn't have any marris otter or fuggles, I'll be ordering those from AHBS next time. I used Wyeast 1968, we'll see what my English friend thinks of it.

It's bubbling away at 70º, happy as can be. And there's no such thing as TMI!
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Old 08-12-2008, 04:10 PM   #10
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Not really a direct comparison, I'm trying to get an idea of the style and flavors. I've been trying to find Fuller's London Pride or somesuch on tap, just to get an idea of the bitterness and mouthfeel.
OK, while a standard bitter, not a best bitter, Boddington's is the closest tasting version of the real thing that is available in cans IMO. The head will be different, as is the style of Boddington's it will have a large creamy head, especially as the cans have a widget. So, for the typical style, ignore the head on the boddinton's but take note of the flavour. They can the flavour fairly well. Then get a can of Old Speckled Hen and note the head and carbonation, but not the taste. Mix and match your opinions, and you might get a rough idea.
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