How do I get that "real ale" taste? - Home Brew Forums

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Old 06-23-2010, 01:44 AM   #1
Feb 2010
Lincoln, United Kingdom
Posts: 949
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If you have lived or are currently living in the UK, you know what I mean. Bombardier, Badger, London Pride, Adnams, Batemans'... it's this taste, that I don't know how to recapture. I studied there for college and I can't reproduce it. I don't even know where to start.

I know they use these differerent kind of keg systems, hand pulled ales, aside from that I do not know. Does anyone know where I can learn how to make these beers?

It's not too carbonated, very bitter, awesomely complex flavors and usually a color like Georgia clay... sometimes even tasting kind of "pongey" as the bartender put it once. Perhaps some UK home brewers could help me out?

How do I brew a camra-certified style real ale?

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Old 06-23-2010, 02:33 AM   #2
Jan 2010
louisville, kentucky
Posts: 619
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Not to be a smart ass, but have you tried any clone recipes? There are a lot floating around for London Pride. I've always had great results with AHS, and they have a London Pride kit available. I'm on a quest to create my perfect house brown, and I started off using the AHS Mild kit which I change a little on every go round.

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Old 06-23-2010, 02:42 AM   #3
Feb 2010
Gainesville, Fl
Posts: 639
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There is a good thread about reproducing cask ale at home somewhere that has a lot of info in it. Its more in the delivery than the berr. (Bombadier is a good example. It's decent in the bottle and spectacular on cask.)

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Old 06-23-2010, 02:57 AM   #4
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ajf's Avatar
Oct 2005
Long Island
Posts: 4,646
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Start with English pale malt. My favourite is Maris Otter, but that is the only one I can get in bulk at my LHBS.
Add 5 - 10% English crystal 55L. My favourite is Muntons, but that is the only one I can get at the LHBS.
Use English hops EKG if possible, but I haven't found anybody selling fresh EKG in reasonable quantities, at a reasonable price. The US Goldings are a reasonable substitute, but not quite the same. Willamette is also good for the early additions, but for any additions boiled for less than 15 minutes, you want to use Goldings if possible.
Use an English yeast. My favourites are WLP002 or WY1968, but they both accentuate the malt flavour, and this can sometimes be excessive with an all malt brew. Other suitable yeasts for a bitter are WLP005, WY1098 or WY1275, which are not quite as extreme as the 002/1968. There may be other suitable yeasts, but I have not tried them. If you use liquid yeast, you will need to make a starter. If you use dried yeast then S-04 is the best one you can get, but I find this to be a very poor substitute for the liquid yeasts. Whatever you do, don't use Nottingham or Windsor. They are totally out of character.
For the mash, mash thick and cool (1 US qt water per lb grain, and no higher than 152F), and make sure your water profile is suitable. (Ca 50 - 100 ppm, SO4 100 - 200 ppm, and chloride 20 - 30 ppm)
For an example, see
The hops were not right for the style, but the recipe was developed at the height of the hop shortage, when the right hops were not available.
The link also specifies no carbonation. The brew was kegged, and stored and dispensed at 4 PSI. This would be pretty horrible for a bottled beer, but for an English special bitter, it is just perfect.

If you find that the beer is too malty, you can add a small amount of turbinado sugar (Sugar in the raw) or flaked corn to dilute the maltiness. I don't mind the sugar, but I find the corn adds an unpleasant flavor to the beer. Did you notice the American "flavor" added by the corn, as opposed to the good "flavours" added by the other ingredients?

Hope this helps

There are only 10 types of people in this world. Those that understand binary, and those that don't.

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Old 06-23-2010, 02:59 AM   #5
Feb 2010
Gainesville, Fl
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Old 06-23-2010, 05:49 PM   #6
Oct 2008
Posts: 192


Many thanks for your thorough and comprehensive reply. Makes me want to brew something like the pints I had in Manchester long ago with Granddad at the Klondike.

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Old 06-24-2010, 05:23 AM   #7
Fatgodzilla's Avatar
Jun 2007
Tuross Head, Australia
Posts: 152
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There are so many real ales around that each is very different, so no one answer will work for all circumstances. I suggest looking at caramalising some wort to add sweetish flavour and colour. Try to get as authentic a liquid yeast as you can, use authentic hops if possible. Low carbonation (buy a beer engine). water profiles will help too.

How long is a piece of string? Good luck.
Beer, it isn't everything, but it'll do till I get everything.

Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.—Mark Twain

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Old 06-24-2010, 06:03 PM   #8
Nov 2009
Asheville, NC
Posts: 2,827
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have you considered adding gypsum to your water?

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Old 06-24-2010, 07:24 PM   #9
Apr 2009
San Diego, CA
Posts: 198
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I'm a Brit and I know exactly what you mean, although I've never tried to brew a batch of real ale (mainly because I'm a snob: it needs to be casked, naturally carbonated and properly dispensed).

Brewstrong interviewed Fuller's head brewer. I would definitely check that out as it's extremely informative. He goes into a lot of detail about their process, temps, %age of base malt, lovibond, etc.

If it was me, I'd also consider using Burton salts if I was doing an English bitter or IPA.

Reason: typo

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Old 06-24-2010, 08:29 PM   #10
shanecb's Avatar
Mar 2010
Pittsburgh, PA
Posts: 1,298
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Well, bottle-conditioned beer technically is "real ale":
A particular love for ancient, obsolete, or lesser-known style from both the US and abroad.

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