Need Authentic Best Bitter Recipe!

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Well-Known Member
Mar 10, 2009
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North East PA
Hey all,

Newbie here. Anyhow, I am getting ready to brew my third batch of beer (extract) and I want to do my best to recreate the flavors of the bitters I had when I was in London and fell in love with beer for the first time.

I know there are lots of types of bitters, and I've only had one in the US that has even come close to that authentice taste (Ship Inn in Milford NJ, excellent Best Bitter). I still sort of new to the lingo, so I am going to do my best to describe the taste that I just cannot find in the bottle. Now, maybe my taste buds are messed up, but the closest I can come to describing the missing element is a sweet plasticy kind of taste? Kind of like when you leave a bottle of water in your car for a while and it has a sweet/stale taste. But thats not even right, if you've had a pint in London you'll know what im talking about.

Anyhow, if someone could suggest some recipes I'd really appreciate it. I've seen lots, but I want something AUTHENTIC!

I order a few lbs. of Maris Otter and 2oz of Kent Goldings, if I cannot find any recipes I am just going to go with this stuff =P

Pretty simple, actually. Here's a tried-and-true recipe from my brewery.

For the grist, you want 80% British pale malt (or extract equivalent), 10% British Medium Crystal (~60L), and 10% sugar (preferably Demerara, though Turbinado works). Target an OG of 1040.

For hops, bitter with a relatively high-alpha British variety like Challenger or Target. Don't waste your fine EKG for bittering! Shoot for an IBU of 33-35. Add your EKG at flameout. You can also use Fuggles for flavor/aroma.

Ferment with a not-too-dry English ale yeast. I like dry yeasts like S-04 or Windsor for mine. Nottingham is too dry and clean, as is S-05. There are any number of liquid ale yeasts that are also appropriate.

If you want to use extract, I suggest looking for Maris Otter extract. There are several online retailers who stock it. Remember the formula to switch from grain to the different extracts:

1 lb pale malt = 0.75 lbs LME = 0.6 lbs DME

Anyway, here's the full recipe:

Pride of Raubsville

Recipe Specifics

Batch Size (Gal): 5.50 Wort Size (Gal): 5.50
Total Grain (Lbs): 7.50
Anticipated OG: 1.040 Plato: 10.03
Anticipated SRM: 7.7
Anticipated IBU: 33.6
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75 %
Wort Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Pre-Boil Amounts

Evaporation Rate: 15.00 Percent Per Hour
Pre-Boil Wort Size: 6.47 Gal
Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.034 SG 8.57 Plato


% Amount Name Origin Potential SRM
80.0 6.00 lbs. Pale Malt(2-row) Great Britain 1.038 3
10.0 0.75 lbs. Crystal 55L Great Britian 1.034 55
10.0 0.75 lbs. Demerara Sugar Generic 1.041 1


Amount Name Form Alpha IBU Boil Time
0.75 oz. Target Pellet 10.00 33.6 60 min.
1.0 oz. Goldings - E.K. Whole 4.75 0.0 0 min.


DCL Yeast S-04 SafAle English Ale

Mash Schedule

Mash Type: Single Step

Grain Lbs: 6.75
Water Qts: 8.00 - Before Additional Infusions
Water Gal: 2.00 - Before Additional Infusions

Qts Water Per Lbs Grain: 1.19 - Before Additional Infusions

Saccharification Rest Temp : 152 Time: 60
Mash-out Rest Temp : 168 Time: 10
Sparge Temp : 175 Time: 10

Total Mash Volume Gal: 2.54 - Dough-In Infusion Only

All temperature measurements are degrees Fahrenheit.


Wow, thanks for the excellent looking recipe and all the info! Does anyone know where I can buy Target hops? Everywhere I've looked online either doesn't stock it or is sold out =[

EDIT: I FINALLY found some on, everywhere else is sold out.
You could substitute another high alpha english hop for the target if you don't want to order from several places. Admiral, Northdown, Northern Brewer, Progress and Challenger are some recommended choices.
OK, so it seems every time I've posted I have found my own answer. Maybe I'll have that luck again. Can anyone suggest what type of malt extract to substitute for the 55L crystal. I have never done any grain brewing except for packages where you let some chocolate malts steep for a bit in the beginning.

Or can I try to do just the crystal malt parts with grain and use LME for the pale 2-row malt? I only have very standard equipment, would I be able to just put the .75lbs of grain in a cheesecloth bag or whatever so I can remove it easily after sparging? I'm not really sure how this all works =P

Keep in mind I don't mind spending a little more or doing a little more work to make it taste authentic.
Use the crystal malt just as you did the chocolate malt. Steep it then add the LME after you take the steeped grain out.
Awesome, thanks KingBrianI. Should I follow the saccharification rest time and temp suggested above 60min @ 152 degrees, or should I steep as I did with chocolate malts, which was about 15 mins @ 165-168 degrees.

I think I'm going to go with Simpsons Medium from NorthernBrewer. How's that sound =P

I also already ordered Wyeast 1968, is this a suitable substitute, or should I get the DCL Yeast S-04 SafAle English Ale for the real deal?
Steep it as you did the chocolate malt. The temperatures and rests above are for all-grain brewing. You may safely ignore them and instead follow your standard steeping regime.

Simpson's Medium is perfect. In fact, that's what I used last I brewed the above recipe.

Unless you're prepared to make a starter, get some S-04. Though making a starter is quite simple, perhaps you should wait to do that until you garner a bit more experience. Yeast management is important, and dry yeast is just plain simple. ;)

Good luck!

Seeing as I'm a Brit I thought I better give my input on this one!
If you want a REALLY authentic Best recipe, I would suggest this one, supplied by the brewery themselves for the book, 'Brewing Beers like those you buy' by Dave Line which is considered the homebrew bible here in the uk!

I chose this one because it's my favourite Best Bitter, and because it's usually made only with hops and barley grown within my county (Sussex).

The beer is 'Sussex Best' and it's brewed by Harvey & Sons brewery who are based a few villages along from me in the town of Lewes.

'Harvey's Sussex Best Bitter' Original recipe from Harvey's of Lewes
6lb Crushed Maris Otter Pale Malt Barley (or other pale malt barley)
8oz Flaked Maize
8oz Light Brown Sugar
2oz Goldings Hops
1oz Northern Brewers hops (quite bizarrely, these are grown in sussex as well!)
1tsp Irish Moss
2oz Light British Ale Yeast

Bring water to 60*C and add crushed malt and flakes
Raise to 66*C & mash for 1.5 hours
Sparge grains
Disolve sugar in a little hot water
Boil wort and add hops & sugar and boil for 1.5 hours.
Pitch irish moss as per instructions
Ferment 4-5 days until SG reaches 1010 and rack to secondary.
Disolve gelatin finings into hot water and add to secondary whilst racking - Do not boil the gelatine for gods sake!
Leave for 7 days
Rack beer off sediment into keg or bottles and carbonate (use dissolved brown sugar for bottle carbonation)
Leave in keg or bottles for 7 days to condition before sampling.

I'll leave you with a pic of a pint of Harvey's Sussex Best I took in my local last summer!

- oneleg
Kind of like when you leave a bottle of water in your car for a while and it has a sweet/stale taste. But thats not even right, if you've had a pint in London you'll know what im talking about.
In the uk most respectable local breweries sit on top of their own wells of water drilled deep into the ground - they brew their beer with well water which is completely different in its mineral and chemical content to tap or bottled water - the taste you probably got used to was the taste of either the peaty or chalky water which goes into the beer.
Wow! Thanks for the info and good recipe onelegout. My grandparents actually have a lakehouse not far from my home that has wellwater, perhaps I should go get a few gallons before I brew.

I've actually already made a starter once and feel pretty comfortable giving it another go. Just wanted to make sure that strain of yeast was suitable, I've heard the quality of liquid yeast is much better than dry.

I'm going to go with KingBrianI's recipe this first time around, and onelegout's next I suppose. I'll let everyone know how it goes :)

Thank you both for all the help
No probs!

Re the well water - they do check to make sure that there are no contaminants in the water regularly - without sending a sample of your water to a lab to check it's fit for consumption I wouldn't recommend using it! :D If you're happy drinking it anyway though, go for it! would be great to see what difference it made.
Hmm, not sure if it's technically good for consumption, but I drink it all the time =P Maybe I won't mess with it on the first batch, but just keep it in mind for the next time around. I'll save a bottle so I can compare with different waters.
Englishman in Memphis replying so I can find this again...

I have a Shepherds Neame Bishop's Finger going right now. I got the extract kit from AHS (but did a partial mash just for fun), but the recipe is basically the same as in Clone Brews. I can post it from home later, if you want. This was one of my fave Bitters, and the hydro sample I took a few days ago tasted wonderful!

Clone Brews also has the recipe for Fuller's London Pride (or was it just the ESB), Courage and a few others. Onelegout, does the Line book have lots of bitter recipes?

Amazon Description said:
A revised handbook for amateur brewers containing full instructions and 110 detailed recipes to recreate the flavour and quality of beers which are served in the pub - for a fraction of the price. Draught ales, bottled and keg beers, lagers and stouts are included. The recipes are based on information provided by the commercial brewers who produce some of the most famous beers: Youngers Tartan, Carling Black Label, Carlsberg Special Brew, Budweiser, Stella Artois, Lowenbrau, Grolsch, Whitbread Best, Newcastle Amber and Brown Ales and Mackeson. The book has been revised to take account of modern equipment and homebrewing techniques, with recipes adapted for contemporary ingredients and tastes.
Doesn't look that promising!

ETA - looks like it has Abbott Ale, so I might have to get it... grew up near a Greene King Brewery in Biggleswade.
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@BioBeing Absolutely, please post if you have the time. I'd like to try all the good recipes available hah, I love English beer.

I loveeee Abbott Ale and Greene King, Abbott was one of the few I can get in a can or bottle and still enjoy, I didn't care much for Greene King, Fullers, or Youngs bottled. Just not the right texture.

I plan on bottling mine and using the technique where you save an amount of wort so there is no additive (about half what I would usually use to keep carbonation right). Think that will work?

Also! If anyone is going to the real ale invitational this weekend in Philadelphia, let me know, I'll be there! (They have a cask of Fullers, yay!)
I was just in UK/Wales a couple weeks ago, and I already miss all the bitter/strong's..

I was looking for clones of a few favorites I had there and stumbled across a uk brewing site that has a few recipes:

The HomeBrew Forum UK

It's a small, newish site, but they have a lot of english styles posted.
Onelegout, does the Line book have lots of bitter recipes?

Doesn't look that promising!4
Half of the book contains lager recipes, and the other half contains Real Ale (bitter/stout/porta) recipes. The very fact that this was first published 31 years ago and is still being printed and is still considered a big homebrew resource is testiment to it's quality.

The book doesn't just deal with the more respected ales and lagers - there's even a recipe for Sainsbury's Value Lager!! (Sainsbury's is a low-cost grocery store over here - imagine a 7/11 brand lager....) so you can see that they really have included something for everyone in this book lol!
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OK - I got the Bishop's Finger recipe. I have it listed as an ESB, as it should be about 5.2% ABV, so I hope it meets your criteria! For the record: I have not drunk mine yet (I have it in secondary), and I have been out of England so long (and away from Kent even longer) that I probably wouldn't be able to say how authentic it is. I'll come back in a month or so and let you know ;)

Bishop Birds Bitter
Brew Type: Partial Mash Date: 2/25/2009
Style: Extra Special/Strong Bitter (English Pale Ale) Brewer: Richard
Batch Size: 5.00 gal Assistant Brewer:
Boil Volume: 3.00 gal Boil Time: 60 min
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 % Equipment: My 5 Gal pot
Actual Efficiency: 73.08 %
Taste Rating (50 possible points): 35.0

Ingredients Amount Item Type % or IBU
3 lbs Pale Liquid Extract (8.0 SRM) Extract 31.17 %
3 lbs Pale Liquid Extract [Boil for 15 min] Extract 31.17 %
2 lbs Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 20.78 %
12.0 oz Wheat, Torrified (1.7 SRM) Grain 7.79 %
10.0 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt - 60L (60.0 SRM) Grain 6.49 %
4.0 oz Victory Malt (25.0 SRM) Grain 2.60 %
1.00 oz Nugget [11.50 %] (60 min) Hops 23.7 IBU
0.50 oz Goldings, East Kent [5.00 %] (15 min) Hops 2.7 IBU
0.50 oz Challenger [7.50 %] (15 min) Hops 4.0 IBU
0.50 oz Styrian Goldings [5.40 %] (5 min) Hops 1.2 IBU
0.50 oz Goldings, East Kent [5.00 %] (5 min) (Aroma Hop-Steep) Hops -
1 Pkgs London Ale (White Labs #WLP013) [Starter 1000 ml] Yeast-Ale

Beer Profile Estimated Original Gravity: 1.061 SG (1.048-1.060 SG) Measured Original Gravity: 1.062 SG
Estimated Final Gravity: 1.017 SG (1.010-1.016 SG) Measured Final Gravity: 1.015 SG
Estimated Color: 11.4 SRM (6.0-18.0 SRM) Color [Color]
Bitterness: 40.6 IBU (30.0-50.0 IBU) Alpha Acid Units: 17.3 AAU
Estimated Alcohol by Volume: 5.77 % (4.60-6.20 %) Actual Alcohol by Volume: 6.13 %
Actual Calories: 279 cal/pint

Mash Profile Name: Temperature Mash, 2 Step, Light Body Mash Tun Weight: 5.00 lb
Mash Grain Weight: 3.63 lb Mash PH: 5.4 PH
Grain Temperature: 72.0 F Sparge Temperature: 168.0 F
Sparge Water: 2.55 gal Adjust Temp for Equipment: FALSE

Name Description Step Temp Step Time
Protein Rest Add 4.53 qt of water at 129.3 F 122.0 F 30 min
Saccharification Heat to 150.0 F over 15 min 150.0 F 60 min
Mash Out Heat to 168.0 F over 10 min 168.0 F 10 min

Mash Notes
Two step profile with a protein rest for mashes with unmodified grains or adjuncts. Temperature mash for use when mashing in a brew pot over a heat source such as the stove. Use heat to maintain desired temperature during the mash.
Carbonation and Storage Carbonation Type: Corn Sugar Carbonation Volumes: 2.4 (1.5-2.4 vols)
Estimated Priming Weight: 3.8 oz Temperature at Bottling: 60.1 F
Primer Used: - Age for: 4.0 Weeks
Storage Temperature: 52.0 F

AHS extract kit modified to partial mash
I know it's an old thread and all but I'm "dying" here! Any feed back on the HARVEY'S SUSSEX BEST BITTER recipe? Has anyone had good results with it? Thanks!