Bitter (Best, Extra Special, etc.)

Discussion in 'Geek Grog & Homebrew' started by Oosh, Apr 18, 2012.

  1. Oosh

    Oosh Member

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    I've currently got an ESB recipe brewing in my fermenter.
    However, I have no idea about the style other than what I've read which is a poor substitute.

    So I need suggestions on some decent, but reasonably easy to find, examples to compare my effort against.

    Looking at Dan Murphy's website I have come up with:
    • Wychwood Hobgoblin
    • Baron's ESB
    • Burleigh My Wife’s Bitter
     
  2. Quadbox

    Quadbox Member

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    None of those three is a good example of the style, and the actual *progenitor* of the style's easy to find in australia. If dans doesnt have it, 1st choice will.

    Fullers ESB. It's the beer that defined the style. While you're about it, Fullers London Pride'll be next to it on the shelf, and it's an excellent Best Bitter

    Obviously all these beers are intended to be handpumped from the cask, bottled versions are somewhat different, but it's still a good indication for you short of flying to london. Damn tasty brew, too.

    I wouldnt describe either Wychwood's Hobgoblin or my wife's bitter as an ESB btw. Though the hobgoblin's a great beer in its own right. And Baron's ESB isnt even bloody close to what it should be.

    EDIT - If you're ever unsure of what a style should be, the BJCP style guidelines are a good place to check, especially the examples of style down the bottom of each style definition. They list them from most true to style to least. Pretty often they're very american heavy, but they still give you a good indication:

    Of those, Fullers ESB, Adnams Broadside, Bishop's Finger, Sam Smiths Old brewery pale ale, spitfire, marston's pedigree, black sheep, old speckled hen, and a couple of others are pretty readily available in australia
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2012
  3. OP
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    Oosh

    Oosh Member

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    I know of Fullers, but hadn't seen it in store anywhere (not that I'd been looking), there's a 1st Choice only fractionally further away than my nearest DM so I'll check it out.

    Thanks.

    Edit: BJCP is where I'd done most of my aforementioned reading. Didn't know about the significance of the order of the examples' listing though. :thumbup:
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2012
  4. Commie_Mike

    Commie_Mike Member

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    ESB is a very broad style with a lot of room for interpretation. also, hobgoblin is actually a northern English brown ale.
     
  5. OP
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    Oosh

    Oosh Member

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  6. OP
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    Oosh

    Oosh Member

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    Now I look closer; I've tried Old Speckled Hen, and while staying in York for a couple nights in 2010 I drank something from Black Sheep, possibly something from Samuel Smiths too - I tried their Nut Brown Ale back home more recently which was delicious - but my recollection of the rest is poor.
     
  7. Quadbox

    Quadbox Member

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    Last edited: Apr 18, 2012
  8. Commie_Mike

    Commie_Mike Member

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  9. OP
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    Oosh

    Oosh Member

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    1st Choice didn't have any Fullers ESB. :(

    But they did have Fullers London Pride, Fullers 1845, Youngs Special London Ale, and Youngs Bitter.
    RateBeer labels them as 'Premium Bitter/ESB', 2x 'English Strong Ale', and 'Bitter' respectively.

    Which leads me to:
    AFAIK the BJCP is a self-appointed body much like RateBeer.
    Strict interpretations of genre/style labels/distinctions are fraught in all almost all subjective matters (take music for example).
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2012
  10. Quadbox

    Quadbox Member

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    London pride'll give you a fair idea oosh, ESB's just a higher gravity version of the same grain-bill, same boil hops, extra dry hops. Slightly higher bitterness but there's not a lot in it. Think london pride, a percent and a bit stronger alcohol wise, bit maltier and a bit hoppier. Fullers use a partigyle brewing system for their four main beers (golden pride, ESB, london pride, chiswick bitter). They all actually come from the exact same mash, exact same batch. First runnings are kept seperately from second runnings, and the two are combined in different ratios to give each of the four beers starting gravity. Ie golden pride's almost all first runnings, chiswick bitter's almost all second runnings, the middle two are different ratios of the two

    It's a very, very old fashioned brewing system and I think they're about the largest brewery left in the world that still does it :p

    Just FYI, young's special london ale and london pride would most often be considered a Best Bitter, youngs bitter an Ordinary Bitter, and fullers 1845's an english old ale

    Well to some degree, but they're committee based rather than just being any old numpty from the street making a post. It does have quite a lot more credibility than ratebeer. Ratebeer pretty often from my perspective's just flat out wrong

    The BJCP on the other hand... they spend about four years arguing heatedly before even updating the style guide :p. I gather there's been some internal flamewars of epic proportions over making australian sparkling ale an official category for example :D

    EDIT 2 - What's your recipe out of interest Oosh?
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2012
  11. OP
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    Oosh

    Oosh Member

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    Very interesting. I've read about and listened to podcasts discussing partygyle in homebrew but was unaware of any commercial examples. You certainly know your Bitter. :thumbup:
    I just finished the London Pride, and enjoyed it, plenty of toffee malt notes and a nice level of bitterness.

    As for my recipe, I came to the style by chance after seeing what Wyeast strains my LHBS had in-stock, and walked away with a smack-pack of 1968 - London ESB Ale.
    I then kicked around the AHB Forum recipeDB for a coupe of hours and took inspiration primarily from Aaron's Best with the wheat idea coming from DrSmurto's Golden Ale.

    I ended up with 16L of 1.044 wort from:

    Mashed at 66C for 90 mins;
    - 2500g of JWM Traditional Ale
    - 500g of JWM Wheat
    - 250g of JWM Caramalt
    - Edit: 250g of JWM Light Crystal (approx. equivalent, see: post #20 for the full story)

    Boiled for 90 mins, adding East Kent Goldings (4.3% AA);
    - 26g @ 60 mins
    - 8g @10 mins
    - 8g @5 mins
    - 8g @1 mins

    Currently in the fermenter with the fridge set to 20C.

    From what I know now I think I'm more in the realm of a Best as opposed to an ESB.

    Edit: I should add the above was done 'Brew in a Bag' (BIAB).
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2012
  12. Quadbox

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    1968 (white labs wlp-002's the same strain) is actually fuller's own strain of yeast, too. Good yeast if you've got good temp control. Sometimes finishes a bit early, dont be afraid to give it a good swirl later in the ferment if you feel it's bottoming out a bit early. It does finish a bit on the high side anyway though, 20C as you've got it is a good notion. you want the extra esters in an english bitter anyway imo

    If you find you want something with similar flavour profile but that gets a bit drier wyeast 1275 is a kicker of an english yeast (wlp-023), and attenuates a bit more. be prepared for it to explode out your airlock though, it generates krausen like a rocket
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2012
  13. OP
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    Oosh

    Oosh Member

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    Well what do you know!? I stumbled in the right direction.

    I tend to like my beers with a little more body. Last measurement last night had it at 1.012 so I don't expect it to do much more based on the stated attenuation figures.

    I'll check it again soon, give it the diacetyl rest for a few days as they recommend, then lower the temp to drop the yeast out of suspension.
     
  14. Commie_Mike

    Commie_Mike Member

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    indeed, iirc wynchwood calls it something different altogether anyway.

    If you like the full bodied english ales rather than the drier ones you might also want to try wy1187 - my personal favourite. unbelievable character but a pig of a yeast to use. It can stop fermenting early and you may need to swirl the fermenter and re-suspend the yeast once a day for a few days to make it drop that last 5 or so points.
     
  15. OP
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    Oosh

    Oosh Member

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    Geez, that sounds worse than the lazy-arse WY3944 I used in my last extract kit, a Belgian Wit that ended badly...

    Edit: On the plus side it did drive me to the point I decided it was time to go all-grain or go home. Wish I'd done it earlier!
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2012
  16. Quadbox

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    If you ever get the chance btw Oosh, the Great British Beer Festival is one of those world must-see-before-you-die beer events. Take a can of aerosol deoderant to ward off the worst of the CAMRA neckbeards though.

    To even enter all the beers have to be casked, and poured directly from the cask. You just pretty much run around drinking stuff straight out of the barrel all day. Lot of sensational stuff to be had.
     
  17. J-C90

    J-C90 Member

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    There is a great Beer Hunter episode based on this festival - worth a watch if you can find it!
     
  18. Quadbox

    Quadbox Member

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    Not too hard come to that:

     
  19. OP
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    Oosh

    Oosh Member

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    Polished off the rest over the weekend. Consider me a 'Best' man! :thumbup:
    Young's Special London was nice but the Bitter was quite plain.

    Fullers 1845 was something quite different from the rest, a little too sweet in taste for me to down a whole pint of, more of a sipper in the mould of a nice Aged Tawny. A good one to share methinks towards the end of a night.
     
  20. OP
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    Oosh

    Oosh Member

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    So I bottled my attempt last night.
    But let us take a few steps back, and I’ll tell you a story… or skip ahead to the TLDR.

    I was almost immediately concerned about my recipe after making it.
    Reading more about the style, and looking at other recipes, made me think I’d gone astray. Sampling those Bitters and Best Bitters I was convinced of the fact I had missed the mark.

    But I knew drastic action was necessary when my wife described a sample as tasting like VB.
    It was only after a few days in the fermenter, air lock activity had almost ceased, but I couldn't let that stand! Especially when on further samplings and reflection it wasn’t something I could whole-heartedly deny.

    I came to realise it was lacking in toffee/caramel flavours, and the missing ingredient was likely Crystal Malt, JWM Caramalt is a Crystal but too light to impart much of that and esp. in the quantity I’d added it. I decided I would adjust it at bottling time to avoid monkeying around with the beer any more than necessary, and that I may even be able to ‘Krausen’ the beer with a Crystal-heavy wort, instead of bulk-priming with dextrose as per usual.

    But not wanting to go to the trouble of mashing for such a miniscule amount of sweet liquor, I settled instead on steeping some Light Crystal by itself, and to simplify things even further I did a ‘Cold Steep’ for 12 hours.

    Common wisdom suggests speciality grains lack the diastatic power to self-convert, particularly when steeped, and the resulting dissolved sugars are too complex and unfermentable. I discovered the truth is more complex thanks to a great forum thread, and that the increased kilning temperature knocks the enzymes about but doesn’t eliminate them, at least not until you get up in to Chocolate Malt territory a beyond.

    So I racked on to my super-concentrated crystal-liquor, which smelled amazing but its taste was over-powering, and measured a gravity rise of approx. 1 point. More importantly there was finally some toffee in the flavour and also a pleasing deepening of the colour!

    Using a figure of 40% or less ‘fermentability’ from the aforementioned thread, I wrote off its contribution to carbonation as negligible, and proceeded to bulk-prime at a similar rate as my previous Robust Porter.

    It won’t be an ESB by any stretch of the imagination, but if I can get a passable ‘Best Bitter’ I will be well pleased. Fingers crossed I’ve rescued it.


    TLDR: My ESB was tasting like VB so I added some Light Crystal steepings with the priming sugar to hopefully end up with a passable Best Bitter.
     

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