From the HBD Archive
Subject: English Bitter
Date: 1992-06-24 14:34:00 GMT

While it is true that the term "bitter" in England covers a wide
range of beers, I do think that as a homebrewer (as opposed to a
surveyor of commercial brews) it is possible to define a narrower
range which could be defined as your basic "best bitter". This basic
recipe can then be supplemented/substituted with different malts,
mashing techniques, hops etc to produce the whole spectrum of bitters
found across the UK. I'm currently in the middle of testing empirically
the effect of these additions of the basic recipe to gauge the effect
on the final beer.

My basic recipe for 5 (UK) galls (22.5 litres; 6.25 US galls?)
consists of (from memory):

7-8 lbs crushed pale malt
0.5 lb crushed crystal malt
mashed in 3 galls boiled water (+ 1 tsp CaSO4) 66C for 3hrs (or overnight)
Sparged to 4.5 galls
Boiled 1.5 hrs with 1 tsp Irish Moss
3oz Goldings for 60 min
0.5oz " " 10min
0.5oz " " soaked at end of boil
Cooled with immersion chiller, racked and aerated: OG 42-48
Pitched with Edme yeast (starter from dried yeast)
Racked into secondary after 4 days (SG=20)
Fine if neccesary (gelatin or Polyclar)
Dry-hopped with 0.25oz Goldings in secondary.
Barrelled after 2 weeks, primed with 3oz malt extract.

This comes out tasting something like draught Bass, or Fuller's London Pride.

To this recipe I add adjunts such as amber malt, chocolate malt, roast
barley, Fuggles instead of Goldings, etc etc to yield what looks and
tastes a very different beer, but has 90-95% identical ingredients. For
example, my last batch was a (misconceived) attempt to brew Theakston's
Old Peculier. I thought I detected some wheat malt in the commercial brew,
so my recipe was changed to:
7lb pale malt
2lb wheat malt
4oz chocolate malt (for the reddish hue!)
4oz roast barley
4 oz Fuggles hops, timings as above
Treacle to prime (= Molasses)

The result: a good beer, with a deep malty taste, a dense, lasting head and a
wonderful reddish-black colour - but otherwise totally unlike OP. So -
back to the drawing board...

P.S. My last batch of "basic bitter" was an accidental experiment in
altered mashing conditions: I let the temperature rise to 75C in the
first 30 minutes, so although I got a good conversion, a lot of this
was unfermentable (due to excessive destruction of the beta amylase,
which produces maltose from dextrins). So the starting gravity was 1.048,
but finished at 1.020. As Conn Copas noted in HBD 909, it is thus possible
to produce a relatively low alcohol beer which doesn't taste too weak. In fact,
it's rather good, IMHO.....

Andy Phillips

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