Quantcast

British Bitter Theory

Aussie Home Brewer

Help Support Aussie Home Brewer:

locost

Well-Known Member
Joined
23/9/04
Messages
45
Reaction score
0
Can the collective run through the theory behind formulating a sound British Bitter.

I know Marris Otter is the preferred malt, and keep the crystal below 5%, and use a pedigreed liquid yeast.

Are there any other parameters to keep in mind?
 

Gough

Maintain the Rage!
Joined
12/5/03
Messages
1,370
Reaction score
2
An obvious one (sorry...) is to use British hops as well. In my recent experience using plugs in the boil for flavour and aroma made a pleasant difference to pellets which I've previously used. Fresher flavour and aroma in my opinion. I used Target pellets for bitterness and EKG plugs at 15 mins and flameout, but there are obviously a lot of other varieties to choose from. Northdown is planned in combo with EKG for my next version...

Good luck,

Shawn.
 

locost

Well-Known Member
Joined
23/9/04
Messages
45
Reaction score
0
How did I forget hops?

I usually go for Challenger for bittering and EKG to finish.
 

MAH

Well-Known Member
Joined
17/3/04
Messages
900
Reaction score
2
locost said:
Can the collective run through the theory behind formulating a sound British Bitter.
Tough question, because Bitter is an extremely broad style, with debatable sub-catergories. The upside of this, is that the breadth of style allows you to experiment quite a bit.

locost said:
I know Marris Otter is the preferred malt
Yes and no. My personal view is that it's not so much the barley variety, but more the quality of the maltings. Thomas Fawcett make a great ale malt using Maris Otter, but I reckon it's the process of floor malting that really adds to the character more than the MO. Powells in Melbourne also floor malt and they make very nice ale malt.

locost said:
keep the crystal below 5%
Yep. But you can play around with the types of crystal. I like to use between 2%-3% Wyermann CaraAroma, plus a little extra Fawcett's crystal. Some would say the use of a German malt is out of style, but I like the extra complexity from a darker crystal. Also it adds a very nice colour to the beer, but it ends up on the darker end of the spectrum.

locost said:
Are there any other parameters to keep in mind?
The obvious parameter in a Bitter is that the beer should be just that, bitter. Aim for a BU:GU of about 0.8 eg if your OG is 1.035 aim for about 28IBUs (28/35=0.8, or 35x0.8=28). I've made bitters at the low end of the IBU range and found them bland.

I personally only use Fuggle or Golding in my English ales, but the hops you use is a matter of preference. I like to use 50/50 Fuggle/Golding, with additions at 60/30/15/0. The flame out addition should be quite generous.

Many receipes use torrefied wheat, but I'd give it a miss. It adds nothing to the malt profile and the supposed benefits of head retention are not really an issue for Bitters.

If making an Ordinary Bitter, use a very flavourfull yeast and ferment at the top of the yeast's range to get extra flavour in the beer.

Don't bother with extended conditioning and drink them young and fresh.

There's loads more, but these are just a few of my personal expereinces.

Cheers
MAH
 

warrenlw63

Just a Hoe
Joined
4/5/04
Messages
7,202
Reaction score
11
And for extra authenticity don't forget to serve warmish and flattish. Cold kills these beers. YMMV.

Warren -
 

Wreck

Well-Known Member
Joined
26/8/03
Messages
218
Reaction score
0
To achieve the desired IBUs, do you add more hops at the 60 minute mark, or a shit load of hops toward the end?

Am I right in saying you would get the same IBU, but the flavour would be very different.

What sort of balance do you aim for?

Thanks,
Wreck.
 

warrenlw63

Just a Hoe
Joined
4/5/04
Messages
7,202
Reaction score
11
I usually go 60 mins. 15 mins and strikeout.

High AAU hop like target for 60 mins. Goldings and/or it's equivalents for the 15 min and strikeout.

There's no set rules to how you do it really.

Warren -
 

neonmeate

hello
Joined
19/10/04
Messages
1,408
Reaction score
16
Location
Adelaide
agreed about the plugs, ive been trying them out for the last few batches and they do have an edge in flavour.

i usually go maris otter + fawcetts crystal + a bit of something else for character like 100g of amber malt, or some freshly toasted malt. also a bit of raw sugar or demerara goes nicely.

i beg to differ with MAH i think the barley variety does make a difference - fawcetts maris otter has a lot more in common flavourwise with bairds maris otter(which is not floormalted) than with fawcetts golden promise (which is). maris otter gives a beautiful clean bready aftertaste that other malts just can't deliver IMO

anyways the beauty with this style is you can drink it within 2 weeks of brewday so it's not like a bock where you have to wait 6 months to figure out whether you got it right. have at it
 

Sean

Well-Known Member
Joined
8/10/04
Messages
441
Reaction score
2
I'd agree with most of the above, especially what MAH had to say.

While Maris Otter does give an tiny effect, it isn't particularly a "correct" effect. Only a small number of UK breweries use Maris Otter, and there is no particular correlation between it's use and the quality of the bittersproduced by the brewery. Having used the malt from 3 different floor maltings (Fawcetts Maris Otter, Powells and Edwin Tuckers) I would definitely agree that floor malting makes more difference, but Powells or any English malt is fine.

Crystal can easily go to 10%. 5% is pretty much the average once you exclude those getting colour from elsewhere, not the maximum.

Stick to UK hops or very close derivatives such as Styrian Goldings or Willamette (very commonly used instead of Fuggles by English breweries these days, because it is more consistant). Unless you want to accent one particular variety, use a selection (2 or 3). Very few of the best Bitters use a single variety.

Choose your yeast carefully (although Coopers does a pretty good job - well within the style).

Consider including some sugar.

Keep it simple.

Serve relatively fresh, not excessively gassed, and no colder than 10C.
 

Malnourished

Well-Known Member
Joined
8/3/05
Messages
382
Reaction score
0
locost said:
Are there any other parameters to keep in mind?
[post="67995"][/post]​
Hmmm... I'm surprised nobody has mentioned water treatment, though I guess it depends on your water source.
I reckon the addition of CaSO4 and MgSO4 has made a major difference for my bitters.
I like to dry-hop (not too much though) in the keg too.

What are people's favourite yeasts for a bitter? I'm getting a bit bored with Wy1028...
 

warrenlw63

Just a Hoe
Joined
4/5/04
Messages
7,202
Reaction score
11
Malnourished,

My fave is Wyeast 1968. If you're feeling adventurous you could try the notorious 1187 Ringwood Ale. Haven't used it. However I've heard it's a bit of a beast to handle and not for the feint-hearted. If used correctly it's supposed to leave some pretty unusual esters and a fair whack of diacetyl.

Perfect.

Warren -
 

Sean

Well-Known Member
Joined
8/10/04
Messages
441
Reaction score
2
Malnourished said:
locost said:
Are there any other parameters to keep in mind?
[post="67995"][/post]​
Hmmm... I'm surprised nobody has mentioned water treatment, though I guess it depends on your water source.
I reckon the addition of CaSO4 and MgSO4 has made a major difference for my bitters.
I like to dry-hop (not too much though) in the keg too.

What are people's favourite yeasts for a bitter? I'm getting a bit bored with Wy1028...
[post="68295"][/post]​
Quite right - forgot to mention water treatment.

Yeast wise, I've settled on Coopers (bottle), but Wyeast Thames Valley I like.

I want to give Ringwood a shot at some point - it certainly scores full points for character (based on Ringwood Brewery beers).
 

Malnourished

Well-Known Member
Joined
8/3/05
Messages
382
Reaction score
0
warrenlw63 said:
My fave is Wyeast 1968. If you're feeling adventurous you could try the notorious 1187 Ringwood Ale. Haven't used it. However I've heard it's a bit of a beast to handle and not for the feint-hearted. If used correctly it's supposed to leave some pretty unusual esters and a fair whack of diacetyl.
[post="68308"][/post]​
Ah yes, 1968. I've been meaning to try that for quite a while now. Thanks Warren.

Dunno if I've got the guts (and patience) for Ringwood.
 

Snow

Beer me up, Scotty!
Joined
20/12/02
Messages
2,349
Reaction score
152
All good advice, above. For my 2c worth, I have found that I get better hop complexity with more than 3 additions. I have had very good success with additions at 90, 60, 20, 0 and dry hop. the 90 and 60 are usually Target or Northern Brewer pellets, and the later additions work best with EKG plugs.

In Brisbane (kind of soft water) Water treatment works best with Gypsum and epsom salts.

As for yeast, I've only used WLP013 with great results.

Cheers - Snow
 

colinw

Well-Known Member
Joined
24/6/05
Messages
401
Reaction score
1
My best results have been with a grain bill of about 89% Maris Otter, 7% flaked maize and 3.5% English 55L crystal and 0.5% English chocolate malt. I'm starting to play with caramelization of a couple of litres of first runnings in an attempt to capture that toffee caramel character and darken the beer further.

I vary mash temperature a bit depending on which yeast. A beer made with a less attenuative yeast like 1968 I'd mash at 66, but if I'm using Danstar Nottingham I'll mash at more like 67.5.

If using Aussie malts, I haven't liked the results from using entirely JW Traditional Ale malt as the base malt - it seems a little heavy and nutty in character, but a 50/50 blend of JW Traditional Ale Malt and JW Export Pilsner malt has produced superb results.

As far as water goes, my best results with Brisbane water have had 1 to 2 grams of Gypsum and 0.25g of Epsom Salts per 10 litres of water, which gives a nice sulphate crispness to the beer without going over the top with full Burtonization. Without the sulphates I struggled to get any pale ale or bitter right with our low sulphate water here (aside: but Brisbane water makes GREAT brown ales).

As far as hops goes, my best English best bitters and pale ales have either been EKG all the way in at least 4 additions (60, 30, 15 and 2 minutes) then dry hops if you feel like it but I generally don't, or with a mix of Northern Brewer for bittering then combined Northern Brewer and EKG at 30 with EKG the rest of the way. I feel that the beers where I used EKG plugs were slightly better than the ones made with pellets - the hops character just seemed to come out more like the commercial beers like Blacksheep Ale that I've tried. The 30 minute addition seems to be critical in adding the right peppery hops flavour, without it the beer seems lacking.

Yeast - two favourites - Wyeast 1968 and good old Danstar Nottingham dried yeast. I don't care for Safale S04 at all, too tart and too much diacetyl. One big batch which I shared with a friend was split between Nottingham and Windsor. Both were great beers, with my half (Nottingham) quite dry and hoppy with subtle esters and his half (Windsor) maltier and bready with a fruity character which was delicious, and a more floral hops aroma which seemed to work very well with the fruity esters. This is a case of YMMV - there are so many great English yeasts around that everyone will have their own personal favourite.

For bitterness, I try to keep the IBUs at about 0.75 of gravity in points, eg about 34 IBUs in a 1.045 beer.

cheers,
Colin
 

Guest Lurker

Big Dog Brewing
Joined
21/11/03
Messages
2,063
Reaction score
2
colinw said:
My best results have been with a grain bill of about 89% Maris Otter, 7% flaked maize and 3.5% English 55L crystal and 0.5% English chocolate malt.

For bitterness, I try to keep the IBUs at about 0.75 of gravity in points, eg about 34 IBUs in a 1.045 beer.

cheers,
Colin
[post="68782"][/post]​
A very informative post in a pretty useful thread. Very similar to the grain bill and hopping schedule I have ended up with after a few bitters. Although if using maize and if drinking young I will go below .75 on the bittering. Next batch I plan to come down a bit from 7% maize and maybe up a bit from .75 ratio for a slightly bigger bitter.

Only other thing is I have started fermenting bitters at about 22 degrees to get a bit more fruit and have quite liked the results.
 

colinw

Well-Known Member
Joined
24/6/05
Messages
401
Reaction score
1
Guest Lurker said:
Only other thing is I have started fermenting bitters at about 22 degrees to get a bit more fruit and have quite liked the results.
I've run Nottingham as high as 21C and liked the results. It seems to be almost lager-like if you ferment it below 18C, but keeps going right down into the mid teens.

I liked the Windsor half of that split batch so much that I'm pondering doing a batch with two yeasts - both Nottingham and Windsor together to get the fruit & bread of the Windsor with the bone dry finish of the Nottingham.

The fastest I've gone "grain to brain" was 6 days from brewing to tapping the keg - these beers mature fast and are drinkable right from the start. When kegged and tapped that young the main effect on flavour was a bit of graininess which went in a week or so, and some perceptible diacetyl which also faded out.

cheers,
Colin
 

Asher

Junctyard Brewing
Joined
27/1/04
Messages
958
Reaction score
3
I've just kegged a bitter using WYeasts 'Thames Valley Ale' this beer got away from me slightly and fermented the first day and a half at 24deg... Strangely its taken on a real Belgian/banana ester flavour - could nearly pass as a wit at the moment :blink:
Will see if it mellows in the next week or two....

It did have 3% melanoidin in it, though I doubt this will have any huge effect on flavour...

Asher for now
 

colinw

Well-Known Member
Joined
24/6/05
Messages
401
Reaction score
1
I once had a runaway to about 25C with Safale S-04. The beer ended up with a pronounced flavour of apricots. Not unpleasant once you got used to it.
 

jayse

Black Label Society
Joined
25/7/03
Messages
3,402
Reaction score
10
Just reading through some old threads half cut at 8 in the morning.
Theres some fabulous 'bitter' addvice here. I do generally use the JWM trad throughout and mash higher than it seems most do, I also love to use a few grains of choc for some extra colour.
If I do mash lower I'am in the same camp as some others which have said they go down below .75.
I don't using any maize in mine no reason to go into why

Watching the show 'heartbeat' is about as close I have ever got to seeing the real thing :( . I have brought every botttled version I can find in adel and I have to agree with what MAH said the style is so broad that it just doesn't fit into the simple 3-4 sub groups that are commonly refered to by brewers. I find some that have the same malty flavour and aroma as you'd expect from a dark german munich malt.
Anyway the style is so broad i just call it ale or beer and pretty much look at as a open slate or blank canvas if you like. For instance anyone who posted here that they used cascadingtons in it would be drawn and quartered or discomunicated but really make it how you like, don't be affraid to brew outside the square or as I like to look at it the square is much bigger than some brewers percieve it to be.

Of course if your brewing to please a style nazi than don't even read any of my addvice, everyone else here has given plenty of real addvice iam just rambling.

fairly tales, thats all she ever thinks about
Jayse
 

Latest posts

Top