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Extra Strong Bitter 1.4

The Finished Extra Strong Bitter
I've been trying to work out an Extra Strong Bitter (ESB) recipe for about a year now. My three previous versions did not do all that well with the judges who tried them, for differing reasons. Some felt I had the right bitterness but no "malt complexity" while others felt I had too much hop bitterness. A few even commented that there seemed to be "no hops" in the beer (the same version the two other judges felt had too much hops bitterness).

For this fourth version, I've removed Victory Malt from the recipe. I've also removed the Caramel 10L that I used in the previous version. I've added Special B Malt into the mix, dialing back the Caramel 40L and Caramel 65-70L a little. I added some corn to give it some sweetness against the hops. I stuck with Lallemand ESB yeast for this version because I liked the two earlier iterations of this recipe that used it, and disliked the one that didn't. I also decided to go with East Kent Goldings in this version to see if I like it better in this style than I do in some others, but mixed in some Fuggles for a little complexity.

Ingredients

4.5 pounds Maris Otter Malt
6 ounces Caramel 40L Malt
4 ounces Caramel 60L Malt
3 ounces Special B Malt
4 ounces Flaked Corn
0.5 ounces East Kent Goldings pellets @ 6.1% AA (60 min.)
0.2 ounces East Kent Goldings pellets @ 6.1% AA (30 min.)
0.45 ounces Fuggles pellets @ 4.5% AA (10 min.)
0.45 ounces East Kent Goldings pellets @ 6.1% AA (5 min.)
1/4 tsp. Calcium Chloride
3 gallons, 32 ounces filtered starting water in keg
1 packet Lallemand London ESB dry yeast
1/2 vial White Labs Clarity Ferm
1.5 tsp. pH 5.2 Stabilizer
1/4 tsp. Brewtan B in the mash water
1/4 tsp. Brewtan B in the boil (5 min.)

According to the PicoBrew recipe crafter, the beer should have the following characteristics:
  • BJCP Style: 11C. Strong Bitter
  • Batch Size: 2.5 gallons
  • Original Gravity: 1.059 SG (actual 1.053 SG)
  • Final Gravity: 1.018 SG (actual 1.018 SG to 1.019 SG)
  • IBUs: 30
  • SRM: 16
For this batch, I used a modified version of the High-Efficiency Mash Profile in the Zymatic advanced editor. The modified mash schedule was:
  • Dough In 102F (default)
  • Mash at 113F for 15 minutes (added this step)
  • Mash at 120F for 10 minutes (added this step)
  • Heat to 154F
  • Mash at 154F for 90 minutes (modified from 152F for 30 minutes and 154 for 60 minutes)
  • Mash Out at 175F (default)
Because my keg had run dry on a couple of recent patches and caused some foaming, I decided to increase the starting water on this batch to 3 gallons, 32 ounces. 

Boil schedule:
  • 60 minutes: 0.5 ounces East Kent Goldings
  • 30 minutes: 0.2 ounces East Kent Goldings
  • 10 minutes: 0.45 ounces Fuggles
  • 5 minutes: 0.45 ounces East Kent Goldings and Brewtan B
After the boil, the wort would be run through a counter flow chiller and into the fermenter.

Post-Brew Notes and Observations

09/16/2018: The extra water proved to be too much for this batch. Grain spilled up out of the mash compartment and into the boil compartment. I don't know if this will leach tannins into the beer or not. I'm hopeful it won't ruin the beer by making it astringent. The counter flow chiller worked reasonably well. I sterilized it by running the boiling wort through it for 60 seconds before turning on the cold water flow. Once cold water was running through the chiller, wort was coming out of it about 88F. Despite that, the temperature inside the fermenter was about 93F when all the wort was pumped in. I need to think about a better way to sterilize the chiller in future. Perhaps running boiling water through it before brewing.

My fermenter developed a leak in the valve, which I didn't discover until I picked up the fermenter. I had to quickly sanitize some tubing and another fermenter, and transfer the wort into it. I'll deal with the leaky valve later. What was a bit irritating about this is that the valve didn't leak when I filled the fermenter with sanitizer earlier on... only when wort was pumped in.

Gravity came up low on this batch, probably because of the extra water I added. In future I'll need to consider what the right amount of water should be. It apparently needs to be more than the recipe crafter suggests, but less than I used today. 

When I pitched the yeast, just before midnight, the wort temperature was registering at 83F. That's too high for the ESB yeast, but I'm hoping by the time fermentation gets underway it will cool down into a safe range for the yeast. Unfortunately, the only fermenter I had that would work with my temperature control system was the one that was leaking. I'll need to resolve that tomorrow night and perhaps transfer the wort once more. We'll see.

09/17/2018: About three hours after the Lallemand London ESB yeast was pitched into the wort, it began fermentation. At that point, the temperature was 78F. About 15 hours after it started reducing the gravity of the wort, it had reached a gravity of 1.020 SG. By then, the temperature had climbed to 80F. It's held at that gravity for about six hours as of this writing. That may the fastest fermentation I've ever experienced. I expected a sample of wort I took from the fermenter to taste and smell of acetone and other off flavors. I was pleasantly surprised to find that although I could pick up a hint of acetone, it wasn't easily picked up. The flavor seemed quite good, and the aroma fruity as is common for the style. I'm going to be curious to see if this tastes as good in the bottle.

09/18/2018: The gravity is now 1.019 SG. The temperature has dropped to 70F. Yesterday, the beer looked pretty cloudy. Today, it's looking quite a bit more clear. I'm hopeful that after cold-crashing and gelatin fining it will be bright and clear.

09/20/2018: The gravity has held at 1.019 SG, and the temperature is down to 69F.

09/22/2018: The gravity is down to 1.018 SG today (the expected target gravity), and the temperature increased slightly to 70F. I am planning to dose the beer with gelatin finings today and move it into the mini-fridge, once I remove the Ordinary Bitter which is currently in the fridge, and bottle it.

09/30/2018: The gravity held at 1.018 SG (not that I expected it to change during cold-crashing) and the temperature at bottling registered 37F. Yield was 24 twelve-ounce bottles. I put them in my "hot box" and set the temperature to 70F. Each bottle was loaded with 3 of the small Brewer's Best carbonation tablets, except for the last 3 bottles, which I primed with four tablets for comparison later. A sample of the beer from the bottom of the fermenter yielded a nice, slightly malt-forward flavor.

10/05/2018: I chilled a bottle of the beer and poured a glass. It has a nice coppery color and creamy head. The aroma is malty, but with a hint of butterscotch that is probably coming from diacetyl that the yeast needs to clean up. The flavor was mildly sweet with a good balancing hops bitterness. To my tastebuds, there was a nice malt complexity. I got some sweetness from the corn, a bit of caramel, a touch of dark fruit from the special B, and a nice medium body. I do think the hopping is a little flat, kind of a one-note song from the East Kent Goldings. Maybe adding a different English hop to the mix as the flavor addition, something like Bramling Cross or Sovereign, might add some variation that would kick the flavor up another notch. Still, I am very happy with this one as it is.

10/09/2018: The diacetyl is gone now. There's a little less sweetness to it, making it about the level of a Fuller's ESB from the UK, at least the bottles we find on shelves here in Ohio. The aroma is a mix of caramel and fruit, tending toward plum. The flavor starts malty with a balancing hop bitterness. Carbonation is low, but enough (as you see in the photo at the top of this post) to generate a thin beige head that lasts a little while before reincorporating into the beer. The fruit flavors in the beer had become more subdued to me, but are still detectable.

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