Something you immediately find out when you have your first good ordinary bitter is that it is neither ordinary nor particularly bitter. In a world with double imperial IPAs, it doesn’t take somebody baptized in the Church of Hopheadism to drink this beer. It might be one of the best examples of traditional English beer styles and the American styles based on them. American beers are more brash, are more extreme, and maybe even more exciting. On the other hand, British beers are about balance, they are more comforting, but they are still complex.
I decided a few months ago that I should switch between a bigger beer and more of a session beer each time I brew. My last beer was my robust porter, clocking in at over 6% alcohol, so this time I figured I should go in the complete opposite direction. A beer that is under 4% alcohol and one balanced towards bitter. This is what the word bitter in the style really means, balanced towards bitter.
We sit in a wonderful world where you can get almost any beer you have ever wanted. Last weekend I had a Finnish style Sahti made by one of the Goose Island Brewpubs (very good). It is a style of beer traditionally flavored and filtered through juniper berries and twigs. This beer styles essentially died out decades ago, yet I just had it at a local brewpub in a location thousands of miles from its origin. The world that original bitter came out of was very different. In the early 19th century, the beer world was very different. Pale malt had just come on the scene, and England basically had 3 types of beer. A brown Mild, a darker Porter, and then a new pale ale generally hopped at a higher level than the mild or Porter. Later on brewers who bottled tended to call their beers pale ales, while brewers called beers in casks bitters. Strangely, any of the beers, either cask or bottle, from Burton-on-Trent where still called pale ales. I can’t figure out the reasoning, but it’s strange how names appear.
The word ordinary comes from the amount of alcohol. The lower alcohol beer would be the everyday ordinary beer you drank all night at the pub. The Special Bitter used better ingredients and more of them. They saved the Extra Special Bitter for celebrations and extra special occasions.
Grain Bill (Calculated OG is 1039)
4.35lbs Munton’s Extra Light Pale DME
0.5 lb 120L Crystal
0.25lb Special Roast
Measured OG was 1036
Hops (Estimated IBUs using the Regar formula is 31.4)
0.65 oz East Kent Goldings (at 7.20% AA) at 60 minutes
0.40 oz East Kent Goldings (at 7.20% AA) at 40 minutes
0.25 oz East Kent Goldings (at 7.20% AA) at 1 minutes
0.20 oz East Kent Goldings (at 5.60% AA) at 1 minute
1 Smack Pack of Wyeast 1968 London ESB (no starter)
The other day I measured the gravity at about 1014. That’s probably as low as this yeast is going to get. I just need to find a few hours to remove labels and then bottle. I did use whirflock, which should clear the beer, but it looks very cloudy. Maybe it needs some time to settle, it has only been a week.