Bitter Brewing…

On May 3, 2008, in Family and Friends, Homebrewing, by Mark Ranes

Brew SculptureI slept in until 9:15 a.m. (woohoo!), and walked around in a daze for fifteen minutes. At 9:30, I lit the brew sculpture burners, made a pot of coffee, and pulled my feeder wort out of the fridge to warm up a bit. After a quick shower, I heated the feeder wort, and then decanted off the nasty starter beer from the 1600 ml White Labs Premium Bitter Ale yeast, WLP026 starter, and fed it another 700 ml of wort. It is back on the stir plate and the airlock is bubbling away like crazy.

I turned off the strike water burner at 161 degrees and mashed in. Final mash temp was right on the money at 153 degrees.

I changed the Old Man Bitter recipe a bit, as I’m apt to do in the days leading up to a brew day, to reflect the British nature of this brew. I wish I’d had some Marris Otter on hand for the bulk of the grist, but the closest thing I had was Golden Promise, so I split the bulk of the grains between it and standard 2-row. I also mixed up the crystal malts a bit add some complexity to the bitter. The updated recipe is as follows:

Old Man Bitter
8-C Extra Special/Strong Bitter (English Pale Ale)

Size: 10.00 gal
Efficiency: 70.0%
Attenuation: 75.0%
Calories: 272.61 per 16.0 fl oz

Original Gravity: 1.061 (1.048 – 1.060)
Terminal Gravity: 1.015 (1.010 – 1.016)
Color: 12.8 (6.0 – 18.0)
Alcohol: 6.04% (4.6% – 6.2%)
Bitterness: 41.12 (30.0 – 50.0)

0.7 tbsp 5.2 pH Stabilizer – added during mash
11.0 lbs Golden Promise Malt
10.0 lbs Pale Malt(2-row)
1.5 lbs Cara-Pils Dextrine Malt
1.2 lbs Toasted Pale Malt
8.0 oz Crystal Malt 120°L
4.0 oz Crystal Malt 20°L
4.0 oz Crystal Malt 10°L
2.0 oz Fuggle (5.0%) – added during boil, boiled 60.0 min
2.0 oz Fuggle (5.0%) – added during boil, boiled 30.0 min
2.0 oz Goldings – E.K. (4.8%) – added during boil, boiled 15.0 min
1.0 tsp Wyeast Nutrient – added during boil, boiled 15.0 min
2.0 ea Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) – added during boil, boiled 15.0 min
2.0 oz Goldings – E.K. (4.8%) – added during boil, boiled 1.0 min
1 1600 ml starter White Labs WLP026 Premium Bitter Ale

Lately my efficiency has been up and I attribute that to extended recirculation, while I mash-out. I figure that for the last ten batches or so, I’ve recirculated 75%-125% of the wort back through the mash while the temp slowly climbs to mash-out temps. I know for a fact this practice clears the wort going into the boil kettle – and far fewer chunks of malt from the grist wind up in the boil. I didn’t mash-out on my first fifty batches, and I really don’t think it negatively affected the taste of the final product, but I do know that my recent batches have fallen clear faster than in the past, so I do see that as a benefit.

John - The best neighbor possible!12:15 p.m. – Ahhhh! the aroma of Fuggles boiling away. Being a major hophead, I typically use west coast types of hops in the majority of my brews. They tend to have the citrusy, piney and floral aromas of IPAs and pale ales, and these Fuggles lend a more “earthy” and subdued aroma to the boil. The aroma filling my backyard is a pleasant sign of the simple session ale that will come from this brew session.

John, the inspiration for this bitter brew, stopped by and had an ale (or three:). When I finally get my act together and get a sign made for the bar, it’ll be named after one of his favorite phrases when offered a beer – “Well, just to be sociable!”. The bar will be called Sociables. Let’s face it, homebrewing, and beer drinking, is all about being sociable! Additionally, this bitter’s name is also inspired by John. Those of you who know me well know that I am a rabid (long suffering:) Seattle Seahawks fan. John has been gracious to share his 49ers season tickets with me for the last six or seven years. We always go see the 49ers vs. Seahawks game together, sharing a friendly rivalry. The second year we went, the Seahawks won the game, and as we were waiting for the crowd to subside so that we could get out of the Stick, a drunk 20-something 49er fan, started throwing popcorn at me (I was in my blue Seahawk fan gear) and talking trash. John looked up at the jerk and said, “That’s not very nice!”, to which the drunk shouted back, “What are you going to do about it, Old Man!” I thought John was going to leap three row of seats to go kick the drunk’s ass! I grabbed him in a big ‘ole bear hug and held him back. He later thanked me for keeping him out of jail, but for me it was self preservation. You see, he had the car keys in his pocket and I really did want to get home:) So to John, I say, “Old Man, this bitter’s for you!

2:15 p.m. – The Old Man Bitter is in carboys. I oxygenated the wort and popped on two Carboy Covers, and put the ale to bed. The original gravity is 1.064. This should be a nice session ale (at least as much of a session ale a 6% ABV ale can be:) in 4-5 weeks!

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