Thursday, January 19, 2012

Brew Day : Amalgamated ESB II

Considering how well my last extra special bitter turned out, I knew I had to re-brew this beer sometime soon if I wanted it to be ready for the upcoming spring BJCP competitions. However, life and the flu got in the way and now I'll be cutting it close for the deadline. Also, since I don't have all of the same ingredients as the last batch, I'll be making a few substitutions. I guess you could say I am making a whole other ESB, although I expect the malt and hop profile to pretty similar. First, as I don't have any Bedford Bitter (wlp006) yeast left, I will be using the London III strain (wy1318). I was thinking of going with a drier and less fruity yeast, like wy1768, but I was worried it wouldn't highlight the malt as much as the other yeast did. Instead, I figure if I go with the London III yeast, I'll get much of the same full-malt profile as the other beer and compensate for the lower attenuation by leaving out the brewers invert syrup. And since this yeast leaves the beer with a bit of candy-sweetness anyways, I suspect the invert addition won't be terribly missed. Lastly, just to bump the color up to more of an amber/copper, I'll be using a very small amount of pale chocolate. Hopping and bitterness will be much of the same, though with less emphasis on the late hopping - since most BJCP judges expect English style beers to be devoid of any real hop character. Those bastards!

The last pint
Amalgamated ESB II : Extra Special Bitter                                                                                      Recipe Specifics:
Batch Size (Gal): 4.0
Total Grain (Lbs): 7.87
Anticipated OG: 1.052
Anticipated FG: 1.010    
Anticipated IBU: 42
Anticipated SRM: 12
Efficiency: 75%
Boil Time: 60 Minutes
88.9% - 7.0 lbs. Pale Malt, Maris Otter (TF)
6.4%  - 0.5 lbs. Crystal 60L
3.2%  - 0.25 lbs. Amber Malt (TF)
1.5%  - 0.1 lbs. Pale Chocolate (TF)                                                                                                              
1.0 oz. Challenger @ 60 min for 32 IBU
0.5 oz. EKG @ 15 min for 8 IBU
0.5 oz. Fuggles @ 5 min for 2 IBU
1.0 oz. EKG @ Flameout

Yeast: Wyeast 1318 London III
Mash 154F for 75 min
Brewed on 19 January

Water Profile: Ca - 75, Mg - 15, Na - 20, SO4 - 175, Cl - 35, Bicarb - 95, Alk - 45.


  1. You should really brew beers that you like to drink yourself and not what judges think is "in style" or not. At least that's what I think, otherwise I would loose the fun part of brewing.

    1. I mostly brew out of 'style' though I do like participating in competitions once in a while.

  2. I've never entered the any competitions. Or had any homebrewers taste my beer. I'm thinking of sending whatever I have into the NHC and seeing what comments I get. The pale ale I brewed will almost be 3 months old. Won't stand much of a chance. Maybe I'll enter it as a blonde since most of the hops will be gone by then.

  3. I'm brewing this recipe right now but as a 5 gal 1.037 session bitter. I notice on the rebrew you used a darker crystal, why is that?

    1. Ha, I didn't even notice I put down 40L on the first batch. That was a mistake. First batch used 60L crystal as did this one. I suspect it wouldn't make too much of a difference though.

      Let us know how the bitter turns out. I'll be brewing something similar to this tomorrow, but closer to an ordinary bitter.

  4. Well, I went with carastan for the crystal as thats what i had on hand and it was close to C40. I have never used a crystal <60L in an ordinary bitter before - if this fails I blame your typo :) I also had no challenger so I went with .75oz fuggles and .5oz EKG at 60mins and I cut the 0 minute addition to .5oz. I'm also using wy1882 for the first time on this batch, hopefully I can get a decent top crop off of it.

    1. I have a 1/2 sack of TF crystal 60L, so that is what I generally use. Flavor isn't that far off from carastan anyways. Thames Valley II is a great yeast, it should make a really nice bitter!

  5. I just kegged up the bitter and did the ol' crank 'n' shake. I'm drinking a pint right now. My OG came in at 1.041 and it finaled at 1.010 despite the weird krausenless ferment. The colour looks very similar to the pint pictured on this blog post. Its a little too early to evaluate it but it seems promising- its a little roasty (TF amber?) and I can really taste the carastan. Right now I'm wishing I had hopped it a little more (I probably shouldn't have halfed the 0min addition) but its probably good as is. Maybe its more to style this way?...and on that subject, judging a bitter on a small sample is counter to the whole idea of a session ale. Pound a pint back. Are you sick of it or do you want a second pint? There are so many beers I fall in love with the first few sips but hate by the bottom of the pint and some of the best session beers are "meh" at first but get better as you get to the bottom of the glass. The big and rich 1.040 beers often aren't as drinkable as the sparged-out bitter thrown together from the second/third runnings of a barley wine.

  6. It kills me to see people pour little 2 oz samples of bitter or some other session beer and try and decide if they like it or not based on a bunch of little sips. Fill the damn thing up and drain it. I usually start drinking my bitters by week three in the keg, just to give them time for the individuals flavors to pop. Amber and brown malt can be a bit overpowering when the beer is young and cover up all the flavor nuances from the base malt.

    1. I'm 5 pints deep into this beer and it is good...but I do think .5lb of carastan is too much as its a little too dominate. .5lb of crystal seems to work better in a session bitter if its a bit darker. I initially thought the hopping was a little light but now there is a bit of a bong water mouth feel thing happening. I like that but its not quite what i was going for. If i brew this again I would go a little lighter on the hops, carastan and lower the gravity a bit - it has a faint hint of sparged-out graininess but it could do with a little more. I don't think I will ever use this yeast again either (1882). It tastes yummy but was too much of a pain with its constant floccing out.

      The whole reason I got into homebrewing was a trip to the UK in 2007. No commercial brewery does anything close to the cask ales I had at even the airport bar and I've been trying to brew that "taste" ever since (don't get me started how every "craft beer" cask event sucks). This is beer is good..but not quite what I was looking for.

      My favourite homebrewed ordinary bitter to date was 1.034 with 90.5% TF MO, 7.5% baird's crystal 75, 2% TF Pale chocolate, wy1968 and finished with leftover american C hops and my wife (not a beer person) still said "this tastes like england". To much emphasis (go BJCP!) is made about english hops but its not just fuggles and goldings over there and what makes a beer taste "english" is more than just the hops.

  7. Thanks for the update Edward. I just started drinking my version about a week ago and while it is good, I don't think 1318 is the best choice for this beer. The malt and hop flavor is good - the crystal isn't at all overpowering - and the hops, while strong, have a very nice aroma and flavor. I slightly overshot my gravity to around 1.055 O.G, which seems fine for this beer. A strong malt base needs to be there to support the all the late hopping and the amber malt. I don't know if I would like this beer as a 1.040 bitter.

    I am pretty happy with the malt bill and hopping, though it is probably a tad hoppier than most would expect from an english style ESB. I won't use 1318 again on this one, since it does finish with a slight candy-sweetness that has the effect of muting the bitterness. It's not as crisp as I would have liked. I'll go back to using the bedford bitter strain.

    Lastly, I don't think that all "English" beers must be brewed with EKG or Fuggles. The one thing that really surprised me on my third UK trip was the diversity of hops used in both cask and keg beer. Right next to an all EKG bitter, you'd have a golden ale brewed with cascade and centennial and so on. I don't know about you, but where I live there are pretty much no commercial examples of bitters/pales/browns ect... that are not brewed with C hops. UK hops just are not used. The closest thing we have is US fuggles or goldings. Therefore, I put so much emphasis on EKG and fuggles in my recipes, not because I think that's what make English beers "English," but rather that those are flavors I drank in the UK that I want to replicate in my bitters.


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