Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Special Bitter Tasting

I brewed this beer back in early December, modeling the water profile on Well's Bombardier, a bitter that is brewed from highly minzeralized water. Whereas I typically brew my bitters with a maximum sulfate level of around 150-175ppm, I wanted to see how the Bedford Bitter yeast performs in beer with nearly double the amount of sulfate, close to what the Wells brewery is using. I expected the high amounts of sulfate to mostly impact the hops and the bitterness - making the beer seem sharper and more biting - but I was surprised to find that it changed the character of the beer in other ways. As is often the case when brewing low gravity beers, the smallest changes can have the biggest impact.

The Bitter End : Special Bitter 

Appearance - Pours a very clear, light amber-orange color with a two-finger white head that has excellent retention and lacing.

Aroma - Honeyed biscuits and toffee with a pleasant earthy and spicy hop aroma. The yeast character is quite nice, lightly fruity with good complexity. Just a touch of mineral character.

Taste - First impression is of sweet, biscuity malt and a rich toffee-caramel flavor that transitions to the same earthy/spicy hop character as the aroma. The yeast is lightly fruity and clean, with some mineral flavor that gives the beer a dry and crisp finish. Well balanced and the individual flavors really stand out. Bitterness is medium-high.

Mouthfeel - Served a tad colder and more carbonated than I usually like, although the mouthfeel is medium/dry and the beer goes down very easily.

Drinkability & Notes - As this beer now sits, it is probably among the best hop-forward English bitters that I have brewed. The high amount of sulfate has paired wonderfully with the malt, hops, and yeast, giving the beer a clean and layered flavor that really makes the individual flavors pop. There is some mineral flavor, although it is subtle and pairs nicely with the spicy hops. Really happy with this one.

Additional Thoughts:

- Styrian Goldings. Admittedly, I've not given these hops much attention in the past few years and that is a damn shame. At least in this beer, the Styrians have provided a pleasant spicy-earthy aroma and flavor that is a nice counterpoint to the floral, marmalade character of the Kent Goldings. Moreover, the Fuggles, EKG, and Styrian hop combo is certainly a keeper, although I do think it suits the Bedford yeast better than the West Yorkshire strain.

- Sulfate. I generally try to keep my sulfate levels around 150-175ppm for my bitters, although increasing the sulfate to 300ppm has had a smashing impact. The individual flavors of the beer are more distinct and the overall character of the hops has improved too. I wouldn't have expected an increase in sulfate to have made such a difference in the beer, but at least with the Bedford yeast, the high sulfate really changes things for the better. The water profile for this beer was around 100+ppm calcium, 300 sulfate, 20 magnesium, 15 sodium, 40 chloride, and 30 bicarbonate. Nearly 100% RO water with a mash PH of 5.25-3.

 4.7% ABV, 35 IBU, WLP006 Bedford Bitter. Recipe Here.


  1. Will, did you notice any positive effect on clarification? Old books say that high-sulfate Burton pale ales would clarify quickly on their own without finings.


    1. Can't say I did for this one, although the Bedford yeast is quite powdery and takes a while to get clear even with a long cold conditioning.

      Interesting that high sulfate would impact clarity, I'll have to see if that is the case in the future, although 300ppm is a far cry from the supposed 800+ppm sulfate waters the burton boys were using!

  2. Here are comments to this effect with some analysis pre- and post-brewing for beers from Bass and Allsopp:



  3. Ever since I brewed the CYBI Hobgoblin recipe, I've been a big fan of Styrian goldings and Cascade together. A 4:1 styrian to cascade blend works great. Not enough to identify the cascade but enough to punch up the citrusy fruitiness.

    1. I brewed the Hobgoblin recipe a long time ago, although I don't remember if I used Cascades or not. Sytrian and cascade does seem like a great hop combo though. Got to try it out sometime.


Leave a comment. No spam please.