Sunday, March 8, 2015

Back to Bitters

For the past few months now, I've noticed the odd bottle or two of Timothy Taylor Landlord on the shelves of my local bottle shop. Last month I snagged two from behind a display of Evil Twin beers and just the other day I found one hiding behind a selection of imported ciders. Either someone is hiding these bottles on purpose, as happened when the shop got in a bunch of Enjoy By's... or the owner has stopped giving a ****. Probably a bit of both. What is important about these recent finds, however, is that all the Landlord bottles were in relatively good shape, less than three months old. I've had Landlord on cask years ago, but it is nice to try other commercially made English bitters; usually Blue Bird and London Pride are the only ones to be found. Anyways, what struck me most about these bottles of Landlord, was that they still exhibited a wonderful balance of flavors (malty-sweet-hoppy) and supreme drinkability. It was a cruel tease of a beer I'd nearly forgotten. I knew I had to make something similar.

To do this, I decided to go back to basics and start from the ground up. One or two malts, a splash of medium crystal, good water, better hops, and the right yeast. Now, Landlord is supposedly made with Golden Promise and that is a great malt to use, but I wanted something a bit more characterful and less intensely honeyed, so I went with a 50/50 mix of TF Optic and MO. The optic has a nice, bready malt character and the MO gives a full, rich malt flavor. To add color and a bit of caramel-toffee, I went with Bairds Carastan (35L) which I've really found a liking to. It provides a pleasant light-caramel flavor but it also has a toasted quality that I don't get with the Fawcett or Simpsons products. If you haven't tried it, buy some and use it in a simple recipe. For hops, I went with some organic EKGs and rounded out the recipe with WY1318 London III. I wasn't happy with the brews I made with West Yorkshire yeast - they ended up too stone-fruity and muddled tasting - and I knew the lightly fruity 1318 would leave a slight sweetness that would pair well with the bready and biscuity malts. Water was all RO, with moderate sulfate content. I brewed this beer in late January and just recently started drinking it after an extended cold conditioning.

Yeoman Bitter: Special Bitter

Appearance - Very clear light amber/gold, with a fluffy two finger head that has good retention.

Aroma - Honeyed, toasted malt with a slight herbal and spice hop note. As the beer warms, mellow fruity esters become apparent.
Taste - Sweet and full flavored English malts - honey, toasted bread - with some caramel-toffee in support. The hop character is floral herbs and sweet orange peel, with just enough bitterness to balance the malt. Yeast is clean, with some fruity esters adding complexity and helping to keep things interesting. Overall, the beer is clean, crisp, and quite moreish. 

Mouthfeel - Carbonation is medium-low and the beer has a pleasant mouthfeel. Not too thin for the gravity.

Drinkability & Notes - After my so-so attempts brewing with WY1469 over the summer, I'd pretty much stopped brewing English style bitters and using English yeasts. From then to now has been mostly Sours, IPA's and Imperials. It has been a great change of pace to have a beer on tap that I can enjoy a few pints of and still function. As per the beer, this batch turned out exceptionally well and is among the best bitters I've brewed in recent memory. It makes me want to get back to making proper British style beers.

O:G: 1.047, F:G: 1.010. 4.8% ABV. 25 IBU.

Recipe Specifics:
Batch Size (Gal): 5.0
Total Grain (Lbs): 9.00
Anticipated OG: 1.048
Anticipated FG: 1.010
Anticipated SRM: 6.8
Anticipated IBU: 25
Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

94.4% - 9.00 lbs. Optic/Otter Mix
5.6%  - 0.50 lbs. Bairds Carastan

0.50 oz. Organic EKG @ 60 min for 17 IBU
0.50 oz. Organic EKG @ 30 min for 8 IBU
1.00 oz. Organic EKG @ knockout
Yeast: WY1318 London III
Mash 155F for 60 min
Brewed on 25 January