My wife likes English bitters, her birthday is coming up, and she wants to throw a party with lots of beer. She also owns a rhinestone-encrusted switchblade with which she makes sure I understand the things she says. Fortunately I happened to have the last 10 pounds from a sack of Maris Otter laying around and a raging propagation of Wyeast's Thames Valley II with no place else to be. I also had the urge ... the urge to sparge. To the backyard!
First, a pint and a plan: it's a party, so ten gallons is in order. A modest OG in the mid-1.030s will keep things from getting stabby with said switchblade after a couple pints, and a low-temp mash rest will drive the attenuation up, keeping the finish crisp and dry even when served at cellar temp and at a low level of CO2, as is my wont. Some Bairds Carastan for some toffee character to bridge the bready base malt and the ester notes of the yeast. Two hop additions in the kettle - heavy on bittering, light and late on aroma. UK Fuggles for the finish because of the awesome pipe-tobacco nose on the Great Dane's cask-hopped ESB I had on pump at the downtown brewpub last summer. Also learned last summer: I like quasi-open-fermented bitter, so half of this batch shall go un-airlocked as did 2010's DSB. Pint finished, planning planned, that brings us to a recipe:
target OG 1.035-6
- 10 lbs Warminster Maris Otter
- 1 lb Bairds Carastan
- 150F - 60"
- 4 oz East Kent Golding pellets 4.5%aa @ 60"
- 2 oz UK Fuggle pellets 4.8%aa @ 0"
- Chill (indulge me for a moment as I gloat about the weather, because living in Minnesota I can so rarely do that - on this particular lovely early May evening it was warm enough to brew outside in shorts, but the groundwater still so cold that it took my Therminator 9 minutes to bring 10 gallons of wort from boiling to 62 F)
- Wyeast 1882 Thames Valley II (being a PC strain and not long for the world, you could sub any English ale strain that suits your fancy)
- pitch at 62 F, free rise to 66 F over 10 days
- skim and save and plate some of that sweet sweet 1882 yeast
- rack to kegs and store cool for ~2 weeks
Early prognosis is highly promising for me not getting knifed: warm bread-dough and caramel with appropriately subtle earthy, resiny, tobacco-like hop aromatics; a color not unlike that of the first runnings in the above pic, and great clarity early on thanks to the flocculent yeast. Stay tuned.