Ordinary Bitter for Ordinary Beer Folks

Ordinary bitter is one of those beer styles that is ubiquitous in every corner pub of Britain, but it’s a rarity in American craft beer scene. You’ll see a lot of ESB style bitter around, but what I’m talking about is the low alcohol, sub 4% ABV ale. (ESB is actually a trademark of Fuller’s)

I asked Brieux Carre, one of the breweries in New Orleans, why they didn’t brew more of their bitter (Fancy Daan, named after one of the local homebrewers who appreciates beer that tastes like beer, i.e. bitter/helles/cream ales/pilsner etc.). The short answer was that it didn’t sell well. Other beer styles that don’t sell well, you may venture a guess, are beer that tastes like beer! (In my opinion anyway)

The only way to drink a lot of bitter is to either visit Avenue Pub, or brew it yourself! I always told people I am not a beer snob, I am one of the ordinary beer folks! People assume that I am a beer snob because I brew my own beer. I don’t want to drink a hazy 7% NEIPA all day at a crawfish boil! The same applies to watching football, or tending to my smoke brisket on a hot summer day, etc. I’ll drink Coors Light all day for that, or I’ll drink a homebrew bitter (or helles/pilsner/cream ale), a beer that tastes like beer and a beer that won’t get me drunk after 2 pints.

Since it’s a low alcohol beer with 10 deg Plato or lower original gravity, you should expect the mouthfeel of the beer to be on the thinner side. In my opinion, we should not go crazy on higher mash temperature to preserve the body of the beer, but we should always use high quality ingredient, i.e. Maris Otter, the Bentley of British malt. I love Crisp Gleneagles MO because it is floor malted. That makes the malt so flavorful. The beer can be dry but not at the expense of flavor. Since it’s called bitter, it has to be bitter too! Hops should be evident and should balance the biscuity malt. Use traditional British hops like Fuggles or EKG. You can substitute with Willamette if you’re going for the same profile (earthy/spice/floral), or you can give it an American twist and add some Cascade (grapefruit marmalade when used with Willamette). I wouldn’t use hops that accentuates fruitiness like what are used in NEIPA. You still want to be able to taste the subtle English yeast fruity esters. I like to use some Victory malt (<5%) to boost the flavor, and just a touch of dark malt (chocolate/carafa/black patent, anything >400 srm) to adjust for color. Crystal malt 40 to 60 range should work too in the place of Victory malt.

Yeast choice for me is S04, a vigorous fermenter, high floc, and slight esters. I love dry beer, so I would go for WLP 007 too. I tasted a homebrew bitter fermented with West Yorkshire Ale yeast and that was awesomely dry and flavorful!

I recently brewed one with Crisp Gleneagles MO/Caramunich III/Carafa II with Southern Promise hops/S04 yeast. Not entirely British, but the LHBS ran out of a lot of stuffs due to change of ownership. Grain to glass in a week! I drink it so fast that I need to brew another batch!

3.8% ABV 38 IBU


Waiting on the Cold Front Schankbier

It’s almost mid October and the high is still upper 80s today. Good thing I have a schankbier (tap beer literally) to sip on while waiting on the cold front to roll through tonight. It’s been brutally hot and humid to brew outside, but I’m glad I braved the heat and rain last weekend to brew this session beer. A quick history on the origin of schankbier, it was an old German federal beer tax category. The category was defined by the starting gravity between 7 and 8 degrees Plato wort. That translates to roughly 3% ABV beer.

The grain bill is very simple, 50% floor malted bohemian pilsner and 50% floor malted bohemian dark, mash rests at 148 and 156 deg F, aiming for 1.032 OG, about 25 IBU, with Liberty and Saaz hops, 60/15/flameout additions. Cool to 95 deg F and pitch Voss kveik. I have been having low attenuation issues with Voss kveik fermenting low gravity wort (seems to always stall at about 50 to 60% apparent attenuation, not sure why), so I saved some wort from the first 148 deg F rest and pitch it into the fermenter. I wanted to test if the alpha/beta amylase would help with the attenuation. I went along the line of how amyloglucosidase (AMG) is used to dry out brut ipa. I asked my cousin, who is a chemist in the food industry, if alpha/beta amylase are part of AMG. The answer is yes, AMG is just a generic term. So there you go, you brut ipa brewers, you don’t need to buy the enzyme, you just save some wort from your mash! That way you can brag about brewing your brut ipa in strict accordance to the reinheitsgebot.

This beer gotta be the fastest grain to glass beer that I’ve ever made. I measured the gravity a day after pitching and it was at 1.008! I kegged the beer and force carbed. I’m drinking it now on day 3! I actually did a 10 gal split batch and pitched the other 5 gal with WY3711. The airlock activity is just slowing down as I type this blog now.

So here you go, a partially carbonated grain to glass day #3 beer! (Could have been day #2 beer if I were to tap it yesterday!)

No Boil Hoppy Pale

It has been hot and humid out there with temperatures feeling like in the 100s. That makes it hard to brew outside. So I decided to brew this 5 gallon batch indoors, BIAB all grain. Since I didn’t have to bring this wort to boil, I didn’t need to use my propane burner. I mashed in single infusion at 150 deg F, with a handful of Citra and El Dorado. While waiting for the mash to convert, I boiled water using my electric kettle and added 1.5 quart of boiling water until I reached 170 deg F and ~6 gallons. Then I lifted up the grains and hops and let it cool to 95 deg F and pitched the Voss kveik. 10 hours into active fermentation, I dry-hopped a handful of Citra and El Dorado. A day later I measured the SG, and it was within about 1 Plato of the final gravity. So I kegged the beer and let it naturally carbonated for about three days. Once terminal gravity was reached, I moved it into the kegerator and tapped it. It’s tasting pretty wonderful!

Munich Dunkel Using Weyermann Heirloom & Terroir Malt

I would have never imagined getting Czech barley malt without having to travel to the Czech Republic. Thanks to Weyermann for releasing their heirloom and terroir malt series. I use two of them very often – the floor malted Bohemian Pilsner and the floor malted Bohemian Dark malt. For this beer, I used almost 100% of the dark malt, with a few ounces of Carafa II Special for color adjustment. Color specs on this floor malted dark is between Vienna and Munich malt, but the flavor complexity is unrivaled! I did not use any other specialty malt but I was able to achieve a complex malty bread crust with chocolate flavor profile. I used Mt Hood hops with 60 and 15 mins addition to balance the malt. Hop aroma is non existent as the terroir dark malt takes over. It finishes dry enough for me to drink this one pint after another in this warm spring weather of New Orleans.

OG 1.054, FG 1.014, 28 IBU

Step infusion, BIAB direct heat and stir, dough in at 134 deg F, raise to 145 deg F and rest, raise to 158 deg F and rest, mash out at 170 deg F. Pitch W34/70 at 48 deg F, ferment at 50 deg F, free rise to 55 deg F at the first sign of airlock activity, diacetyl rest at 60 deg F. Keg and fine with gelatin, force carbonate. Grain to glass in 16 days.

Voss Kveik is a Beast

I pitched about 1/3 quart of harvested Voss kveik into 11 gals of 1.040 session pale wort at 1pm yesterday. Last night before going to bed, I checked the fermentation and it was already at high krausen. This morning at 9:30am after adding my dry hops, I measure the gravity at 1.017, almost at terminal gravity! That’s about a 5 Plato drop in less than 12 hours. This beer could hit grain to glass in 3 days!

I dry hop in nylon stockings for easier racking later…

Pilsner Glassware

This is one of my only two proper Pilsner glasswares that I inherited from my buddy who drinks Coors Light. I love it because it has the Saints helmet on it. The Rocky Mountains Ridge embossed design serves as the nucleation spot for forming a good head from the pour. It does give me a better view of the brilliant clarity from this homebrew. This is double decoction Czech Pilsner with 100% Weyermann floor malted bohemian Pilsner malt with Sterling hops. Very hard to brew, but very easy to drink. 干杯🍻

Session Dark Lager Svagdricka

It’s officially Mardi Gras weekend and everyone’s having a beverage regardless the time of day. (You can’t drink all day if you don’t start in the morning right!) Parade starts at noon and you need to get hair of the dog in the a.m. to feel better from the previous night of revelry. Hence a session beer is the most appropriate for all the above. I caught a podcast of chop and brew on brewing svagdricka and it inspired me to brew one. It is a low alcohol Swedish beverage. It has a similar grist as a Czech dark lager, pils + Munich + caramunich + carafa. So I just halved the Czech dark lager grain bill (FM BoPils, FM BoDark, caramunich II, carafa II dehusked) and shot for IBU in the teens with Willamette hops that had been sitting in the freezer. I mashed high at 160 to encourage less attenuation from the W34/70 yeast. OG was 1.034, finished at 1.015, 2.5% ABV. Kegged and carbed, grain to glass in exactly 1 week. It tastes like iced coffee! I would probably skip FM BoPils, go all FM BoDark, and halve the caramunich II next time.