Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Golden Bitters

Golden Bitter with Amarillo
Only seems right that the first beers I post here are a pair of bitters.  These are the kind of pale English beers I really love.  Less than 4% ABV, gentle but definite hop aroma and flavour, firm bitterness, dry and drinkable.  Both are directly inspired by a recipe that Kristen England posted on the Northern Brewer forum.

A quick digression on the man himself. He is head brewer at Bent Brewstillery (formerly at Pour Decisions, which had some really interesting looking beers that seem to have been lost in the merger with this new company), and at one point at least was supposed to be working on a book about session beer. I first came across him in episodes of Brewing TV and videos on the Northern Brewer blog.  He seemed fairly opinionated, but as I learnt more about brewing and came back to those episodes I realized he really knew his stuff. In fact, between his Let's Brew posts with Ron Pattinson on Shut Up About Barclay Perkins, and his Gratzer, Gose, and Berliner Weisse recipes in Brewing with WheatI've probably brewed more recipes written by him than anyone other brewer.

In the post in question England describes the two kinds of bitter he enjoys: "the ones that are more caramel and less hop and the ones that are lighter and more hopped".  I enjoy both, but definitely prefer the latter, and feel like its the kind of English beer that isn't always well represented in the US. I had a couple of great ones when I went home to England this summer.  Stand-outs included a pint of Salopian's Shropshire Gold  at my favourite pub in Liverpool, The Ship and Mitre; and the Summer Ale made on premises at another lovely Liverpool pub, The Baltic Fleet.   England's recipe is based on a beer I've never (knowingly) tried: Crouch Vale's Brewers Gold.

The recipe couldn't be simpler: 100% lager malt, and a large dose of hops at 15 minutes left in the boil.  Here's the original version with his notes:

Crouch Vale Brewers Gold
Gravity (OG) 1.040 (measured)
Gravity (FG) 1.010 (measured)
ABV 4.03% (measured)
Apparent attenuation 74.38% (measured)
Real attenuation 61.7% (measured)
IBU 35 
SRM 2.2 (measured)
EBC 5.4

5gal (19L)
English lager malt 8lb (3.65kg)

Mash: 151F x 60min

Boil: 90min

3.5oz Brewers Gold - 7.9% - 15min

Ferment at 63F
1) WLP022 Essex or 2) WLP013/ Wy1028

I would suggest that you don't make any changes to start. When I want it more 'bittery' I'll swap out some base malt for some #2 invert or 75L crystal. The pils malt is 100% mandatory and if you can't get UK pils use the Belgian stuff. If you can't find the Belgian stuff then use Optic or Halcyon NOT Maris Otter or Golden Promise. ANY hop will work for this recipe but I would seriously just stick with one variety. Amarillo is actually VERY nice. FYI - The lower AA% hops lend more aroma and flavor ONLY b/c you have to add more of them to get the bitterness.

I've brewed this three times now.  In every case, I subbed a Belgian pilsner for the lager malt.  For hops, I used Amarillo the first and second time, and East Kent Goldings on my last attempt.  The two versions posted here were fermented with Wyeast London Ale (1028), which gives them a crisp, minerally finish; my first version used West Yorkshire (1469).

Golden Bitter with EKG
Both are a beautiful hazy gold, with a good head on pouring that sticks around as a thin layer for as long as it takes me to drink the beer.  Probably has something to do with all the protein from the pilsner malt, and perhaps the large quantities of hops too.  I think they might drop bright with a week in the fridge, but I get through them so quick they don't have a chance.  I aimed for under 2 volumes carbonation: this worked perfectly in the EKG version, but this time the Amarillo one didn't quite carbonate enough and tastes a little thin.

The Amarillo version is surprisingly floral.  I think of Amarillo as being a citrusy hop like Cascade, but for some reason in this beer it gives a soft, flowery aroma and flavour that is a long way from the sharper grapefruit notes I associate with it.  (After another taste, it actually has a very soft grapefruit bitterness, pith and peel in the background). The EKG version has a gentle but firm bitterness, and a flavour that reminds me of preserved oranges, almost like marmalade but not as assertive, and wonderful tea-like tannins that build gradually as you drink it. This might be because you have to use so much EKG to get the right levels of IBUs (almost double the amount of Amarillo), and is perhaps another reason it seems less thin than the Amarillo version.

In both cases, the hop flavour and aroma is relatively restrained given the quantities used (stronger with the Amarillo), perhaps because I'm using older hops that I wanted to use up (properly stored in vacuum-sealed bags in the freezer, of course). In any case, its a flavour profile I really enjoy.  The final beer is balanced and subtle, with a definite bitterness that makes me want to drink pint after pint.  The EKG version has disappeared very quickly, and the Amarillo won't last much longer.

No comments:

Post a Comment