Sunday, 20 April 2014

Brew Day: 1909 Lees Bitter (plus invert sugar)

Hops and Invert No.1I should have a number of posts with tasting notes coming up in the next few weeks, but  I haven’t decided whether I’m going to post here about every brew day.  Since I’m focusing more and more on particular kinds of beer, posting all the time might become repetitive.  However I think there’s enough that’s different about what I’m brewing today to warrant a post.

The beer will be another bitter, using the London Ale III yeast that I top-cropped from the ordinary bitter I made last weekend.  I took the recipe from Ron Pattinson’s new book: The Home Brewer’s Guide to Vintage Beer.  Its a nice little volume, with brief but informative histories for a number of British styles (often correcting widespread misconceptions), along with a range of recipes that Pattinson has reconstructed from old brew logs.  The format is similar to the “Let’s Brew” posts on his blog, though sadly missing Kristen England’s helpful notes and directions.

The recipe I picked was for a 1909 version of J.W. Lees Bitter (a beer still made in Manchester today, though, as Pattinson shows, the recipe has changed many times over the last century). Pattinson suggests using London Ale III in this beer, but what really caught my eye was the large proportion on invert sugar (~18%), along with the relatively large amount of hops all added before the last 30 minutes of the boil.  These features set the recipe apart from most contemporary home brew efforts, where for a long time the conventional wisdom has been to avoid large quantities of sugar, and to preserve hop aromatics by saving some additions for the last 15 minutes of the boil.

Needless to say, I’m very curious to see how this one turns out.  With such large hop additions I expect some flavour to carry over into the final beer, even if these aren’t what we typically consider flavour additions.  The large quantity of low alpha hops will also shape the character of the bitterness: I often get a tannic, tea-like quality when I bitter in this way (although I’ve never done it on this scale before).  I’m a little sorry that I’ll be using US fuggles rather than the English variety, but its what I have on hand.

Making Invert SugarA quick note on invert sugar, for those who have never used it before.  Its fairly easy to make (Pattinson gives instructions in his book, and you can also find them online), and definitely affects the flavour profile of the final beer.  This will be my first time using invert number one, but I’ve made invert two a few times.  There are two things I’ll mention about the process.  First, make sure you use an unrefined sugar like demerara or turbinado.  These are fairly common back in the UK; ‘brown sugar’ in the US is something different, usually just white sugar blended with molasses.  Second, be careful as you ramp up to 240°F.  Its very easy to overshoot, and I’ve had a lot of difficulty keeping the temperature below 250°F.  My syrups are always fairly viscous and slow-moving---this is easily handled with a hot water bath, but I wonder if it is a result of letting the temperatures get too high.

Post-brew update: another low OG!  This might be because the invert is contributing less extract than BeerSmith expects, but I think I may also need to adjust my boil-off rate (plus there’s the age of the malt).  Usually a few points either way don’t matter, but with this much bitterness, being almost 10 points low is sure to make a big difference.  On the plus side, I transferred the ordinary bitter from last week and its tasting really nice so far.


Estimated O.G. 1.055    
Measured O.G. 1.046 (Low!)  
Predicted F.G. 1.010    
ABV. 5.82%    
IBUs 70.3    
  154°F 80 minutes  
81.8% Maris Otter      
18.2% Invert No. 1      
Fuggles (US) 60 min 46.6 IBUs (57g @ 4.1%)
Fuggles (US) 30 min 23.8 IBUs (57g @ 4.1%)
London Ale III      

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