Living in Phoenix, especially the East Valley, there has always been one staple in the local craft beer scene: Four Peaks Brewery. Just about every ASU student can look back fondly at time spent on the Four Peaks patio, enjoying some awesome food, drinking great beer, and people watching. They make a really nice Special Bitter called 8th Street Ale. It’s on tap all over town, and it’s really responsible for introducing me to traditional British styles. It’s a beer I’ve brewed in the past, but I’ve never been exactly happy with how it turned out. Approaching the holidays a few months ago, needing a drinkable beer, I figured it was time to give this Special bitter another shot.
We’ll get back to the beer I brewed in a minute, but first we need to talk about the heartache. Three days after I brewed this, I was driving in the car, and the I hear on the radio that Four Peaks sold out to AB-InBev. I was literally ugly-screaming, “SON OF A BITCH!!!! ANYONE BUT FOUR PEAKS!!!!!!” So after going through the five stages of grieving, I’ve came to the conclusion there will just always be two Four Peaks in my mind. There will the Four Peaks that broke my heart selling out to the bully of the craft beer world. And there will be the Four Peaks I’ll look back fondly on; the one where I had more fun memories from my twenties than I can count. It certainly made the timing of this beer pretty funny. I first joked about calling this one “Sell Out Pale Ale”, but after some time to think about it, this beer was a nice send off.
So back to talking about the recipe, the last time I brewed this, I was just trying to brew a clone of 8th Street Ale. Four Peaks uses standard 2-row as the base malt, because they have silos of it, and they adjust the rest of the grain bill to make the beer more British. In retrospect, I was just making life harder on myself. This time around, I decided to use all English ingredients to make things easier. The 2-Row and Munich are gone in favor of Maris Otter. Carapils and Crystal 80 are gone in favor of Carastan (I love my English crystal malts.) The batch a few years ago was overly hopped, so I cut way back on the hops this time. Finally I swapped out the WLP007 in favor of the more common 002.
The brew day for this batch was fun. I got to test out my new chiller, and let’s face it, trying out new equipment is like half the fun of this hobby. It’s also just really nice to brew in the ‘winter’ here in Phoenix. Brewing was very typical. 60 minute mash, 60 minute boil. Chilling was awesome with the new chiller, and I dropped the batch down to 62F before filling the fermenter. From there I hit the wort with O2 and pitched a 1L starter of WLP002.
8.5lbs Maris Otter
4oz Special Roast
Mash @ 152* F
1oz Kent Goldings @ 60
1oz Kent Goldings @ 10
WLP002 – English Ale Yeast
I started this beer at 17.2C as I do just about every beer. WLP002 is a little more temperamental than my typical American yeast, so I ramped the temperature to 18.4C within 24hrs, and then up around 19C within another two days. This beer fermented out very quickly, and by day four the yeast had fully flocced. I kegged this up just six days after brew day, partially due to the crunch to get this on tap for Christmas, but it was ready nonetheless.
This beer turned out really nice, and is a big improvement over the last Special Bitter I brewed. The aroma has a really nice maltiness. The appearance is exactly what I want in this style, crystal clear with a fluffy head. The flavor is malty, clean, a little estery, but lacking hops a little bit. Either the East Kent Goldings I used were not aromatic enough, or I simply didn’t use enough. The beer finishes soft and easy. It’s probably a little crisper than it should be, but it doesn’t detract from the beer.
Overall verdict for this recipe is that it’s moving in the right direction, but I’m still not exactly happy with it. I think I need mash this beer a little higher to improve the mouthfeel, use just a little more hops, and potentially try a different yeast. I like 002, but I’m not in love with 002 for a beer like this. I’m definitely going to try a different yeast next time. So that leads to some discussion: does anyone have any good recommendations of British yeasts for bitters? I’m looking for something new other than 002 and 007. Fermentation temps and pitch rates are welcome =)