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Special Bitter 2.0

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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.

DSC_0504Brewed: 12-15-15
Kegged: 12-21-15
OG: 1.047
FG: 1.011
ABV: 4.7%
IBU: 28
6 Gallons


8.5lbs Maris Otter
10oz Carastan
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 =)

 

Cheers

20 thoughts on “Special Bitter 2.0”
  1. Adam Edwards 03.23.2016 on 4:05 AM Reply

    WLP005, 002, and 007 have all been great. Hell, I have even had better results with 1098.

    But more than all of those, I recommend Midwestern Ale by The Yeast Bay. It seems crazy, but it blew me away. I have since made a mild and a porter since a bitter and it definitely had the British character one is looking for, especially in the upper 70s. Finishes clear and not to dry, and does well to accentuate the hops in compliment to the malts. All beers I made were around 5.5%-7% so I cannot be certain about your target, but it is listed within range, so I definitely recommend.

  2. Peter 03.23.2016 on 12:29 PM Reply

    First port of call should be 1469 from Wyeast

    • Rich 03.23.2016 on 8:40 PM Reply

      I second that. Jamil boasted that yeast, I tried it, and I’m in love

      • Scott 03.24.2016 on 6:59 AM Reply

        I’ll definitely have to give this one a try.

        • Peter 03.24.2016 on 4:18 PM Reply

          It makes a delicious beer. Doesnt drop out though, it top crops solidly. Just siphon out from underneath the cake on top once you hit terminal gravity.

          Ill cautiously second the 1318 recommendation. It seems to be a very powdery yeast when ive used it and takes time and gelatin to drop out. Not that that is a bad thing but i dont find it different enough from other english yeasts to be worth the hassle. YMMV of course

          Ive also had great success with the dry yeasts from mangrove jack. Both their dry british amd burton union made some delicous special bitters for me. Ive also got WLP023 on my list of things to try which ive heard good things about.

          I also really like WLP006 which is sadly a seasonal release. Well worth checking out though, much like 002/007 it makes awesome english beers and also does a fantastic job with american pales and IPAs. Same as WLP090, give it a good amount of oxygen, start coolish and ramp quickly. Ferments fast and drops out like peanut butter. Much deliciousness

    • Jamie 03.29.2016 on 6:55 AM Reply

      +1 for this as well. I have used it several times for hoppy pales and it is wonderful.

  3. James 03.23.2016 on 3:56 PM Reply

    If you like English crystal malts then give WY1318 a shot. It really lifts a wonderful toffee cotton candy aroma out of the malts, produces a sweetshop type aroma and leaves a lite residual sweetness behind. Works wonderfully with hops too.

    Pitch at 18 and let rise to 20. Krausen will refuse to drop for ages but responds well to crashing slightly.

    • Scott 03.24.2016 on 7:01 AM Reply

      That could be really interesting. Thanks for the recommendation!

    • Mike 03.24.2016 on 10:50 AM Reply

      1318 is a great alternative to 1968 if temp control is an issue (1968 can be a little fickle). I use this pretty much exclusively for all of my FW clones.

  4. Rich 03.23.2016 on 8:38 PM Reply

    Wyeast West Yorkshire is fantastic

  5. James 03.24.2016 on 6:40 AM Reply

    1318 combined with a touch of Crisp Crystal 150 = heaven

  6. Shane 03.24.2016 on 6:47 AM Reply

    Southwold, London ale III, Thames Valley, or Conan might be good as well.

    • Scott 03.24.2016 on 7:02 AM Reply

      Never heard of Southward, I’ll have to look into that.

      I also wouldn’t have thought about using Conan, but come to think of it, I could see it making a nice bitter.

  7. James 03.24.2016 on 7:40 AM Reply

    Conan does indeed make a nice bitter! Good peach bubblegum notes.

    Southwold.

  8. Rob 03.24.2016 on 8:57 PM Reply

    One of my favourite yeasts for British beer is Wyeast 1028. I ferment at 68*F, maybe a bit cooler. I call it a British summer-beer-yeast. Good luck.

    Another thing…I once tried using EKG as a bittering hop at 60 min. I thought it had a soapy(esk) flavour to it. I would only bitter with fuggles @60min.

    • scottland 03.25.2016 on 6:56 AM Reply

      That’s a good tip about bittering with fuggles. I’ll have to give that a try next time. Thanks!

  9. Noe Tellez 04.06.2016 on 4:38 PM Reply

    ESB is one of my favorite styles to brew and i brew it 3 times a year. I stick with english malts Maris Otter and Crystal 55/60. I bitter with Challenger and use a combination of Challenger and EKG for late additions. I’ve found that low to mid 30s IBUs are in my preferred range. As for yeasts, i’ve used 002, Yorkshire, Whitbread and London ESB. The Wyeast 1968 London ESB is my favorite.

    • Simon Branscombe 07.26.2016 on 11:18 AM Reply

      THIS. Spot on. Ferment at at least 20C too.

  10. John 04.13.2016 on 6:01 AM Reply

    Scott, I feel your pain on Four Peaks as AB-Inbev just acquired my local brewery too, the 2014 GABF Mid-Size Brewing Company of the Year winner Devils Backbone. So it goes. Your clone of 8th Street Ale has inspired me to clone my favorite DB offering.

    • scottland 04.13.2016 on 9:37 PM Reply

      I can sympathize. Good luck with your clone!

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