Sunday, April 20, 2008

Ordinary Bitter

I'm still finding beer styles I've never brewed before. English Bitters...these are styles that aren't too common at bars in Chicago. Even when they are found in six-packs, they are usually American versions. But, after trying two traditional English imports on tap at the Map Room, I instantly loved the taste. So unique and purely quaffable, there is nothing quite like it brewed in America. Right away, I knew I had to try brewing one for myself.

The Ordinary Bitter is undeniably one of the most drinkable beers. The balance of malts and overall hop bitterness in this style is very subtle yet precise. There also seems to be a mineral-like quality to it. I instantly fell in love with it, especially because I'm drawn to making beers that are more subtle, lower in alcohol and balanced. After looking around for recipes, I noticed many similarities. Jamil's Ordinary Bitter is really the most basic. I still have not gotten my hands on Special Roast (see side-bar link Grains 101), so I hope the combination of character malts will play the role to a degree. The following recipe is similar and what I'll try out first.

It will be poured over a third generation ESB yeast cake, and at an OG of about 1.035, it will probably be finished in under three days. Not sure if that is entirely good, but one thing is for sure, we will be tapping this beer sooner than later.

I feel very good about the stats on this brew. The day unfolded without a hitch. A great vigorous boil starting in two pots and then consolidated to one for the final 25 and 1 minute hop additions. The OG came out 1 point high at 1.038 with an overall efficiency of 80% and a final volume just shy of 6 gallons. The final gravity of this brew should be well near 1.007-9, so I'm hoping there is enough residual sweetness and body.

Ordinary Bitter

6.5 lbs. Marris Otter Pale Malt
.50 lbs. British Crystal 60L
.20 lbs. Belgian Aromatic
.20 lbs. Belgian Biscuit
.10 lbs. British Roasted Barley

1.00 oz. US Kent Goldings, 4.8%aa, pellet, 90min
.65 oz. US Kent Goldings, 4.8%aa, pellet, 25min
.60 oz. UK Kent Goldings, 6.3%aa, whole, 1min
.25-.5 oz. UK Kent Goldings, 6.3%aa, whole, keg hops

Wyeast 1968: London ESB 3rd Generation yeast cake

Brew Day Stats

Brewed: 4/20/08
Racked: just primary
Bottled: 4/29/08

Water Adjustment:
2 tsp. Gypsum & .75 tsp Acid Blend to strike water
2.25 tsp Gypsum to 2nd sparge water

H2O/Grain Ratio: 1.25qt/lb
Mash Ph: 5.4-5.5
Sacch. Rest Temp/Time: 153°F/90min
Mash Out Temp/Time: 165°F/20min w/vorlauf
1st Batch SG: 1.052

2nd Batch Sparge Vol/H2OTemp/MashTemp: 4.5gal/176°F/168°F
2nd Batch SG: 1.018

Pre-Boil Vol: 7.5gal
Pre-Boil SG: 1.034
Boil Time: 100min
Post-Boil Vol: shy of 6gal
Mash Efficiency: 80%

OG: 1.038
IBU: 28
Color/SRM: Golden-Copper/11
Ferment Temp: 68-74°F

FG: 1.014
ABW: 2.5%
ABV: 3.2%



1. A very short blow-off hose was used without changing to an airlock. As the temperature decreased in the porch, the water from the blow-off tub was sucked into the carboy and into the finished beer.
2. Added a little dry yeast from an open package in the frig to about 9 bottles.
3. The bottles clearly show signs of infection with a growing ring of white stuff around the neck and surface of the beer. Though it tastes ok, I question the condition of the 5 gallons in the keg.
4. Added dry hops with a large tea infuser ball. The taste of the beer was getting good, until a metallic flavor began to show itself. I suspect the infuser ball.
5. Its a fairly mild metallic flavor in the mid-after taste, and I plan to throw in as much left over hops as I have to help hide it.
6. Its a mild beer with subtle flavors all around (malt, toasty, bitterness and hops) But with these two problems, it has unfortunately turned into an off tasting beer. Oh well.
7. 5/13 - Added .80 ounce of whole Cascade hops directly into the keg. Already started to foam up a bit.
8. Back to the bottled beers. It was the first time I used Munton's Carb Tabs to carbonate bottles. After my second time, only a day later, I noticed the same ring of white stuff at the surface of the beer in the bottle. After tasting an Ordinary Bitter from the bottle, it was actually quite good.


Brian said...


Hands down one of my favorite styles..and your right-damn hard to find here in Chicago!

After trying once I need to go back to the drawing board and try again on the bitter as well..perhaps we can swap a few bottles?

Take care,

Anonymous said...

I have a dynamite ordinary bitter recipe using Fuggles and Goldings. It's for 12 gallons all-grain but you could scale it down pretty easily. Let me know if you want it.

Ted Danyluk said...

I'd like to know who you are, before considering a want to see your recipe. Recipes are fine, but names, faces, and stories, intricacies, techniques, are more valuable.

I wouldn't mind having a gander at it, but please share more. Shoot me an email or something. Cheers.

thepalmhq said...

I know this is an older thread, but it struck me that you probably over-pitched--a whole yeast cake is a lot of yeast for such a low-gravity beer. That may have contributed to your off-flavors. I've just had a similar problem with an American amber ale that I over-pitched. One more data point anyway......