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King Ruddager

English Bitter hops

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Every time I make an English Bitter I say that I've never made one that I'm happy with. The most recent was a step in the right direction, but nope.

The bit that's missing is that fruity taste that flies just slightly below the radar. It's there in the Coopers kit and something like a Fullers ESB, and to be it's a bit like blackcurrant ... or maybe even plumb? I don't know - I'm bad at this.

Lately I've been trying to use a late addition of Bramling Cross at about 1.5 g/L both at flameout and cube (which in the land of chill translates to about a 10 minute addition and a hop stand). I searched "blackcurrent hops" and they kept being mentioned, but I'm starting to wonder if I should give up on those and try EKGs or Styrian Goldings (apparently the Coopers kit uses these).

I also wonder whether part of this flavour I'm detecting is also from the malt.  My last grain bill was super simple - maris otter with 6.5% dark crystal. I still think it's the hops though.

So, although my last one was a step in the right direction, does anyone have any hopping advice to get me close to something approaching Fullers' "London Pride", Burley's "My Wife's Bitter", etc?

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40 minutes ago, King Ruddager said:

So, although my last one was a step in the right direction, does anyone have any hopping advice to get me close to something approaching Fullers' "London Pride", Burley's "My Wife's Bitter", etc?

Anything in this sound right...?

"Fuggle hops are similar to Kent Goldings, but with a more noticeable aroma. Fuggle is generally associated with delicate and pleasant mint, grass, and floral tones. When you're making ales and don't want a dominant Northwest-aroma hop (Cascade, Centennial, Columbus or Chinook), nor the softness of Kent Goldings, Fuggles is a fine choice."

I got some in my last order specifically to try making an English beer to remind me of some I had while in the UK.

Edited by Journeyman
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Your Fullers reference reminded me of the post I did on the coopers Scotch Ale recipe. For me, the nearest thing reminiscent of Fullers bigger beers that I can remember. Maybe some Brambling added to that? I'm doing it a again soon, but will lightly bitter it this time, just to take a bit of sweetness off.

Edited by Lab Cat

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You could try hops that give a marmalade type flavour. I have often found that Challenger provides it when used late in the boil; nothing over the top though. Challenger and Styrian Goldings go well together.

Or perhaps First Gold. I have never used this so can't comment on it in practice.

But I like to throw a little Special B and Caraaroma in my ESBs so you may not want to listen to me.

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Special B wouldn't dry it out would it? - No

Also ... marmelade??? - Yes

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A lot of the flavour of British ales comes from the yeasts. I'd suggest trying something like Danstar ESB fermented close to 20 degrees. Another (although far more expensive) is Wyeast Ringwood liquid yeast but I'd try the dry yeast before going down the slippery slope of liquid yeasts.

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My favourite is Wyeast 1469 West Yorkshire Ale.

If you use it multiple times it isn't so expensive.

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8 minutes ago, Bribie G said:

I'd suggest trying something like Danstar ESB

No! Used it twice I think and have had bottle bombs after a few months. Stupid slow finisher!!!

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12 minutes ago, Bribie G said:

A lot of the flavour of British ales comes from the yeasts.

I never thought that. EB flavour comes from letting the malt flavours dominate, so a neutral yeast works best to let your ingredient decisions do their thing.

I use Nottingham for all my ales, including EB. I think it's a beer style where you don't need add the variable of yeast. I leave that to yeasts that are meant to impose a style on the beer - like wheat and Belgians.

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Lallemand Windsor is supposed to throw “Fruity and estery flavor and aroma, typical of traditional English style ales” which I’ve read on a few other yeasts.

Maybe try fermenting higher to get more esters from the yeast rather than trying to hop the jeezes out of it?

I did my last one with SO4 at 18 and ramped up to 20 and got some fruityness but I think I’ll do the next at 20-22 and see how it goes. 

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9 minutes ago, King Ruddager said:

Windsor has the same long tail as ESB in my experience, so no thanks.

Windsor has lower attenuation so it finishes higher, but it is great in the right beer. 

1 hour ago, Lab Cat said:

I never thought that. EB flavour comes from letting the malt flavours dominate, so a neutral yeast works best to let your ingredient decisions do their thing.

I use Nottingham for all my ales, including EB. I think it's a beer style where you don't need add the variable of yeast. I leave that to yeasts that are meant to impose a style on the beer - like wheat and Belgians.

You get some great esters from English yeasts that work well with the malt flavours and it is part of the style.  I tend to ferment mine around 19-20 degrees.

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11 minutes ago, Hairy said:

You get some great esters from English yeasts that work well with the malt flavours and it is part of the style.  I tend to ferment mine around 19-20 degrees.

Sure, but that's a variable I can get from ingredients, or increasing the ferment temp, although Notts is still pretty neutral at its upper range. 

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If you are bottling then as posted above, a lot of English ale yeasts are not really suitable - they were bred to work slowly in the cask in the pub cellar. My apologies, I should have realised that a lot of brewers on here are bottlers. For well attenuated beers to be bottled, actually one of the best yeasts for most UK styles is Guinness yeast which is available as the liquid yeast Wyeast Irish Ale.

Up until the 1970s Guinness in the UK was supplied in bulk to contract bottlers who would bottle locally, using the proper yeast and Guinness was naturally carbonated, as with Coopers commercial brews nowadays. Then as Guinness became more popular in England, they took back the bottling in house and it was no longer bottle conditioned.  Home brewers back then would reculture the yeast and it was one of the most popular home brew yeasts - my Dad did it all the time back in the 60s.

It's a very fast yeast, and very forgiving of temperatures. Guinness complete their primary fermentation in 40 hours at around 24 degrees. (Guinness: the 250 year Quest for the Perfect Pint, Bill Yenne 2007). It's also brilliant for most UK styles as well if fermented cooler.

As for Notto, I use that in the winter here as it plugs along really well between 12 and 16 in my garage (Mid North Coast NSW) without having to use a heat belt - I have two ESBs on tap right now - but it definitely strips out flavours, which makes it good for faux lagers.

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Yeah S04 is what I've used in my latest and I'm happy enough with the yeast, I'm more interested in which hops, how much, how and when at this point, just to compare to others.

Maybe I need to go back to the "drawing board" (bottle shop) and start again with the "research"

Edited by King Ruddager
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It could be the malts rather than hops that may provide the missing element.   Only you can really answer that!  But for what it's worth I've been round in circles with English bitters also but eventually settled on a malt base which I'm very happy with.  My latest bitter actually features very 'unsuitable' leftover NZ hops, but the beer regardless is absolutely delicious.  I like a small dose of biscuit malt in the blend...  

If interested, the malts are:

  • GF Ale malt (could of course use Maris Otter as I find them to be quite similar) 
  • 5.5% GF Redback Wheat
  • 5.5% GF Med Crystal
  • 2.7% GF Biscuit
  • and around 1% of pretty much any very dark malt, e.g. roasted barley for colour adjustment. 

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On 7/31/2020 at 11:57 AM, King Ruddager said:

Bramling Cross

I really enjoyed those for the flavour you described>>>

P'raps some caraaroma can help with the raisin taste

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