by Sean Mellody
For this first run of the BOMBing Run in April we are trying something different, our first ever technical round. Inspired by my obsession with the British Baking Show and with the help from Eric at Brew Your Own Beer, we decided this year we'd change things up and have entrants all brew the same style but also the same recipe exactly, to see who can get it just right. Once our poll picked the styles, an Ordinary Bitter was the best option for the technical, as it's simple, easy to brew and is designed to have the brewer showcase their ability to follow a recipe, maintain a good fermentation and produce a low gravity, yet flavorful beer.
Technically speaking a bitter is simply a Pale Ale. They are at their core, session beers. The essence of a good bitter is the malt. The beer is meant to showcase the robust malt, balanced by simple english hop bitterness. If you're really looking for what defines this over a British Pale it is the hop aroma and bitterness. A Ordinary Bitter will be more ready and malt forward, versus a pale ale where the aroma is the star. According to All About Beer:
Bitters are often pigeonholed into one of three different classifications based on original gravity and alcohol content, with a concomitant hop rate that puts them within a respective balance. The fairest of the lot is ordinary bitter. With an alcohol by volume (ABV) rating of less than 4 percent, ordinaries are perfect session beers. They are dark gold to copper in color and could be considered a summer beverage. With plenty of malt backbone to back up the hops, an ordinary bitter is proof that a beer need not be big to be beautiful. Hop rates run up to about 35 International Bittering Units (IBU).
The middle wrung on the bitter ladder is occupied by special, or best, bitters. Less than 4.6 percent ABV, it is simply a strong version of an ordinary—still a session beer, a little more filling, and with a tad more malt character. Most of the bitters fall into this category. Up to 40 IBU helps offset the more lavish character of a best bitter.
At the top of the hierarchy are extra special or strong bitters. They range from 4.6 to as much as 6 percent ABV and over 50 IBU. Still very quaffable, they generally have a stiff maltiness and some more complexity owing to the sheer increase in raw materials. Sometimes offered as a seasonal, these are very satisfying brews.
For our BOMBing Run, we are focused on the Ordinary Bitter, for it's low abv and the ability to not hide behind hops for if your brewing technique or fermentation isn't just right you can't hide it and we'll know. My goal in this recipe was to keep it simple and aim for a soft malty, beer with a biscuity, nutty, or toasty quality.
The key to a great Bitter is freshness. You want to serve this within 4-5 weeks of brewing for best results.
The recipe is simple and easy to follow:
Recipe Specifications - 5 Gallon All Grain
Boil Size: 6.5 gal
Post Boil Volume: 5.06 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.00 gal
Bottling Volume: 4.75 gal
Estimated OG: 1.042 SG
Estimated Color: 9.1 SRM
Estimated IBU: 25 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 70.5 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes
90% - 6 lbs 12oz Maris Otter
14.6% - 12oz Crystal 80
Boil: 60min - 1.00 oz Fuggle [4.5 %]
Boil: 60min - .5 oz East Kent Golding [5.00 %]
Boil: 15min - 1 Whirlfloc Tablets
1 package Dry Lallemand London ESB
Sacch rest - 60 min @ 152 F
Fly Sparge 4 gallons of 168f
Misc: 30 seconds of pure O2 before pitching yeast.