Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Happy Newt Brews Its First House Bitter

"In search of the great malty mouthful our merry aquatic acquaintance takes us.. across the pond."

I love English beers:  the wonderful caramel malt flavors, the biscuitiness, and that peculiar yeast character that is prominent during a casual swig but illusive upon close inspection. They are balanced, flavorful, and just plain nice. Though I don't see myself remaking the same recipe batch after batch, the thought of simple yet flavorful 'house beer' sounds appealing - especially one that I could use to continually track my progress as a brewer. An ESB seems to fit the bill perfectly.  When I began formulating my recipe for 'The Happy Newt" (the namesake of the homebrew 'pub' and this blog) I turned first to clones of Fuller's ESB - my favorite beer.

As it turns out Fuller's ESB and London Pride are partigyled from the same grist. The first runnings of a 95% pale ale malt 5% Crystal 75L grist go to making ESB with the later runnings going to London Pride. In general, the defining character for ESBs (and most English ales) is balance. I wanted to go a bit bigger and broader on malt character than Fuller's but still remain fairly balanced. I bumped the Crystal percentage to 10% and split that between Crisp 45L and 120L. I aimed for the BU:GU ratio (bittering units : gravity units) to be around .80 but probably hit slightly under. I also wanted a bit more hop aroma but being weary of dry hopping after my first experiment, I went with a flame-out addition instead. I chose to ferment with Wyeast 1968 London ESB as it supposedly is the the Fuller's strain. The brown sugar was a result of panic and not originally intended. I may secondary around a gallon over carmelized raisins and/or molasses. Time will tell!

It was a truly dreadful brew day with many lessons learned. I'll leave the details to your imagination.

  1. Don't listen to meteorologists - palm readers are more accurate.
  2. Don't panic. I think the homebrewing community already has a mantra for this. Apparently I didn't absorb the full message of RDWHAHB.
  3. Brewing in the dark isn't fun.
  4. A recipe is only a plan. 
  5. Watch/track/calculate boil off.