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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Next Up

So, my brown ale is bottled and conditioning. And it's time to think about what to do next.  I've been going dark/light, so I think I'll stick with that. It's been awhile since I made bitters, and I like it. Here are the BJCP guidelines


Standard/Ordinary Bitter

Aroma: The best examples have some malt aroma, often (but not always) with a caramel quality. Mild to moderate fruitiness is common. Hop aroma can range from moderate to none (UK varieties typically, although US varieties may be used). Generally no diacetyl, although very low levels are allowed.
Appearance: Light yellow to light copper. Good to brilliant clarity. Low to moderate white to off-white head. May have very little head due to low carbonation.
Flavor: Medium to high bitterness. Most have moderately low to moderately high fruity esters. Moderate to low hop flavor (earthy, resiny, and/or floral UK varieties typically, although US varieties may be used). Low to medium maltiness with a dry finish. Caramel flavors are common but not required. Balance is often decidedly bitter, although the bitterness should not completely overpower the malt flavor, esters and hop flavor. Generally no diacetyl, although very low levels are allowed.
Mouthfeel: Light to medium-light body. Carbonation low, although bottled and canned examples can have moderate carbonation.
Overall Impression: Low gravity, low alcohol levels and low carbonation make this an easy-drinking beer. Some examples can be more malt balanced, but this should not override the overall bitter impression. Drinkability is a critical component of the style; emphasis is still on the bittering hop addition as opposed to the aggressive middle and late hopping seen in American ales.
Comments: The lightest of the bitters. Also known as just “bitter.” Some modern variants are brewed exclusively with pale malt and are known as golden or summer bitters. Most bottled or kegged versions of UK-produced bitters are higher-alcohol versions of their cask (draught) products produced specifically for export. The IBU levels are often not adjusted, so the versions available in the US often do not directly correspond to their style subcategories in Britain. This style guideline reflects the “real ale” version of the style, not the export formulations of commercial products.
History: Originally a draught ale served very fresh under no pressure (gravity or hand pump only) at cellar temperatures (i.e., “real ale”). Bitter was created as a draught alternative (i.e., running beer) to country-brewed pale ale around the start of the 20th century and became widespread once brewers understood how to “Burtonize” their water to successfully brew pale beers and to use crystal malts to add a fullness and roundness of palate.
Ingredients: Pale ale, amber, and/or crystal malts, may use a touch of black malt for color adjustment. May use sugar adjuncts, corn or wheat. English hops most typical, although American and European varieties are becoming more common (particularly in the paler examples). Characterful English yeast. Often medium sulfate water is used.
Vital Statistics: OG: 1.032 – 1.040
IBUs: 25 – 35 FG: 1.007 – 1.011
SRM: 4 – 14 ABV: 3.2 – 3.8%
Commercial Examples: Fuller's Chiswick Bitter, Adnams Bitter, Young's Bitter, Greene King IPA, Oakham Jeffrey Hudson Bitter (JHB), Brains Bitter, Tetley’s Original Bitter, Brakspear Bitter, Boddington's Pub Draught

Now, I often say, both here and in my podcast, that you should make what you want. With that in mind, I think I'll add a few tweaks.

 The strength, 3.2-3.8%, is just about where I want it. The bitterness is close, but I would prefer it at the high end, or perhaps even just outside the range. The color, too, is exactly what I want.

The guidelines call for moderate hop flavor and aroma, and that's where I'm going to make My biggest change. I plan to be aggressive in finishing hops, and I plan to try a very different variety, not English or American.

I'm considering an English ale with a German or Czech aroma: Tettnang, Saaz, or Hallertau. Or, I may try something further afield, like New Zealand.

I'll see what's available when I order, and maybe something will strike my fancy.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

I'm So Ashamed

I'm out with my wife, my son and his wife.  And I'm having a Busch. Well, at least it's not Busch Lite.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Looking Up

I'm not talking about beer. Go somewhere else if that bothers you.

One of my other hobbies, and one I've enjoyed since I was in my teens, is backyard astronomy. I love sitting out in the dark with my telescope, looking at some of my favorite sights, searching for new things on my star map. Sometimes, I like to just point the scope at a random patch of sky, just to see what might be there.

One thing had always bothered me about telescope advertising. Everywhere I look, the magnifying power is blasted in giant letters, or high volume. I wish they were more honest. Power doesn't mean anything. It's the telescope's ability to gather light that matters.

Rather then the raw power, look at the size of the objective, the space where the light comes in. And use the lower power, you'll actually see more. At the higher powers, it's more difficult to focus, and the earth's rotation will carry anything out of view, in just a few minutes.

I had a 2-inch refracting telescope for...well, a really long time. It came with several eyepieces, but I almost always stuck with the lowest power, about 40x.

It actually showed good detail on the moon, I could see the 4 major moons of Jupiter, Saturn's rings were gorgeous. I spent many happy nights with friend and family.

If you ever think of getting a scope, ignore the power. Get the largest diameter you can afford. There are 2-inch refractors, or similar size reflecting telescopes, for under $100, that can get you started.

The next step up would probably be a 4-inch reflector. Which is probably between $100 and $200. Don't get more then you can easily afford. Regardless of what you spend, a telescope can be enjoyed.

Consider this hobby. It doesn't cost an awful lot to get into, and you get years of enjoyment from it.

Monday, April 15, 2013

My Interview Series

Yesterday, I talked to my daughter-in-law, the last of the four combatants in our family brewing competition.

You can find the archive of all the interviews, as well as the competition itself, at

The most surprising thing about my talk with Tanya was her use of tea, and chai, as a brewing ingredient.

I've never considered it. I think I'm going to, now.