Today’s recipe is for an English Ordinary bitter. The style is described by the BJCP as having low alcohol levels and low carbonation which make this an easy-drinking session beer. The malt profile can vary in flavor and intensity, but should never override the overall bitter impression.
I find this a great, thirst-quenching beer, fairly bitter with a good malty backbone. The lower alcohol makes this beer really sessionable and a sensible choice to serve at barbecues or lunches; ensuring your guests have a delicious craft beer and can still walk, or more importantly drive, after a few.
The only hops being used are the noble East Kent Goldings. East Kent Goldings, or EKG, give a great spicy earthy flavour and aroma. The malt bill is pretty simple, just three malts: Marris Otter, crystal 90°L and a touch of amber malt. The Marris Otter gives a strong malt backbone and delivers biscuity notes while the crystal helps and amber malts give a bit of body, the ruby colour and a touch of residual sweetness to balance the very forward bitterness.
This is my own recipe which recently took a bronze at the 2016 Royal Agricultural Society of Western Australia Beer Show.
Landlord’s Ordinary Bitter
Batch volume: 23L
Pre-boil volume: 26 L
Pre-boil gravity: 1.032
Bitterness: 34 IBUs
Colour: 9.2 SRM
|Grains||% of Fermentables|
|3.2 kg||Marris Otter||89.90%|
|275 g||Crystal Malt (90°L)||7.70%|
|40 g||East Kent Goldings [4.6 AA] – 60 mins||23.9|
|22 g||East Kent Goldings [4.6 AA] – 20 mins||8|
|21 g||East Kent Goldings [4.6 AA] – Whirlpool||2.1|
|Dry Hop (optional)|
|10 g||East Kent Goldings [4.6 AA] – 7 days|
|0.5 tablet||Whirfloc (Boil 10 minutes)|
|1 tsp||Gelatin (2 days before packaging)|
|1 Packet||Wyeast London ESB Ale 1968 or Safale S-04|
|Water Profile – London (optional)|
|Ion||Target (ppm or mg/L)|
Mash the grains at 67ºC for 90 minutes. Fly or batch sparge at 75ºC until you have reached the pre-boil gravity. Given the low amount of malt, you may get a better than average efficiency – my last batch had a brewhouse efficiency of 93%! Bring the collected wort to boil and wait for the hot break to form. Boil for 60 minutes adding hops just after the hot break drops. Add hops and finings as per the recipe. For whirlpool hops, take the wort off the heat and allow wort temperature to reach 85ºC. Stir vigorously to form a whirlpool, add the whirlpool hops and leave stand for 5 minutes. The lower temperature will help prevent the alpha acids in the hops from isomerising as much and prevent the volatile oils and resins from dispersing, leaving an awesome aroma. After whirlpool hopping, either cool quickly using a chilling device or hot can into a no-chill cube and let it cool naturally. Fill the fermentor, aerate wort and pitch yeast. Ferment at 19ºC.
Dry hopping a beer like this was most common for real ales, which were cask-conditioned in oak barrels. My original recipe didn’t use dry hops, but if added will help to give the beer a flavour similar to a cask-conditioned ale. If you you decide to dry hop, add the hop charge a few points before the ferment reaches terminal gravity. Leave the beer to dry hop for 7 days. Rack into a secondary fermentor or into a keg (if you’re lazy like me). You could even use some oak chips or get a small oak barrel.
Clarify your beer if you so choose (see here on how to do it).
Carbonation and Storage
Carbonate to 1.5 – 2.0 volumes and if bottling store for at least 30 days prior to drinking. Do not over-carbonate this beer using the “carbonation drops”. Its better to use measured priming sugar. An over-carbonated ordinary bitter will be thin, watery and harsh-tasting and lower the overall drinkability for which its known. Historically this beer was hand-pumped from casks in the cellar, and ever so slightly carbonated.