Homebrewing: ESB (Extra Special Bitter)

I’ve been growing a quiet little fascination with traditional English beers as of late, and have tried making a handful of different English styles (Southern English Brown, Sweet Stout, Oatmeal Stout). I’ve never made an ESB before, and the homebrew club I’m in has a Special Bitter 11C competition coming up next year (as part of a 4-part cumulative quarterly competition featuring a different style each comp). That all adds up to designing a recipe and giving it a go!

The Recipe: 5.33 gallons into fermenter, 75 minute boil

  • 11 lbs Maris Otter (English Base Malt)
  • 1 lb Crystal 60L
  • .25 lb Special B (I know, not English, but think it will work well for the style)
  • .75 oz Nugget (15.8%) first wort hop
  • 1 Whirlfloc tab – boil 15 min
  • .5 teaspoon White Labs Yeast Nutrient – boil 15 min
  • 1 oz East Kent Golding – boil 5 min
  • 1 oz East Kent Golding – flameout
  • White Labs WLP002 English Ale Yeast – 1 liter starter from new PurePitch package
  • Original Gravity: 1.061
  • Estimated IBUs: 45.3
  • Color: 12.9 SRM
  • Estimated ABV: 5.4% (assuming a Final Gravity of 1.020 – I think I’ll get a little more out of my starter of WLP002 – updates to follow)
  • Efficiency: 71% – usually assume 65%, but got a little better than normal this batch

The Process:

I went to my local homebrew supply store a few days before brew day, wanting to make a yeast starter with WLP002. I made a 1 liter starter with 4 ounces of dry malt extract, boiled for 10 minutes on my gas range right in the Erlenmeyer flask, and chilled in an ice bath in the sink. When it reach about 72°, I pitched the pack of yeast and set it up on my Stir Starter stir plate.

I began my brew day like usual, collecting 10 gallons of reverse osmosis filled water from a local refill station. As I heat my strike water, I mill my grain and measure out my water treatments.

I mash in, aiming for 154°, but let my strike water get a touch too hot, and settle for 156° after about 10 minutes of whipping the crap out of the mash with my maple mash paddle. I use my BrewBag mash tun filter as I always do.

After a 60 minute mash, I add the .75 oz Nugget hops to the kettle and collect the first runnings. I then add my sparge water, doing a single batch sparge. I then drain until I reach my approximate pre-boil volume. I really need to get a kettle with some etched volume markings to make my brew days more consistent and accurate. I was originally aiming for about 7.5 gallons pre-boil, but got closer to 8 gallons, and adjusted my boil time from 60 minutes to 75 minutes to accommodate that.

After the boil and coinciding boil additions, I chill my wort using my Hydra wort chiller, transfer to my fermenter, add 60 seconds of pure oxygen, and pitch my entire 1 liter starter. I then set up my BrewJacket Immersion temperature control system and start to clean.

For whatever reason, after mashing in I completely forgot to keep taking pictures of my process, and my fermenter is currently wrapped up in its BrewJacket insulation, so I’ll add some more photos when I keg or when it’s on tap in my kegerator. Updates to follow!

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