A Minor Digression: Back to Brewing Bitter

I haven’t brewed at my own place since February; as such there is a need to brew, to brew anything, and preferably something fast and easy as I move into my new digs. The wild and weird beers I want to brew require time and money, so I decided to brew something dead-simple and quick to ferment: an Ordinary Bitter.

We’re lucky here in Guelph to have a locally brewed bitter, available in cans and casks. However, sometimes even that isn’t convenient enough and I would like to try my own hand at making this light, balanced ale style. My favorite bitters have evident fruity yeast character along with a toasty/bready aroma. They are fairly dry, with noticeable malt character and a firm hop bitterness and an emphasis on balance. Having never brewed this style before, I am sticking close to Jamil’s recipe (all grain). The english pale malt I’m using is Maris Otter, which seems to be much-praised in homebrew circles, and which I am excited to try as a base malt.

I’m even going to ferment it with dry yeast (Lallemand Windsor). Sacrilege, right?

Dry yeast is, however, a wonderful product. I see a lot of advanced homebrewers who insist on liquid yeast as the only solution to high-quality homebrew. What dry yeast lacks in selection it certainly makes up for in convenience and especially viability. While liquid yeast is highly perishable, dry yeast can remain highly viable for much longer when stored properly. This makes it much easier to estimate the proper pitch rate, considering the variable calculations that exist for liquid yeast starters (Chris White vs. Braukaiser). Chances are there is no definitive rate and we all need to be doing our own growth measurements with our equipment, starters, yeast strains and haemocytometers. Or hydrate and pitch some dry yeast with a known cell count.

Lots of people seem to report problems with Windsor – low attenuation, low flocculation, and  so on. The low attenuation is a plus for this beer – I don’t want my bitter to be too dry. Low flocculation (a bit of a paradox considering this is an English origin strain) can be dealt with using time or fining agents. My current favorite British yeast strain (WLP013 London Ale Yeast) isn’t a fast flocculator either, so this isn’t a huge deal to me. I’m mashing this recipe a bit lower (150F instead of 152F) to deal with the typical low attenuation of Windsor. This is also my first time using acid malt to help bring down the pH of my (otherwise balanced) high residual alkalinity water.

Back to Brewing Bitter (5.5 Gallons):

Expected OG (70% efficiency): 1.039
Actual OG (72% efficiency): 1.041
IBU: 31
SRM: 11

7.5 lb Maris Otter Pale Malt
0.5lb Crystal 120
0.25lb Victory Malt (couldn’t get Special Roast)
0.2 lb Acidulated malt

Mash at 150 (BIAB)
No mashout. We’re keeping things simple.

0.8 oz EKG (7.5% AA) at 60 minutes
0.5 oz EKG (7.5% AA) at 30 minutes
0.7 oz EKG (7.5% AA) at 1 minute

1 tsp Yeast Nutrient at 15 minutes
1/2 tsp Carrageenan at 15 minutes





– Richard



Brew Log:


Grains milled the night before in Crankandstein. Mashed in with 7.4 gallons of 157F Guelph water (BIAB). Collected about 7 gallons of 1.036 wort. 60 minute boil, cooled to 65F/18C with an immersion chiller. Clear wort and some trub racked to a 24L carboy to obtain about 20L (5.28 gallons) of 1.041 wort. Nice light amber colour, and the wort seems to have a firm English hop character upon tasting. Wort aerated by shaking (I would like to invest in an oxygenation system).

One packet of Danstar Windsor dry ale yeast hydrated in 100mL boiled and cooled water (32C), hydrated for 15 minutes and then pitched. Wort placed in basement cellar at 60F/15.5C ambient temperature.


Airlock activity and kraeusen, I will move this somewhere slightly warmer tonight to help the yeast along.


Most yeast has dropped out and fermentation has finished. Gravity 1.012 (70% apparent attenuation). Some sulfury smell, but the beer is fairly young so I’ll give this some time to dissipate. Some clean fruitiness underneath. Taste is nicely balanced between slight sweetness and  firm English hop bitterness.


Fairly clear (not entirely still), no gravity change. Sulfur smell is gone, light butterscotch and fruitiness, but subdued. Taste is dry, crisp and English earthy-bitter. Bottle this week.


Bottled 5 gallons (50 355ml and 500ml bottles as well).



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