English Bitter Homebrew Recipe & Review

bitterMalty. Dry. Balanced. These are the characteristics I prize most in a well-made British session beer. I am a firm believer that the judicious use of high quality English base malts like Maris Otter will take you most of the way in achieving an interesting and nicely balanced bitter. A touch of crystal, herbal hops, and fruity yeast act as the seasoning that takes you the rest of the way.

With all the hoppy, sour, and high alcohol beers I’ve been brewing, a sessionable bitter was a great change of pace.

English Bitter Recipe

Size: 3.25 gal
Efficiency: 67% (measured)
Attenuation: 72% (measured)

Original Gravity: 1.048
Terminal Gravity: 1.011 (measured)
Color: 32.8 SRM
Alcohol: 4.8% ABV (calculated)
Bitterness: 14.11 IBU (does not account for IBUs created by whirlpool hop addition)

Malt Bill:
6lb (92.3%) Crisp Maris Otter
0.25lb (3.8%) Thomas Fawcett 45L Crystal Malt
0.25lb (3.8%) Bairds Crystal 130

Mash Profile:
150°F – 60m

Water Treatment:
Extremely Soft NYC Water
2g Gypsum (to mash)
2g Calcium Chloride (to mash)

1oz East Kent Goldings (5.7% AA) -60m
2oz East Kent Goldings ((5.7% AA) – Whirlpool 15m

Kettle Additions:
0.5ea Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) – 15m
0.5tsp Wyeast Nutrient – 10m

Wyeast 1469 West Yorkshire Ale

Tasting Notes:

Judged as a BJCP 8B Special Bitter

Aroma (10/12):
Moderately intense fruity esters upfront that have almost an apricot and perhaps cherry character. Below this is a round toasty malt note with just a hint of caramel and toffee. The inviting nose finishes with a whisper of herbal and floral hops that have just a hint of a rose character.

Appearance (1/3):
Light copper with a noticeable haze. Head is bright white with great persistence.

Flavor (16/20):
Medium-full malt greets you with notes of freshly baked bread, toasty crust, and just a hint of deep caramel and raisin. There is a good amount of toffee as well. The hop bitterness is medium-low, enhancing an already dry finish. There is a slight mineral character on the finish.

Mouthfeel (4/5):
Medium-low body with a full creamy mouthfeel. Carbonation is medium-low and to style. There is a slight minerally astringency on the finish.

Overall Impression (8/10):
This is a beautifully balanced beer where none of the constituent ingredients feel out of place with the overall beer. The yeast character is really unique among English strains and gives the beer a delicious character not seen in many English bitters. Really nice.

Excellent (39/50)


Chuck’s Mexican AKA HBC 438 Blond Ale

Chuck's Mexican Blond

Chuck’s Mexican Blond

Way back in 2015 at the National Homebrewers Conference held in San Diego, Jason Perrault of the Hop Breeding Company (HBC), Karl Vanevehoven of Yakima Chief Hopunion (YCH), and Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing Company gave a great talk about a new hop variety called HBC-438. The hop is lovingly referred to as Chuck’s Mexican, having originated from Chuck Zimmerman, a breeder at the USDA, and sharing a genetic lineage to neomexicanus, a wild hop found in the southwestern United States. The history of how this hop has made its way into homebrewer’s kettles is fascinating and can be read here. Origin story aside, what intrigued me the most about the hop was its relatively high alpha acid (14-18%) and high oil contents (2.5-3.5 ml/100g). Additionally, I love the idea of using a hop with at least some of its lineage tied to the Americas.

At the conference, I was given a couple ounces of the hop which lived in the back of my freezer until nearly a year later when I got around to brewing with them. I was a little concerned about the freshness of the hops, but decided to go ahead and give them a shot in a single hop beer. Opening the vacuum sealed bags, there was no detectable cheesiness or other off-aromas so I was optimistic that the brew would turn out well.

Chuck’s Mexican Blond Ale Recipe

Size: 3.25 gal
Efficiency: 66%
Attenuation: 76%

Original Gravity: 1.050
Terminal Gravity: 1.012
Color: 7.82 SRM
Alcohol: 4.98% ABV
Bitterness: 0 IBUs (does not account for whirlpool addition hop isomerization)

Malt Bill:
6 lbs (83.1%) Weyermann Pilsner Malt
6.5 oz (5.6%) Briess Victory Malt
6.5 oz. (5.6%) Weyermann Rye Malt
6.5 oz. (5.6%) Rahr White Wheat Malt

Mash Profile:
152°F – 60m
170°F – 5m

Water Treatment:
Extremely Soft NYC Water
4g Gypsum (to mash)
2g Calcium Chloride (to mash)

Kettle Additions:
0.5ea Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) – 15m
0.5tsp Wyeast Nutrient – 10m

Whirlpool Hopping:
2 oz. HBC-438 (16.6% AA) – 20m

Wyeast 2565 Kölsch

Tasting Notes:

Judged as 2015 BJCP Category 18B American Pale Ale

Aroma (5/12):
The beer has a medium to medium-high fruity character that seems to be equal parts hop and expressive yeast. There is a moderate berry character—maybe blackberry as well as some overripe, almost rotten mango notes. The yeast is slightly sulfury / eggy, which may dissipate with some extended cold storage. There is a weird, almost savory / herbal note that seems to be hop-derived. In the background are some nice toasty / biscuity malt aromas.

Appearance (3/3):
Deep gold with good clarity. Just a touch of light haze. The beer is capped with a big fluffy white head that shows excellent persistence.

Flavor (9/20):
Medium to low malt sweetness upfront with some great toasty malt flavors. The beer is a touch oversweet and could benefit from some more hop bitterness. There is a touch of mineral / seltzer water character on the finish. Again, there is a bit of a weird herbal / savory hop flavor that my palate doesn’t enjoy.

Mouthfeel (5/5):
Medium body with a great roundness / silkiness provided by the rye. Medium to medium-low carbonation. Very pleasant.

Overall Impression (4/10):
I’m pretty surprised at how hoppy this beer is considering the low hopping rate and age of the hops. I can say unequivocally that HBC-438 has a very unique profile. Unfortunately, for me, it contributes an unwelcome melange of overripe berries and savory herbs, which don’t quite jive with my tastes.

Good (26/50)