Showing posts with label Dark Island bitter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dark Island bitter. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Bitter Comparisons

Having got home on Sunday evening from my shift working behind the bar at the tasting room at Starr Hill, I opened my first homebrew of the year, from my second batch of bitter.

This was the first time I had tried this batch even though I had taken a couple of bottles to the monthly homebrew club meeting in January and was encouraged by the feedback it was getting. As you likely know, if you are following my project to make a great bitter, this recipe differed slightly from the one that took gold at the Virginia Beer Blitz in November, I had upped the flavour hops a bit, substituted First Gold with Styrian Goldings for aroma, and used the Windsor yeast strain rather than Wyeast's West Yorkshire. The Styrian Goldings substitution was a necessity as my local homebrew shop didn't have any First Gold, while using the Windsor yeast was the planned change for this batch.

One thing that won't be changing in future batches of the beer is the grain bill, I love the colour I get from a combination of Maris Otter, Amber and Caramel 20. While the colour is lovely, I think the mix of toasty nuttiness from the Maris Otter, light caramel and a honeyed toffee note from the Amber malt is just where I want this bitter to be. When I get round to doing batch three of the beer, I will revert to First Gold for the aroma hops as I prefer the slight tangerine thing you get with them as opposed to a sweet spiciness I find in Styrian Goldings.

The Windsor yeast left a higher terminal gravity than the West Yorkshire, finishing at 1.011 rather than 1.009, that combined with the slight difference in original gravity (1.040 for batch 1 to 1.038 for batch 2), made for a 0.5% difference in abv. As I don't have any of the 1st bacth left to compare, I am not really sure what difference to the taste of the beer the two yeasts made, but I will be re-brewing with West Yorkshire soon and this time I will keep a couple of bottles of batch 2 for comparison.

Overall though, I am as happy with batch 2 as I was with batch 1 and think I am well on my way to settling on a recipe for my house ale - now all I need is a job and the extra cash that comes with it to sort out a kegerator so that I can always have bitter on tap...a prospect that pleases muchly.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Bitterly Gold

On Saturday, while I was working at the Starr Hill tasting room, the homebrew club to which I belong was storming the barricades of the 6th Annual Virginia Beer Blitz. Only one of our number got down to the St George Brewing company (makers of one of my favourite IPAs, a 100% Fuggles hopped affair which is rather moreish) to take part in the judging, but we had 25 entries from 6 brewers, of which, 10 entries from 5 of us brought some bling back from the coast, and we were overall 2nd in the club of the year part of the competition.

My contribution to our success was a gold and a bronze, for a best bitter and mild respectively, as some of you likely know if you follow my Twitter feed for are Facebook friends of mine. I was particularly pleased with the gold for the bitter because, as I wrote about a few posts back, I am working on creating my ideal bitter to become my house ale. As well as winning a medal, this first batch of bitter has had good reviews from other members of CAMRA and a couple of professional brewers who have tried it, so I think I am going in the right direction.

The bronze for mild was, if I am honest, entirely unexpected because it was an experiment and I used the Belgian witbier yeast strain and hopped it with Styrian Goldings and Saaz rather than 'traditional' English hops. That it came out far more 'English' in character than 'Belgian' has turned out to be a good thing really, but not an experiment I will be trying again as I have a more 'classic' mild recipe I am working on and may well be brewing this Friday.

Having blown my own trumpet a touch, I was thinking about the various medals I have won with my homebrew since moving to the States and something is becoming apparent, I have the most 'success' with traditionally British styles of beer. I have won gold for porter, bitter (twice) and Old Ale, silver for English Barleywine and Mild, and now a bronze for a Mild. For sure this is hardly surprising given that a lot of my brewing is more in the British tradition than American, Belgian or anything else, as is much of my drinking. Anyway, a touch of pointless navel gazing never hurt anyone.

The next big thing for my homebrew calendar is the National Homebrew Competition in the spring, when I hope to finally have a beer advance to the second round. Perhaps I will enter another bitter....

Note: I have to admit that part of me was pleased to note that the spelling on the medals has still not been corrected, 'Virgina Beer Blitz' it is!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Bitter Two

I am sure I have mentioned this many times before, but getting a good bitter in the US is pretty bloody difficult. Few of British bitters make it to these shores, I am glad that I have found a supplier of Timothy Taylor Landlord, and even fewer American brewers seem interested in brewing the style. I can only think of one brewery in the Mid-Atlantic region that has a classic, English, Bitter as part of its core range - Oliver's Ales in Baltimore. Sadly, Oliver's don't bottle their beer and their casks are not distributed in this part of Virginia.

What is a chap to do then? The answer is pretty obvious, brew my own. Crafting a good bitter recipe has become something of an obsession for me, and today I will continue my efforts. When I changed the name of my brewing operation from Green Dragon Brewing to Dark Island Brewing, I also identified several beer styles that I planned to brew repeatedly until I had a recipe that I was really happy with, thus my first Bitter was composed of the following:
  • 77% Maris Otter Pale Malt
  • 13% Crisp Amber Malt
  • 10% Briess Caramel 20 Malt
  • 15 IBU Kent Goldings for 60 minutes
  • 7.5 IBU Kent Goldings for 15 minutes
  • 1 IBU First Gold for 1 minute
  • Wyeast West Yorkshire Ale Yeast
What I ended up with was reasonably tasty, 4.1% bitter that looked like this.

While I was happy with the end product, I didn't want to just settle for that recipe being my bitter. I wanted to play around with yeast strains and maybe the hopping a little bit, and see if I can improve on a very encouraging start. As such, batch 2 of Dark Island Bitter, which is being brewed today, has a couple of changes. Firstly, and mainly because my local homebrew shop didn't have any First Gold hops, I will be using Styrian Goldings for the last hop addition, as well as bumping the flavour hops to get 15IBU of Goldings goodness. Secondly, and this change was planned, I am using Danstar's Windsor Ale Yeast, which I have used a couple of times before to good effect, including my gold medal winning bitter from last year's Dominion Cup.

If everything goes to plan, batch 2 will be ready in time for New Year's Eve, when I will be hanging out in the mountains of West Virginia and comparing it with my best mate, with whom I polished off most of batch 1 a few weeks back, not to mention vast quantities of Oliver's Bitter in Baltimore. A prospect which pleases me muchly.

Beyond January

Dry January is over, but my beer fast continues. Well, it continues until Friday. As a general rule I only drink at the weekend, thus my win...