The blog post in which I unveil and discuss my twentieth homebrew,1 Churlish Otter, a strong bitter in the style of those classic British pub ales:
Churlish Otter began life as a “safe” back-up plan for 1st Republic’s opening day. That is to say, after reviewing their inventory (conveniently listed on the website) I determined that the 2-3 formulations I’d been working on were questionable; they called for kinda-sorta specialty ingredients that weren’t listed. That morning, I ultimately worked out an acceptable variation on one of those recipes, but I also quickly slapped together something that I labeled in BeerSmith as “Simple Bitter”.
So the next brew day turned out to be the one that would ultimately be Churlish Otter.
I worked out a fairly straightforward grist: 5 lb. of Maris Otter (pale) plus another 1 lb. 10 oz. of Briess Caramel 40L, rounding out the gravity with a can of Briess Golden Light LME.
For hops it was strictly East Kent Goldings. Five ounces in total.
I mashed in at 152.1°F and held it for 75 minutes. My usual “towel wrap” method for insulation did OK, but the temperature had come down to about 148°F by the time my saccharification rest was complete. Mashed out at 168°F for 10 minutes. Two other notes from this partial mash, both of them first-times. Number one, this was my first time using pH strips to get a read on my water’s pH; unfortunately, this didn’t tell me anything, as neither of the strips that I used appeared to change color at all. Regardless (and this is the second “first”), I did mix in ½ tablespoon of some pH stabilizer.2
With great color, and a pre-boil gravity reading at 14.9%Br,3 I put the heat to this kettle to get a 60 minute boil going. Followed along with my hop schedule, and added my LME as a late addition at 20 minutes — really trying to get as much out of that can as possible. The last 2 oz. of EKG went in at knock-out for a 10 minute hop stand, though I’ll admit there wasn’t much whirlpooling happening. The wort chiller got the kettle contents down to 70°F in about 8 minutes, and then it was time for transferring and gravity readings. This one got a little fun; so…
I poured over from the kettle into the 2 gal. of cold water already in the carboy. This gave me approximately 4¼ gallons. Given that 2 of my last 3 brews were off by 10-20 points, I wanted to see where my gravity was before my final top-off. I grabbed a sample from the carboy, making sure to pull it from 3 different spots — despite being confident that it was well-mixed from the aeration shake — because I wanted to be certain that I wasn’t getting a bad reading because of stratification. This reading turned out to be 1.070 according to my trusty hydrometer. BeerSmith helped me with the math on the dilution and, satisfied that I was going to be at or within a couple of points of my gravity, I finished topping off to the full five gallons. Boom: 1.058 at 64°F — almost perfect.
I pitched about 200 billion cells4 from my starter of 1098 and moved that carboy down into the basement where it could hang out at a nice steady 64°F for a couple weeks. And while it never did get a Great Big Cap o’ Krausen…
After a little over two weeks, I took a final gravity reading, siphoned it into the bottling bucket with 2.81 oz. of corn sugar solution,5 and bottled 43 × 12 oz. bottles of beer. The hydrometer reported 1.017 which was a point over BeerSmith’s estimate, but about 3 points over the refractometer reading from a couple days prior. (Oh well, what are you gonna do about those refractometers, eh?) Not sure what else I could’ve done there (too much Caramel 40L?) but the taste seemed about right,6 and it was a nice coppery amber in the glass — but still fairly clear despite skipping the cold crash.
Fast forward three weeks7 and we had a highly serviceable bitter. A little bit nutty, bready and biscuity leaning to a caramel finish. There’s a decent nudge of an herbal/spicy hop note on the finish, but still malt-forward.
I’d be happy to serve this one to friends.
The partial mash recipe for Churlish Otter is as follows.
- 5 lb. Maris Otter pale malt
- 1 lb. 10 oz. Briess 40L caramel malt
3.3 lb. (1 can) Briess Golden Light LME (20 min. late addition)
- 1 oz. East Kent Goldings (60 min.)
- 1 oz. East Kent Goldings (45 min.)
- 1 oz. East Kent Goldings (15 min.)
- 2 oz. East Kent Goldings (flame-out; 10 min. steep/whirlpool)
Wyeast 1098 British Ale
Prepare a 1000 milliliter starter 2-3 days before brew day.
- Collect 12.3 qt. water and heat to 159.9°F. Mash in; hold at 152.1°F for 75 minutes.
- Mash out. Heat to 168° over 7 minutes; hold for 10 minutes.
- Remove filter bag from water. Squeeze filter bag to extract as much liquid as possible for wort.
- Top off to approx. 2.59 gal.
- Bring to a boil and boil for 60 minutes; follow hop schedule described above. LME added with 20 minutes remaining in boil.
- Cool to 70°F as rapidly as possible and top off the fermenter to reach 5 gal.
- Aerate wort and pitch Wyeast 1098 yeast from starter.
Beyond Brew Day
- Allow fermentation to complete (approx. 1-2 weeks).
- After reaching terminal gravity, consider cold crashing for 1-2 days before priming.
- Use corn sugar to carbonate on bottling day. Rack beer into bottling bucket and bottle.
- Allow at least 2 weeks to carbonate.
Churlish Otter, an original British-style single hop strong bitter by Tilde Gravitywerks
|Original Gravity||1.058 (13.8%Br)|
|Final Gravity||1.017 (7.4%Br)|
- ”Twentieth?” (you ask) “What happened to no. 19?” Ah, you astute and perceptive reader you…
We’ll come back to #19; don’t you worry about that.[↩]
- This is a bit of a long story. Thus far, I’ve tried to take a RDWHAHB about my mashing/brewing
water. With so many things to learn about the brewing process, I just kept putting off learning about the water. However, after two partial mash brews that were off by more than 10 points, I started to suspect that I needed to pay attention to my water. In retrospect, this probably wasn’t the case, but this is my shrugging and muttering that I guess you gotta learn some time. [↩]
- If you believe refractometers which… well, I have to imagine believing one is like how detectives handle information they get from long-time informants. [↩]
- Or so BeerSmith tells me. [↩]
- Mixed up the usual way: 1 pint water + sugar + 15 minute boil. [↩]
- And fussing over my gravities has been consuming a lot of mental energy these past few months. If you’ve been following along with these posts here, you already know the stress I had over starting gravities since… call it January. And now all of the sudden it seems that I’m not getting the F.G. numbers either. #RDWHAHB and all that but still… [↩]
- I sampled one at the usual two week mark but it wasn’t ready yet; a third week gave us the carbonation level that I was looking for. [↩]