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Homebrew #20: Churlish Otter

by Rob Friesel

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

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.

"Simply Bitter" brew day

For hops it was strictly East Kent Goldings. Five ounces in total.

"Simply Bitter" brew day

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

"Simply Bitter" brew day

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.

"Simply Bitter" brew day

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

+41 hours post-pitch. Wouldn't exactly call that krausen "high", but it seems to be a nice and vigorous fermenter just the same. #homebrewing

…it did chug along nicely with some vigorous fermentation.

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.

Racking "Simply Bitter"

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.

Recipe

The partial mash recipe for Churlish Otter is as follows.

Mash Grains

  • 5 lb. Maris Otter pale malt
  • 1 lb. 10 oz. Briess 40L caramel malt

Fermentables

3.3 lb. (1 can) Briess Golden Light LME (20 min. late addition)

Hop Schedule

  • 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)

Yeast

Wyeast 1098 British Ale

Prepare a 1000 milliliter starter 2-3 days before brew day.

Brew Day

  1. Collect 12.3 qt. water and heat to 159.9°F. Mash in; hold at 152.1°F for 75 minutes.
  2. Mash out. Heat to 168° over 7 minutes; hold for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove filter bag from water. Squeeze filter bag to extract as much liquid as possible for wort.
  4. Top off to approx. 2.59 gal.
  5. Bring to a boil and boil for 60 minutes; follow hop schedule described above. LME added with 20 minutes remaining in boil.
  6. Cool to 70°F as rapidly as possible and top off the fermenter to reach 5 gal.
  7. Aerate wort and pitch Wyeast 1098 yeast from starter.

Beyond Brew Day

  1. Allow fermentation to complete (approx. 1-2 weeks).
  2. After reaching terminal gravity, consider cold crashing for 1-2 days before priming.
  3. Use corn sugar to carbonate on bottling day. Rack beer into bottling bucket and bottle.
  4. Allow at least 2 weeks to carbonate.
  5. Enjoy.

Details

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)
ABV 5.4%
Attenuation 72.4%
IBU 43
SRM 10.7
Links Untappd
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  1. ”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. #19 just needed a good long time to do its thing. []
  2. This is a bit of a long story. Thus far, I’ve tried to take a RDWHAHB about my mashing/brewing water liquor. 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. []
  3. If you believe refractometers which… well, I have to imagine believing one is like how detectives handle information they get from long-time informants. []
  4. Or so BeerSmith tells me. []
  5. Mixed up the usual way: 1 pint water + sugar + 15 minute boil. []
  6. 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… []
  7. 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. []

About Rob Friesel

Software engineer by day, science fiction writer by night. Author of The PhantomJS Cookbook and a short story in Please Do Not Remove. View all posts by Rob Friesel →

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