Tuesday, June 12

Homebrew V: English Bitter

A little more than a month ago, I embarked on my first solo brew. Prior to this, I had always done so with at least one other person brewing, and while the second set of eyes was certainly handy to avoid errors, the coordinated chaos of a group brew session (sharing sanitizer, aerators, wort chillers, etc.) meant that I hadn't really "locked down" the homebrewing process in my own mind.

Since we're headed into summer (and on the heels of my previous post "In Search of Small"), I opted for what I hoped would be a sunny-day-on-the-deck session brew: the English Bitter extract kit from Midwest Supplies.

It's a very simple and straightforward ale, so brewing went smoothly. Fermentation ramped up a bit slower than past brews, and then diminished rapidly once it peaked -- but I suppose this is not surprising for a session beer.  (In fact, I hit my starting gravity number right on, and when I took a second hydrometer reading after I transferred the ale to the secondary, it had already finished.)

After two weeks in the bottle, the pour was a bubbly, with a thick white head. A somewhat thicker layer of sediment appears at the bottle of these bottles than past brews, but if you pour carefully, it stays put, and the appearance in the glass is deep straw in color and crystal clear. (The photo does not do this justice.) The aroma is hoppy, but not staggering; hops predominate the flavor, but do not dominate or overpower. I'm going to describe the malt flavor as "biscuit," but I'm assuming in this case that the biscuits in question are English cookies or crackers, not Southern comfort food. If you get a little of the sediment in your pour, you might mistake this for a pale wheat ale; otherwise, this is an easy-drinking and refreshing "small" pale ale that, at 3 to 3.5% alcohol, can be enjoyed in multiples while remaining coherent.

I would recommend this for new brewers as an easy kit, and to beer-lovers who are used to American pilsners and pale lagers as a great first step into the world of ales. You definitely get that fruitier and more complex ale flavor, in a beer that is just as easy to drink as a Leinie's and as refreshing as a Rolling Rock.

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