So with the Dunkelweizen fermenting away, my thoughts turned to the next batch. With a Thanksgiving weekend coming up, I thought it might be a good time to make another batch of beer over the holiday weekend.
I was mostly settled on making either a British Mild to expand into yet another beer style that I have not yet made or redoing my previous Best Bitter with some tweaks to the recipe. I ended up going in a slightly different direction because of an unrelated article I read in a hilarious, politically incorrect British website.
The article was ostensibly about the pussy-whipped British civilian formerly known as ‘Prince Harry’ and his pain-in-the-ass, D-list actress wife. But it was a discussion in the comments between a couple of Brits from Sussex that caught my attention. The discussion (it was really too brief to be a discussion though) about Sussex centered mostly on the perception that West Sussex was ‘posh’ and East Sussex, well, wasn’t. One fellow pointed out that the Sussex town of Lewes is where the Harvey’s brewery is located. This in turn led to other people commenting about Harvey’s Sussex Best and how wonderful it is.
Intrigued, I started doing some research (I even remembered that one of the first branded brewery beer glasses I ever bought was a Harvey’s Elizabethan Ale glass).
Harvey’s Elizabethan Ale beer glass – An crap eight year old picture of a beer glass that I have had for about 20 years. Yet I never have had a Harvey’s beer!
The research came across this article, which intrigued me further. I doing further reading, one of the elements that add to the mystique of the Sussex Best is the 60 years of re-pitching and re-using yeast they obtained from the John Smith’s Brewery in Tadcaster, North Yorkshire (to Americans, the John Smith Brewery is probably not known and is probably easily confused with the more famous Samuel Smith’s Brewery in Tadcaster – though I did have the opportunity drink the John Smith’s Extra Smooth Ale from a can at Old Trafford in Manchester and on draft at the Cavern Club in Liverpool on my 2019 trip to Ireland and England). This re-use of the yeast over the decades is thought to have added a bit of a wild tang to the taste of the beer – one that is unlikely to be replicated using a recent liquid yeast culture!
Nonetheless, I continued my research and I found in short order several clone recipes from which I chose one to form the basis of this batch of beer.
The one I settled on had the following specifications:
- 87.7% Maris Otter Pale Malt
- 6.8% Crystal Malt (80° L)
- 5.5% Flaked Corn
- 20 grams Progress hops
- 20 grams Fuggles hops
- 20 grams Bramling Cross hops
- 20 grams East Kent Goldings hops
- Wyeast 1469 West Yorkshire Ale yeast
The targets were
- Original Gravity: 1.043
- Final Gravity: 1.012
- Alcohol by Volumes: 4.0%
- IBU: 39
- SRM: 8.6
So it came time to convert this recipe to quantities that I could order online. Using BeerSmith, I came up with the following:
- 7 lbs Maris Otter Pale Malt
- 9 ounces Crystal Malt (80° L)
- 7 ounces Flaked Corn
- 0.5 ounces Progress hops (6.2% alpha acid assumed)
- 0.5 ounces Fuggles hops (5.6% alpha acid assumed)
- 0.7 ounces Bramling Cross hops (6.0% alpha acid assumed)
- 0.5 grams East Kent Goldings hops (5.0% alpha acid assumed)
- Wyeast 1469 West Yorkshire Ale yeast
The targets estimated by the software are fairly consistent with the online recipe. They are:
- Original Gravity: 1.043
- Final Gravity: 1.012
- Alcohol by Volumes: 4.0%
- IBU: 35.1 (slightly lower than the 39 IBU in the example recipe)
- SRM: 9.2 (slightly higher than the 8.6 SRM in the example recipe)
The next hurdle to jump was ordering the ingredients online or from my local homebrew store. At one point I had five different websites open and discovered what may be most difficult about making this batch of beer is finding a place that carried all the ingredients. I was unable to find an online provider (including the website of my local homebrew store) that carried both Progress and Bramling Cross hops. It wasn’t always easy finding the Wyeast 1469 yeast either. The White Labs equivalent, WLP037, is a specialty strain that isn’t available year round, so I didn’t have an option for the yeast.
My recent go-to shop, Atlantic Brew Supply, had the yeast, but didn’t have either the Bramling Cross or Progress hops – the same was true for Homebrew Supply Company and Williams Brewing . More Beer! had the yeast and the Progress hops, but not the Bramling Cross hops. Same with Northern Brewer. Rebel Brewer didn’t have the hops or the yeast. Adventures in Homebrewing (and its twin site, Austin Homebrew Supply) had the Bramling Cross hops and the yeast, but not the Progress hops. And a place I found that I have never ordered from, Yeastie Beastie, had both hops but do not carry Wyeast products. My local homebrew store, according to their website, carried only the Bramling Cross hops, and not the yeast or Progress hops.
So my exhaustive research was coming up blank. I figured researching eight or nine sites was enough – if I couldn’t find somebody who carried all the ingredients, I was going to have to decide which ingredient I was going to omit.
The yeast was a must have. If it was available, I had to get it. So it came down to which of the hops – Bramling Cross or Progress – I was going to double up on. The Bramling Cross hops are described as having a “pronounced aroma of black currant and spice”, or black currant and lemon. It also intrigued me when I read “If used as a late hop or dry hop, the affect on the final beer flavor can be very interesting” on the Yeastie Beastie site. Progress hops were described as having “suggestions of spring grass, herbs, and fresh flowers overlaid on woods and dried mint” and a “strong, fruity and resiny aroma” – the former seeming to be at odds with the latter.
So Bramling Cross it is!
I placed the order late on Saturday, November 21 figuring the order would be processed and shipped out on Monday. I also chose ground shipping because I figured that would be sufficient to get the ingredients to me by the following Friday, so I could brew on Saturday or Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend.
So Monday came and went and I didn’t receive an email confirmation that the order shipped. So I sent an email on Tuesday morning asking for an update, but figuring that my order wouldn’t ship until that afternoon, and would not reach me over the Thanksgiving holiday before Saturday – which would likely push my brew day off a week, missing out on brewing on some of the off-days of Thanksgiving weekend.
During my lunch break on Tuesday, I decided to go to the local homebrew store and see if they had the Bramling Cross hops in stock like it said on the website and to also have a heart-to-heart talk with the owner about why I don’t patronize the local shop much (though I would prefer to buy locally). I also thought that if he had all the ingredients that I needed, I would buy them on the spot and cancel the internet order. He was missing the Progress hops and the yeast, and of course offered to order them for me. But the order would go out four days later on Saturday (which was the day I was hoping to brew) and would be received the following Wednesday…maybe…if his suppliers had it in stock…or if they had it in stock and sent it out with his Wednesday delivery…
I declined the offer – there were too many chances it wouldn’t come together – and decided to stick with the internet order.
When I got home, a customer service representative at the internet store called me and explained why the order didn’t ship the previous day, but it would go out that day and I should have it by Friday – Saturday at the latest. He also explained that they prioritize the next day and second day shipping orders, which makes sense, but that orders choosing ground shipping generally don’t ship for 24-48 hours.
If I had known this, I probably would have made other arrangements or put off this batch for a later day when I had time to get *all* of the ingredients. But the rep assured me it would be part of their Tuesday shipment going out later that day.
Come Wednesday morning, I still hadn’t received an email confirming my order had shipped. Which meant if it was going out before Thanksgiving, it would have to go out that day and there would probably be no chance of me getting the order delivered by Friday. I replied back with an email asking for a status update, and the response I received said that they missed getting my order out to ship on Tuesday, but they would ship it expedited for Friday delivery.
The package was delivered as promised on Friday. Inspecting the contents, it appeared the Maris Otter malt was not ground – or at least not ground well. I put the malt into some storage containers after opening the plastic bag to inspect it further. There were some crushed pieces, but most of the grains looked whole – though they were friable and crumbled a little when I rolled them between my fingers. Not having a grain mill, I figured I would just use what I had – maybe the friable grains would break into smaller pieces when I mashed them in.
Maris Otter Malt – does this look milled to you?
The brew day itself went forward uneventfully through the mash, lauter and boil. I did make a mental note that, even with the full 7.5 gallons of wort that I usually collect (I tend to boil off about 2.5 gallons in 60 minutes with my propane burner set just barely above where the gas would cut off), that there wasn’t anything close to resembling a boil over that I had to worry about.
I cooled the wort and took a gravity reading as I was transferring it into the fermenting bucket. The gravity was a mere 1.028!! Well below the 1.043 target gravity.
Obviously, the grain was not adequately crushed. This led to the low gravity reading and most likely to the lack of foaming during the boil.
I was a little pissed off. Brewing is a huge time commitment – usually taking between four and five hours from measuring out and heating the strike water to final clean up. Having a mix up by a vendor that costs me time is a big deal – more so than the money that I spent on the ingredients that weren’t adequately prepared (or in some cases not supplied as ordered – I’m looking at you, local homebrew store).
While I set to figuring out how to keep the batch from being a total loss, I emailed the internet store where I purchased the ingredients and expressed my disappointment. I then set out to do some internet research. An obvious quick fix was to use malt extract to boost the original gravity – but how much?
I found that my Brewsmith software has a tool for adjusting gravity. Input the original gravity (1.028), the amount of wort to adjust (five gallons), the target final gravity (1.042) and the source of fermentables (dry malt extract). Based on that tool, I needed to add 1.59 pounds of dry malt extract to raise the gravity to 1.042.
The calculation is actually pretty simple, based on what I found on the internet. Subtract the original gravity from the desired gravity and multiple by five to determine how many ‘points’ are needed (1042-1028=14; 14×5=70 points). Dry malt extract contributes 46 points per pound, so 70/46=1.59 – how much dry malt extract is needed to raise the wort to the desired gravity.
In a brewing storage bin in our closet, I had stored in a plastic container 1.5 pounds of dry malt extract left over from July 4, 2012 – this coincides with a Dampfbier I made. Beggars not being able to choose, I decided to use it and see how it turned out – and made a mental note to keep sufficient quantities of dry malt extract on hand in case this ever happens again.
The next question was how to make the adjustment. I had five gallons of low gravity wort, and I didn’t want to dissolve the malt extract in additional water as that would dilute the already low gravity. The obvious move was to pull a gallon of cooled wort from the fermenting bucket, heat it enough to dissolve the dry malt extract, and then pour it back into the bucket. The dry malt extract was dissolved by the time the gallon of wort pulled reached 115 degrees. Pouring it back into four gallons of 70 degree wort and stirring it in raised the temperature of the five gallons of wort in the bucket to 78 degrees. A hydrometer reading a short time later had me at 1.040 at 74 degrees.
I put the wort in the keg fridge set at 35 degrees to get the temperature down to about 70 degrees before pitching the yeast. Then the keg fridge temperature was raised to 68 degrees, and I left the door open for a while to get the interior temperature up into that range faster.
After six days, I transferred the beer into a glass carboy for secondary fermentation/cold crashing. I dropped the temperature of the keg fridge to 35 degrees. The sample I drew tasted great and had a nice hop aroma.
After kegging and carbonating, the beer finished at a gravity reading of 1.010, which came in at a 3.9 percent ABV. I was pleased with the outcome, though I think it would taste better if I had better yield from the Maris Otter malt.
Sussex Style Bitter – Just in time for Christmas!!
An enjoyable beer to drink over the holidays and into the 2021 New Year!!