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Style of the Week: ESB!

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February 27, 2015 by fhsteinbart


Beautiful in the proper glass, this beer is heaven when served on cask!

Beautiful in the proper glass, this beer is heaven when served on cask!

The truth of the matter is that only one beer can truly be called an ESB, and that is the one made by Fuller’s in London, England. While the style has been largely imitated, the variety of those beers is simply staggering. Most breweries made an Ordinary Bitter, and it was simply labeled as a Bitter. Then special beers were brewed to celebrate one thing or another, and that begat the Special Bitter. So where else was one to turn to for and even more special beer? Well Fuller’s decided upon Extra Special Bitter, as they already had a premium bitter in their London Pride which they wanted to keep producing. So they went and made a whole ‘nother beer, and beer style with their Extra Special Bitter. It was labeled ESB to fit properly on the label (Pizza Hut had that problem too!) and showcase their new super premium bitter. While it’s not a Fuller’s clone (don’t get me started on cloning beers) it is a very tasty beer that balances the nuances of hops, malt and yeast character quite nicely. Below is the recipe I came up with that makes a simple but interesting interpretation of the classic ESB:

Extract:

6.6 lbs. Munton’s Maris Otter Light LME (2 cans)

½ lb. British Medium Crystal Malt (50L)

½ lb. Aromatic Malt

½ lb. Biscuit Malt

2 oz. Goldings Hops (Bittering)

2 oz. Goldings Hops (Flavor)

2 oz. Goldings Hops (Aroma)

Whirlfloc tablet or Irish Moss

Wyeast 1968 , WLP002, or Fermentis S-04 Dry Yeast

Procedure:

  • Heat ¾ gallons of water to 165°F.
  • Add steeping grains to kettle and steep for 30 minutes.
  • Remove grains, and rinse with 165°F water
  • Turn off heat and add malt extract, stirring until fully dissolved.
  • Return to Heat, bring to boil for 5 min. then add bittering hops.
  • At 20 minutes remaining, add the flavor hops.
  • At 15 minutes remaining, add the Whirlfloc tablet or Irish Moss.
  • At 7 minutes remaining, add the aroma hops.
  • At knockout, cool the mixture by placing kettle in an ice bath or use a wort chiller. Add the mixture to the fermenter, removing the hops, and bring total volume to 5 gallons using distilled, bottled, or filtered tap water.
  • Aerate unfermented wort (shaking works well).
  • Pitch yeast and ferment at 65°~68°F for 7 to 10 days.
  • Allow to age an additional two to three weeks before packaging up as usual.

All Grain version:

11 lbs. Maris Otter Malt

½ lb. British Medium Crystal Malt (50L)

½ lb. Aromatic Malt

½ lb. Biscuit Malt

2 oz. Goldings Hops (Bittering)

2 oz. Goldings Hops (Flavor)

2 oz. Goldings Hops (Aroma)

Whirlfloc tablet or Irish Moss

Wyeast 1968 , WLP002, or Fermentis S-04 Dry Yeast

¾ gm. Brewing (Burton) Salts per gallon (~3.75 gms. or 1 level tsp.) in the mash and in the boil.

Procedure:

  • Infusion mash at 152°F for 90 min with the Brewing (Burton) Salts.
  • Sparge until 6~6½ gal wort has been obtained.
  • Add the rest of the Brewing (Burton) salts after the boil commences.
  • Boil for 1 to 1½ hours total time.
  • Add the bittering hops after 15 minutes boiling and continue to boil for 60 more minutes.
  • Add the flavor hops at last 20 minutes.
  • Add Whirlfloc or Irish Moss at last 15 minutes.
  • Add the aroma hops at last 7 minutes.
  • Gravity may vary depending on system efficiency, so adjust accordingly.

Package up as usual; bottled versions should use 90 gms. corn sugar (approx. 2/3 cup), or kegged to 12 psig, and allow two weeks to come into condition. Serve at 55°~60°F in an Imperial Pint glass, share, and enjoy! This beer will continue to evolve and change over the coming months, so make enough to last you through your next brew.

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