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Style of the Weak: Ordinary Bitter!

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March 4, 2016 by fhsteinbart


Nonic Bitter

Here we see a typical Ordinary Bitter served in a Nonic glass.

When you go to a pub in jolly old England and ask for a pint of Bitter, more than likely, you’ll be served what is now called Ordinary or Regular Bitter. What distinguishes this beer from others is it’s light body and alcohol levels. Special Bitter was made for those special times and events, and was stronger in both alcohol, and bitterness. Extra Special Bitter was the term used for the higher end beers in the Bitter range, with Bitters usually being served on draught, while the bottled versions were called Pale Ales. Today we’re going to focus on the lighter side of things, namely the Ordinary Bitter. Usually these are low gravity beers with a nice bitterness around the 75% range of bitterness to gravity units (BU:GU 0.75). So if your OG is 1.036, then your IBU’s should be ¾’s of that figure, or 27 IBU’s. I find that balance to be the most pleasing one in drinking this style of beer. Below is a recipe of mine that makes a great Ordinary Bitter that tastes even better cask conditioned or nitro charged for those who have the taps and tanks to do so. This beer also benefits from dry hopping if you decide to do so.

 

Extract:

  • 5 lbs. Extra-Light LME
  • 1 lb. Medium British Crystal Malt
  • 1 oz. Goldings Hops (Bittering)
  • 1 oz. Willamette or Fuggles Hops (Flavoring)
  • 1 oz. each Goldings and Willamette or Fuggles Hops (Aromatic)
  • Whirlfloc tablet or Irish Moss
  • ¼ oz. Burton Salts in the boil.
  • Wyeast 1968, WLP002, Imperial Pub, or Safale S-04 yeast

Instructions:

  • Heat 1 gallon of water to 155°F.
  • Turn off heat and add steeping grains, and steep for 20 minutes.
  • Remove the steeping grains, adding the malt extract and stirring until fully dissolved, then add water to volume.
  • Return to heat, bring to boil for 10 min. then add bittering hops.
  • At 20 minutes remaining, add the flavor hops.
  • At 15 minutes remaining in the boil, add a Whirfloc tablet.
  • After boil has finished, turn off heat, add the aroma hops and cool wort by placing kettle in an ice bath or use a wort chiller (0 min).
  • Add mixture to fermenter, removing hops, and bring total volume to 5 gallons using non-distilled bottled water or filtered tap water.
  • Aerate unfermented wort (shaking works well).
  • Pitch yeast and ferment at 68° F until completed (about a week).
  • Allow to age an additional four to six weeks before packaging up as usual.

All Grain:

  • 7 lbs. Pale Ale Malt
  • 1 lb. Medium British Crystal Malt
  • 1 oz. Goldings Hops (Bittering)
  • 1 oz. Willamette or Fuggles Hops (Flavoring)
  • 1 oz. each Goldings and Willamette or Fuggles Hops (Aromatic)
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet
  • ¼ oz. Burton Salts in both mash and boil.
  • Wyeast 1968, WLP002, Imperial Pub, or Safale S-04 yeast

Procedure:

Infusion mash at 158°F for 1 hour, using a standard (1.33qt./lb.) mash. Sparge to 6.5 gallons of wort, and bring to a roiling boil. Add the bittering hops 15 minutes into the boil. At 20 minutes remaining in the boil, add the flavor hops. At 15 minutes remaining add the Whirlfloc tablet or Irish moss. At 0 minutes (knockout), add the aroma hops and cool the mixture by placing kettle in an ice bath or using a wort chiller. Add mixture to fermenter, removing hops, and aerate unfermented wort (shaking works well). Pitch yeast and ferment at 68°F. Gravity may vary depending on system efficiency, so adjust accordingly, using malt extract if needed.

Package up as usual; bottled versions should use 90 gms. corn sugar (approx. 1/3 cup), or kegged to 12 psig, and allow two weeks to come into condition. Serve at 50°~55°F in a Dimpled mug or modern Nonic 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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