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Victorian Bitter

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peebee

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Way back in time, month one BV (before virus lockdown), there was a chap after a "Victorian Bitter" recipe. The original thread was >here<. There was a few suggestions, but I pointed out "bitter" didn't appear much until mid-20th century after Mild and Porter relinquished their grip on the number one beer spot.

But digging deep did reveal some "Victorian Bitter" recipes and I made it my quest to brew one. Here we are on month six AV (anno virus … 'scuse me Latin!) and I finally get to drink the results of my quest.

Bitter in the 19th century was a lowly sub-group of "pale ales". I was already copying a Durden Park Beer Club researched recipe for Usher's 60/- PA (Ushers 60/- Pale Ale – Durden Park Beer Club) which was fabulous stuff made using (my choice) Chevallier malt and Goldings hops, but it was way too strong, heavy on hops (but not as heavy as some of the IPA recipes of that time) and "Chevallier" malt resulted in a high dextrin beer that finished very high (about 1.018) and my use of Wyeast "Edinburgh Ale" yeast (pretty adverse to fermenting dextrins) ensured the final gravity stayed high. But so what, the combination produced a terrific very un-"pale ale" sweetish, heavy beer with a taste of honey.

But for a "Victorian Bitter" I was going to have to come up with something with somewhat more attenuation. And I found this: MORRELL & Co : BITTER 1889. A recipe actually specifying Chevallier malt and specifying a yeast (Ringwood Ale | Wyeast Laboratories) which is given an attenuation of 72% tops. Well, I couldn't make the quest easy.

Despite stacking up the odds against me I was fascinated by the mash schedule. Start very low temperature to get the fermentability, then ramp the temperature up, to get the flavours and body perhaps? It struck me as very similar to the ">Hochkurz<" (high and short) mash schedule now becoming popular as a replacement for decoction mashing on the continent.

The yeast is notorious for being "difficult" and my pack is at the end of its "best before". In for a penny, in for a pound ... !

The following is how I got on.
 

peebee

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Can't wait for the next installment.
You'll have to wait ... I'm going for me walk (I'll try to avoid the thunderstorms this time - remarkable, I came back from yesterday's walk with my hair alight and a crazy idea implanted in me 'ead that I could brew beer).
 

peebee

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Apologies for breaking into "instalments", but as always these writeups take longer than I anticipate. Apologies too for a long-winded post, but as its covering a perhaps little used technique I thought some might appreciate the extra coverage.

I've got me cape (I'm sure it didn't have "Superman" sewn on it before?), I haven't got my top-hat (it always fell off when I transformed into a bat) and can't find my cane (probably just as well; it did hide a rather fearsome blade).

11Kg of Chevallier malt was crushed and mashed in 2.9L/Kg water treated to Graham Wheeler's "Bitter" profile (a non too extreme "Burtonised" water profile - about 275ppm sulphate). This was a 45L batch. I knew to treat the malt a little more carefully and mash for at least 90 minutes; 60 minutes just will not do. I had also experienced slightly lower efficiency with the malt and calculated for a 72% "brewhouse" efficiency rather than 75%. These details become important later. I also knew to mash at low temperature to get a more fermentable wort, but this time I'm using the published mash schedule modified slightly to be closer to a "Hochkurz" style mash. From my notes (Beersmith) this was:

CaptureA.JPG


I'm mucking about with my mashtun at moment because of excruciatingly slow convergence time between the HLT and mashtun (HERMS setup). Resulting in temperature after strike being 62C and never really recovering 63C in 1-1/2 hours (so what?), never doing step 2 and skipping to step 3 (after 3/4 hour temperature in mashtun had only climbed to 67C) and 1/2 hour heating to "mash-out" only got the mashtun to about 70C. But on the whole the mash approximately followed the plan. On to boil:

CaptureB.JPG


Loads of hops! But 2019 alpha-acid (AA) rates were a bit low which didn't help. I do not purposely "age" hops by-the-way but will calculate the approximate degradation of AA and allow for the lower figure. The last two additions were pellets: I'm going off pellets because they do clog up the mesh baskets I put 'em in so they don't drain easy (and I'm going off Irish moss - Protofloc - 'cos that clogs my main hop filter too). A "whirlpool" arrangement is for the future.

So, fermenting. The "troublesome" yeast was coaxed into action using a four step starter. A procedure I've adopted for old and troublesome yeasts now: Increase the number of steps rather than the starter size (the first starter size being only 200-250ml for a Wyeast "smack pack") and only let each step run 18-24 hours. OG was 1.056, 3 points over anticipated gravity; I shouldn't have tweaked back the "brewhouse" efficiency - the first indications that the "Hochkurz" mash was effective.

CaptureC.JPG


Fermentation proceeded well, surpassed the "Beersmith" prediction of 1.013 for FG (these estimates are based on published data for attenuating a "standard" wort; they are not the limits for the yeast in question) and ended up half a point under 1.010 (I use a "pycnometer" for SG readings - there is no argument as to how accurate the reading is!).

So, the mashing technique was very effective at creating a highly fermentable wort. Apparent attenuation is near 82%.

The beer is casked and kept for a few weeks (three or four). This might be a "quick drinking" beer, but 3 or 4 weeks is very quick for these old beers. This one is light on alcohol (below 6% is remarkably low for "Victorian" beer, and the high hop rates need time to moderate). I'll get piccies of the result in the next post; it's too early to be drinking just now.
 

St00

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and a cane, don't forget the cane.
And a monocle. I can see it now gentleman brewer peebee squinting at the readings, light glinting off the glass.

Are you using a "real" cask? or a keg? This is a fascinating post, thank you for taking the time to write it up.
 

peebee

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And a monocle. I can see it now gentleman brewer peebee squinting at the readings, light glinting off the glass.

Are you using a "real" cask? or a keg? This is a fascinating post, thank you for taking the time to write it up.
A monocle? That might work when I'm wearing an eye-patch? Hum; think I'll just stick with the parrot.

Okay, I'm lying. They are "Corny" kegs. But then they don't comply with some definitions of "keg" either. They even have CO2 top-pressure applied as per my cask-style "treatise" (linked from this site somewhere …).
 

St00

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A monocle? That might work when I'm wearing an eye-patch? Hum; think I'll just stick with the parrot.

Okay, I'm lying. They are "Corny" kegs. But then they don't comply with some definitions of "keg" either. They even have CO2 top-pressure applied as per my cask-style "treatise" (linked from this site somewhere …).
I was just curious as I've just hooked my kegs up to a hand pump and I'm thinking of getting a floating diptube.

Do you:

1) Ferment all the way, transfer and then carb up?
2) Ferment all the way, leave it flat and serve via a hand pull?
3) Or leave it to "finish up" in a keg on it's own a few points off FG?

I've done option 1, but I'll be trying 3) next
 

peebee

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I was just curious as I've just hooked my kegs up to a hand pump and I'm thinking of getting a floating diptube.

Do you:

1) Ferment all the way, transfer and then carb up?
2) Ferment all the way, leave it flat and serve via a hand pull?
3) Or leave it to "finish up" in a keg on it's own a few points off FG?

I've done option 1, but I'll be trying 3) next
1 to 3? None of them! Ferment all the way, prime (<1g sugar per litre), then serve via hand pull. If you haven't read it (for which you receive the "black mark") … >Well stocked medicine cupboard (aspirin) recommended<.
 

St00

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I heat belted the keg and used DME this time around. Well over carbed, but then it's a new toy to play with. I'll perfect it eventually.

for which you receive the "black mark"
I shall add it to the collection athumb..
 

St00

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That's a fascinating read. Currently the keg in my fridge has no gas attached and the Pint365 pulls it through on it's own pressure as is. I'll likely top it up when it's passed half way.

My next experiment will be to let the beer "finish off" in the keg, apparently (temperature dependant) 1 point gravity = 1° dissolved CO2, so in theory I should be able to get this to work.
 

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I feel a picture of some sort of brass and copper steam punk version of your kegs & dispensing apparatus requires posting on here my good sir

Although to be honest if you are the type of gentleman that wears a top hat and cape, beer would be the drink of the working class, and hence socially unacceptable to you.
 

peebee

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I feel a picture of some sort of brass and copper steam punk version of your kegs & dispensing apparatus requires posting on here my good sir

Although to be honest if you are the type of gentleman that wears a top hat and cape, beer would be the drink of the working class, and hence socially unacceptable to you.
Giz'us-a-mo. Life dunna go smoothly sometimes, an' I canna find me cane with the 'idden sharp implement an' a suitable working class oik to take me frustrations out on.

Even reduced to grabbin' a bottle of beer tonight 'cos I couldn't figure out the draft dispensing business … hang-on, this is a bottle of me Victorian bitter - well that was a coincidence.

"Normality" might resume tomorrow, and if so I'll post suitable piccies.

And things are socially unacceptable to me. Foremost is this "social" business.
 

peebee

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No brass kegs, they are away being polished. But here is a piccie of the final result:
20200816_163125_WEB.jpg

Head retention is not so good, this is two or three minutes after pouring (hand-pump, a handful of degrees cooler than ambient and 2psi CO2). Slight haze (a pleasing "moon-light" haze) but I'm not fining at the moment. Body and mouthfeel remain high, which is a surprise for sub-1.010 FG and 82% attenuation beer, but I've learnt from my low-alcohol brewing that there can be more to body and mouthfeel than leftover dextrin.

Flavour of Chevallier malt: This is not hairy fairy, difficult to appreciate, bit more "biscuity" or "grainy" than another malt, it's in-your-face, right gob full differences; weighty, creamy, sweetish differences you'd notice even if your tongue were cut out. It wont please the raspberry, mocha, cherrypie "porter" brigade, but others might be convinced as to why they bother with that "Maris Otter" muck (though I would miss the thinner, fizzy, colder offerings when surrounding temperature gets above 25°C). This is very malt forward, the stacks of EKG hops have had enough time to moderate and very much take the backseat.

Although served from hand-pump, this isn't really authentic. "Victorian" bitter would more likely appear bottled and quite "sparkly": The masses would be drinking "flat" dark porters and mild out of pitch lined wooden barrels, and they might have been hand pumped. Hand-pumped bitter would start replacing mild from the 1950s onward.
 

St00

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Great write up, but surely a beer like that deserves cheese with it?
 
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