Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Tidy Bitter - the making of a "simple beer".

Today we brewed Tidy Bitter version 5; when we first brewed Tidy we envisaged it as a straightforwards bitter which, by it's very definition, would be easy to create a recipe for and then brew.... hindsight is an amazing thing.

So now, after 6 months brewing with 39 gyles on the board, we're finally getting close to sorting out Tidy, and by that I mean getting the recipe right which has taken 5 attempts and I still don't think we're quite there yet; we've done amazingly complex hoppy beasts which I think we've nailed first time (or got pretty close to target) whilst Tidy remains a constant reminder that the simpler the beer style the less wriggle room you have in making it and the more exact you need to be in both recipe and execution.

The yeast is a simple one, we use Whitbread B (or S04 to give it's commercial name) which does near enough what we want except it has a tendency to give up working completely too soon without warning; one moment you've a huge fluffy yeast head - and S04 gives a huge fluffy crop - the next it's all gone and the beer is lying there limpid and ready, except it's not ready! To counteract this we may pitch in some US05, just a touch, to take advantage of that yeast's superior attenuation powers which means we may get the gravity down this brew!

The malt has been through lots of changes although I think we're almost there now; we've swapped the low-colour Maris Otter for normal Maris Otter to give a touch more body and flavour, Caramalt has been eliminated in favour of CaraGold as it's got a really nasty taste Gazza doesn't like (whereas CaraGold hasn't), Weyermann's exemplary CaraRed remains the mainstay of the colour/flavour stakes and a touch of German dehusked chocolate malt finishes off the flavour department.  We add a dose of torrefied wheat not because we like it - it tastes like popcorn - but because many "normal" bitter drinkers expect their bitter to have certain flavours so we've shamelessly caved in to popular opinion and used torrefied rather than our usual malted wheat; the public get what the public want!

The hops in Tidy have been through the mill.  Not literally, but figuratively.  The rock which is German Herkules has remained constant throughout every iteration of the recipe for the simple reason it's a superb bittering hop and matched perfectly to Tidy.  The other two hops have varied as we've experimented with different ones, always European, to try and get the flavour just as we want it with various varieties being tried and rejected (with Bobek and Saaz the main casualties); we've now settled on what we think is the final hop grist with UK Admiral (red fruit, robust bitterness, rhubarb and custard) and Polish Marynka (juicy, oily, hoppy, grassy) making up the recipe.

So, here's hoping that this time we're satisfied with our endeavours and the finished beer comes out as we want it.  It's a task made extra difficult as neither of us really likes bitter, or at least boring "normal" bitter, so we've tried to make this one as interesting as possible without going too far and veering off into the sphere of flavours we normally inhabit!

So you see, it's not easy getting a recipe right and doubly so if it's with a beer style you don't really care for!  Hopefully we can put this one to bed now, but we always welcome feedback on any of our beers at Hops@Hopcraftbrewing.co.uk so give us a shout; cheers!

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