British Brewer

Recreating the perfect British Pint

Archive for the 'Books' Category

16 January

A Short History on Bottled Beer

The Zythophile has a great post (short for him) on the history on Bottled Beer.  Check it out.

08 December

Recipe: Abbots Special Bitter (1st Pass)

This recipe and process can be found here. Recipe feed for this pass can be found here.

Greene King Abbot Ale

Greene King Abbot Ale

Abbots Special Bitter is my first attempt at creating one of my wife’s favorite British Ales, Greene King Abbot Ale.  She describes the ale as “smooth with a nice hint of apples”.  It is this hint of fruit we will try to recreate in this classic Extra Special/Strong Bitter classed English Pale Ale.

Greene King Abbot Ale is steeped in history. Brewed in the old English town of Bury St Edmunds in the heart of Suffolk, the brewery sits along side the historic ruins of the old “Great Abbey” where, according the Doomsday Book, the local Abbot hired “cerevisiarii” or ale brewers as servants over 1000 years ago.  The ale is still made from water drawn from the chalk heavy wells used all those years ago.

According to the Greene King web site the ale contains no wheat, is made from malted barley, is 5.0% ABV, and uses finings to clear the ale. On the brewing process page they claim to use Fuggles and Challenger hops.

Next stop was to check the The Real Ale Almanac by Roger Protz. This is the bible of Real Ales covering every ale in the British Isles. The book provides tasting notes, descriptions of the brewery and its process, water source and ingredients (where available).  From the almanac we get Pale Malt, Amber Malt, Crystal and the use of cane sugar. We also get an IBU of 30 and OG of 1048 and 90 min boil time.  I could find nothing on SRM so I did some hands on research and purchased a can of draft Abbot Ale from the local Blanchards. I observed a copper to light brown colour, an SRM of approx 12-13. Not exact science I know, but it was a fun piece of research to carry out. It is often necessary to make sacrifices for ones research.

Finally I inputted all these variables into and played around with the mix of quantities until I came up with something near to the constraints provided above.

Base Malt: I replaced the Pale base malt with Light DME. Nuff said. I used a little cane sugar (as stated in the alamanc to bring the OG to 1050 and get the final ABV as near 5.0% as I could).

Specialty Grains: This proved difficult. We need to get the colour to around an SRM 13 and give a strong malt flavour to balance the moderately  bitter 30 IBU.  The almanac called for Amber and Crystal malt. To give colour without adding to the OG I used an Crystal 80 and then made up the ABV with Amber.  The Crystal 80L should provide a moderate caramel flavour.

Hops: Given the higher Alpha % I went with Challenger as the bitterness hop and Fuggles as the aroma and used the quantities required to bring the IBU to approx 30.

Yeast: This is guess work.  We want a yeast that provides fruity esters (for the apple taste) and a high attenuation to get a 5.0 ABV from an OG of 1050.  I like to use the liquid yeasts with yeast starters so checked out the current strains available from Wyeast and White Labs. We also know they use finings, used to brighten an ale and remove yeast and proteins left behind from the primary fermentation.  This would hint to the brewer using a yeast with low to medium flocculation as finings are not typically required when using high flocculating yeast.

Abbots Special Bitter (BJCP Beer Style: Extra Special/Strong Bitter, category: English Pale Ale)

  • 5 Gallon, 90 min boil
  • OG 1050, FG 1012
  • 5.0% ABV
  • 30 IBU
  • 13° SRM
  • Ready to drink in 6-7 weeks

Base Malt and Fermentables:

  • 4 lbs 12 oz Light Dry Malt Extract (90 mins)

Specialty Grains:

  • 12 oz Amber Malt
  • 8 oz English Crystal 80L


  • Bittering Hop – 1.25 oz Challenger (90 mins)
  • Aroma Hop – 1 oz English Fuggles (10 mins)

Other Additions

  • 1 tsp Irish Moss (30 mins)
  • 2 oz Cane Sugar (after boil is complete)


  • Please follow the process guidelines outlined in my post here.  You will require all the equipment specified here.
  • Primary Fermentation: 5-7 days at 65-75°
  • Secondary Fermentation: 2 weeks at 55° (if you can otherwise just 5-7 days in the same location as the primary)
  • Prime and store in the bottle for at least 2 weeks before consuming
  • Peak flavour will be reached after 4 weeks in the bottle

03 December

A taste of home

My copy of “Brew Your Own British Real Ale” arrived in the post yesterday (thanks to the wonders of Amazon Prime and free 2-day shipping).  I got an early start at the book after finding the ONLY chair at the YMCA in Hanover put out for parents to watch their little ones hit (or not) tennis balls at each other around the court.

My first impressions of the book are positive.  The science is thorough, the technique is strong and I am learning new stuff on every page.  I also like the use of quotations at the beginning of every chapter, something I have never seen used in a homebrew book before.  A couple made me stop and reflect and I thought I would share.

From the beginning of the “About” chapter:

There is a nice old-fashioned room at the “Rose and Crown” where bargees and their wives sit of an evening drinking their supper beer, and toasting their supper cheese at a glowing basketful of coals that sticks out into the room under a great hooded chimney and is warmer and prettier and more comforting than any other fireplace I ever saw.  There was a pleasant party of barge people around the fire.  You might not have thought it pleasant, but they did; for they were all friends or acquaintances, and they liked the same sort of things, and talked the same sort of talk.  This is the real secret of pleasant society.  – E. Nesbit, The Railway Children, 1906

and finally the quotation used at the beginning of the first chapter:

Cenosilicaphobia – The fear of an empty glass.  -Anonymous

a horrible thought and something I may need to get tested for, this is why I have the ESB in the keg.

02 December

Some interesting Christmas present ideas….

…for those that make beer and those that love to drink it.

In my daily reading of the blogosphere I came across a cool post and some great books I wanted to highlight.

First up a post from ex-pat beer scholar, zythophile, a pint pot that solves the problem of a beer getting overly warm in the palm (or for those who like it chilled, condensation getting on your hands).

classic quote here:

The pint glass is normally a triumph of function over form, being, too often, an extremely ugly container for a very fine product.

I have asked santa for a couple myself but for those that cannot wait Amazon has some in stock, check it out here.

I am always researching techniques and recipes and there is a wealth of knowledge online and in books.  One big source of ideas comes from homebrew recipe books.  I already have one called “Clone Brews: Homebrew Recipes for 150 Commercial Beers“. This is not only a great source for brewing techniques but also provides guidance on crafting your own unique recipes.  As the title suggests it the pages are filled with 150 recipes drawn from all over the world including the infamous Famosa Lager from Guatemala, the Maccabee Premium from Israel, and the Ngoma Awooyo Special from Togo. It has a great list of British Ales(Fullers, Courage), Irish (Guinness) and some US favorites (Magic Hat, Red Hook, Sam Adams) with some of the more famous Belgium brews thrown in (Duval, Chimay Red).

I was surfing around yesterday and came across this gem, “Brew Your Own British Real Ale“.  If there was a book the BritishBrewer should own it would be this one.  It has actually been out of print since 1998 but due to the rise in popularity of homebrewing the book is being re-issued next year.  I looked it up on Amazon, and from the sample pages Amazon provided I noted an extensive knowledge-base on techniques and tips for brewing authentic Brtitsh real ale.  Most importantly it had a 100 recipes including all the beers I used to love, and yes I have drunk every single one on the list. My long suffering parents can attest to this fact mainly due to the existence of probably one of the best pubs in the world ever just 5 min walk from my house growing up in New Malden called “Woodies“. Had 7 real ales on tap and rotated them constantly.  Always something new to try and sometimes I would somehow manage to get through all 7 in a session, would be rude not to.

I digress, these recipes are priceless as a number of these breweries are no longer in business.  I cannot wait to brew a Wadsworth 6X or a Flowers and write back here with my findings.  Check out the book here, used copies are available (I have ordered one) and you can pre-order the new edition.

Happy reading