The English Bitter style of beer has a long, important history in humanities infatuation with fermented beverages. It’s essentially the same idea as a pale ale, but crafted with British malts, just enough UK hops to balance the sweetness without dominating the experience, and, ideally, a British ale yeast. These beers are malt forward, emphasizing a bread-y and/or caramel flavor, and can vary from ~3.0% ABV to 5% or above for stronger examples.
I chose 2 lbs of Maris Otter malt as the feature, a staple base malt of British beer brewers. Crystal 60L and Cara-malt 10L malts were added for additional character, and a bucket full of Light Golden LME comprised the rest of the fermentables.
A simple hop schedule of 1 oz additions were utilized; Challenger at the start of a 60 minute boil, East Kent Goldings at 30 minutes remaining, and Fuggle with 10 minutes left. A smack pack of Wyeast #1968 London ESB ale yeast was added as is, with no starter. 29 IBUS with a 10 SRM rating, and though the calculated ABV was 5.92%, I ended up with a more favorable and warming 6.4% final ABV percentage.
The beer is not translucent by any means, but suggests clarity is possible. It pours with a very slight foamy head, and I get a faint sweet white-bread aroma when sniffing. When first sampling just two weeks after bottling, the ESB was overwhelmingly bitter, and I thought it a poor effort. However, a month’s worth of time has been kind, as an intense caramel sweetness has overtaken as the primary flavor, with the hop bitterness softly pushing the malt character to the forefront.
I’ve received pretty positive feedback so far for a beer that commercially (at least in Vermont) is not the most common style sold in stores. I predict that as more people get their IPA fill and find less danky/tropical hop explosions available, a reversion to styles such as this will be a welcome change.