Two Sundays ago, I decided I’d take a trip across the pond (spiritually speaking, of course). I picked up an ESB, which stands for multiple things, but mostly is known for meaning “Extra Special Bitter”, but it can also mean “English Strong Bitter”, or “Extra Strong Bitter”. These are English beers, which develop most of their characteristics from a carefully monitored fermentation. Too hot, and the beer develops fruitiness and spiciness that are inappropriate to style. Too cold and… well, that’s not a problem here in New Mexico in the summer. I took a few pictures to document the process. Here’s how it went!
My brew day was helped out immensely by some new shiny hardware. The Megapot 1.2, which is a shoutout to the ratio of the dimension. This means the bottom of the pot to the side is 1:1.2, which is an optimal boil kettle ratio and ensures a vigorous boil, but makes boil overs less likely. Here it is in all it’s glory:
This thing wasn’t without its problems, though. On a gas stove it took freaking forever for this to bring 5 gallons to a boil. Granted, that’s not the boil kettle’s fault, but man… It took about 2 and a half hours just to bring this to a boil. Another problem was the assembly. For whatever reason, I have no tools whatsoever, so I assembled it by hand, which caused issues I think. Under the weight and pressure of 5 gallons of water, the hand-tightened gaskets started to leak. Fixing that issue (without the proper tools, mind you) pushed back my actual brewing time by another hour at least. But back to the brew!
Before the water was boiling, I soaked my specialty grains, which were 8 oz. of crushed Aromatic grain, and 8 oz. of crushed Caramel 80L. This added a TON of color to the wort. Once the water was finally boiling, I added rest of the fermentable sugars, which was 6.6 pounds of Golden Light LME, and then 8 oz. of corn sugar at flameout.
Next comes the best part! The delicious, nutritious hops. Well, I’m not entirely sure about the nutritious part, but delicious indeed. This recipe called for a very Old World Ménage à Trois of hops, which were 0.5 oz of Magnums at 60 mins left in the boil (basically the beginning), 1 oz of East Kent Goldings at 40 mins left in the boil, and lastly, 1 oz of Tettnang at 30 mins. The boil lasted 60 mins in total.
After the boil, comes the cooling! This sounds like it wouldn’t be a problem, just let it sit out you might think, but a great deal of time, thought, and money has gone into this step in the history of brewing. You want to cool your wort (unfermented beer) as quickly as possible, and to do so I used a wort chiller and an ice bath. Now, I forgot to take a photo of this step, which is a shame because it looked ridiculous. Below is a photo of the wort chiller, which flushes cold water through one end, cools the wort, and expels the now hot water out the other end.
The last step is to pitch the yeast, which went off without a hitch! I aerated the wort, which basically means I shook the hell out of the now chilled wort once it was in the sanitized carboy to try and get as much oxygen in it as possible. This method is highly ineffective but it’s better than nothing, I guess. I stowed it away in my trusty closet, set it in some ice and let the yeast do their thing. In 6 weeks, the fruits of my labor will be realized, and this strong, bitter English ale should be ready for consumption!
To satiate the geeky among you, I’ll throw some numbers your way:
Estimated OG: 1.057 (I forgot to take a freaking reading…)
Estimated FG: 1.018
Color: ~10.1 SRM
Bitterness: 47.4 IBUs
Ferment in Primary at 64-68 °F
Rack to secondary and ferment at 60-64 °F
Bottle condition for 2 weeks, serve at 54 °F