It was late September, and despite the unseasonably hot weather, the leaves had started to turn, marking the start of the season of falling leaves. Fall is one of my favourite seasons – brisk mornings, fall colours, and the return of malty beers. One of my favourite styles of beer is the classical English bitter, so I decided to knock-off 40L (~10 gallons) of bitter for the fall season. Most of my bitter recipes trend towards a less sweet and more toasty malt bill, but this time around I decided to stick with tradition and brewed a crystal-malt driven version of a special bitter. Falling Leaves Bitter is brewed with fall in mind – a strong hop character as a reminder of the lighter/hoppy beers of summer, but with a strong malt backbone that suits cooler evenings spent around the campfire, watching the leaves fall.
This is a straight-forward bitter recipe, ideal for both new and experienced brewers. Brewed with just handful of hops, a simple infusion mash, and bittered with classical English hops, this is an easy and forgiving recipe. This recipe is a very old one of mine, and one which I used to brew a few times each year. For reasons I cannot explain I haven’t brewed this recipe in nearly 10 years – despite my love of the recipe – and I’ll admit to more than my usual degree of excitement as the aroma of English hops and caramel malts rose up from the brew kettle. I have made one change this time around – normally I brew this beer using Nottingham yeast, but by LHBS was out so this time I’m using a Burton-style yeast. The end result should be similar, but may have a bit more ester character than normal. This is a crystal/caramel malt-forward beer, so if that is not your thing my 1040 bitter or my “don’t be bitter” bitter may be more up your alley.
Recipe – Falling Leaves Bitter:
- OG (est): 1.047
- FG (est): 1.012
- IBU: 35
- SRM: 12
- ABV: 4.5%
- 80.7% Maris Otter
- 5.4% Crystal 120L
- 5.4% Crystal 40L
- 5.4% Victory (biscuit) malt
- 3.1% Rice hulls
- 18 IBU Fuggles (60 min)
- 18 IBU East Kent Goildings (60 min)
- Whirflock (10 min)
- 0.7g/L Fuggles (flame-out)
- 0.7g/L East Kent Goldings (flame-out)
- Burton Ale Yeast (WLP023)
Mash, Brew & Ferment
- Brewed 40L/10 gallons:
- Mash at 66.7C (152F) for 60 minutes
- Collected 50L of wort
- Boiled for 60 minutes, adding 56.7g each Fuggles and Goldings at 60 min, and 28.35g each at flame-out
- Chilled to 18C and pitched a starter of WLP023
- Fermented ~18 days in a carboy + blow-off
- Transferred to a keg and carbonated to ~2.2 volumes
Tasting Notes – Falling Leaves Bitter
Appearance: Coppery, bordering on red. Slightly hazy as I forgot the whirflock. Head is course, white and short-lived…in large part due to the low level of carbonation (which is to-style).
Aroma: The aroma is a complex mix of of hops and malt. The malt character is reminiscent of raisin cookies – sweet and rich, with a hint of caramelized dried fruit. Mixed into this is an earthy-spice, typical of the aroma of English hops.
Flavour: Flavour is malt-forward, modestly sweet with a dried fruit character from the dark crystal malt. The lighter crystal gives a bit of a toffee note, while the victory malt adds a bit of a biscuit character. The sweetness of the malt is balanced by a good hop bitterness, while the flavour addition added a subtle spiciness to the taste. The only distraction is a bit of vegetal astringency; likely a result of the amount of hops added early in the boil. A smaller dose of a higher alpha bittering hop would likely eliminate that character.
Mouthfeel: This beer has a medium body that has a smooth and filling mouthfeel. The low carbonation lends a bit of creaminess to the mouthfeel.
Overall: I remember why I used to brew this recipe so regularly – it is a great beer that is complex enough to keep the beer snob in my happy, but is easy to enjoy a few pints of. The only drawback is the slight vegital character – likely a result of a lot of hop matter early in the boil – which would be easily fixed with the use of a higher alpha bittering hop.