Country Bitter

Country Bitter2
This is Country Bitter. Formally classified as an English “ordinary bitter“, there is nothing ordinary about this beer. When I first brewed a country bitter in 1995, I used a strain of yeast that I cultivated from a bottle of Thomas Hardy’s Country Bitter, purchased at Marty’s Liquour in Newton, MA. It was brewed by Eldridge Pope & Co. of Dorchester, England, and is no longer available. I would say my attempt was “spot on” as the Brits would, except it was better.

A bit of research told me that the Thomas Hardy recipe called for 85 percent Maris Otter English malt, and 15 percent crystal malt.

This version of Country Bitter uses 2.27 kilos each of Maris Otter and Fawcett Golden Promise base malts for a 20 liter batch. Golden Promise is Maris Otter’s less toasty, sweeter Scottish cousin. To this I added 800 grams of a blend of 7 progressively-darker crystal malts. A two-hour step-infusion mash developed the sugar content of the wort. Mash pH was adjusted with 8.5 grams of calcium chloride. The boil included a touch of sea salt to add roundness of flavor.

Fifteen grams of homegrown Fuggles hops went into the “first wort” runoff. Another 15 grams went into the boil. Twenty grams of Goldings , 10 grams of Willamette and 10 grams of Centennial hops provide flavor. The wort started at about 14 degrees Plato (1.056) original gravity.

I pitched a generous starter of White Labs’ WLP 026 Premium Bitter yeast, helped along with a half-teaspoon of their yeast nutrient. This yeast from Staffordshire England produces a strong, dry beer with mild but complex esteriness.

I had planned to dry hop with additional Willamette hops but the brew really didn’t need it. It was full-bodied and quite bitter, and as it aged the estery characteristics moderated, and the head became nice and thick. This is the third time I’ve brewed Country Bitter, and I’ll do it again!