Brewing for others: ESB

Saisons, sours and IPAs are all I have brewed this year. And for a good reason! I have 5 IPAs going into a competition this week. I need a change up though and my better half needs something in her pint glass after work. Time for something a little more simple and lower in ABV. An ESB. Actually a Best Bitter but she likes the term ESB better so who am I to argue? And what a perfect time to brew one with my bulk hop order coming in. Half pound each of Cascade and Mosaic and a full pound each of German Magnum, Hallertau Mittelfruh, Huell Melon, Mandrina Bavaria, Citra and EKG. With a fresh batch of EKG coming in my SO and I say down and discussed what she wants in her ESB. We came up with:

  • Moderately high body
  • Bitter (but not too much)
  • Restrained caramel/leaning more toffee (She HATES caramel)
  • Little hint of burnt sugar/raisin/prune (A bit out of style but complimentary)
  • A bit sweet (But not cloying)
  • Sessionable (Low ABV and not overpowering in flavour)

With those guidelines we developed this recipe with a little bit of reddit feedback.

ESB (Best Bitter)


  • Calcium: 100
  • Chloride: 80
  • Sulfate: 121
  • Mash pH: 5.4
  • SO4/Cl: 1.5


  • 92.1% Thomas Fawcett Maris Otter (8.75 Lbs)
  • 5.3% Thomas Fawcett Crystal 45 (1/2 Lbs)
  • 2.6% Briess Crystal 120 (1/4 Lbs)


  • Mash in at 152F and hold for 60 min (1.5 qt/lbs)
  • Raise Via Induction to 168 for 10 min for mashout
  • Fly sparge (yes I know batch would be more traditional) @ 168 slowly


  • 60 min total
  • FWH with 1.625oz EKG 5.2% AA (29.5 IBU)*
  • 15 min Whirlfloc + Nutrient
  • 15 min 0.625 oz EKG 5.2% AA (5.5 IBU)
  • Chill to 68F


  • Pitch Wyeast 1768 Best Bitter @ 750 000 cells/ml/P
  • Start at 68 and allow to rise to 72
  • Swirl fermentor in morning and evening to avoid stalling
  • Bottle condition with 2 vols


  • OG: 1.047
  • FG: 1.013
  • IBU: 35
  • BU/GU: 0.76
  • SRM 9.25
  • ABV 4.3
  • Fermentor Volume: 6 gal

*I calculate my IBU of FWH the same way as I do with 60 min boil additions as I find FWH calculators widely vary. YMMV.

Last Brew Day

Was a lesson. I was just finished brew day. I started to pump water through my immersion chiller as I used my pump to whirlpool. Hands free chilling. I was busy scrubbing away. Once it got down to 68 I turned off my pump and IC. This is where disaster struck. I neglected to turn off my induction burner. As I was transferring the wort to my fermentor I dumped my yeast in when transfer was almost complete, looked up as the thermometer to see it reading 100! DAMNIT. I turned the plate off and touched the side of my SS brew bucket. It was warm. Too warm. Thank god I had a growler full with the same yeast. Transfer the finished carbonated beer out and left the cake with some fresh cooled wort for a new starter. Long story short sometimes being quick is not good. Growler was shared with a few friends that evening with multiple other beers as I was celebrating my birthday.

Fun Fact: That was my wild Sacch/Hanseni that I love so much. I put the fermentor in the fridge (about 58F it’s a poor fridge) while letting the growler culture wake up. Came back and it was just fermenting! Pitched more yeast to be safe.

Update: After giving some beer to 2 BJCP judges neither of them noticed off flavours caused by extremely high pitching temps in the 8 ABV saison.

First Czar (Faux Bourbon Barrel) Review


Jet black. Black hole black. No light escapes. Pours a low light brown head –iPhone pictures do not do justice– that drops in a few minutes to a ring and a thin film of head. Red wine like legs from the ABV.

Toffee and raisin malt notes up front. Mild dark chocolate roast. Low spice from the hops. Oak and coconut. Bourbon barrel. Extremely low soft alcohol note. Toast with a honey drizzle.

Very full body. Low alcohol warmth. Well balanced finish that is neither overly dry nor cloyingly sweet. Low carbonation. Begs to be drank in small sips at a time. Velvety and rich.

Molasses and black forest cake. Raisin, prune and caramel sweets. Heavily toasted bread. background notes of rich chocolate. Bourbon and oak begin to revile themselves more as the beer warms. Brings out a coconut note.

Overall Impression:
Patting myself on the back for this one. As my first RIS (or any Imp black ale) this is a solid sipper. The beer is mainly malt, complimentary notes from the barrel aging and a faint hint of hops. This beer should cellar well until next year. Hopefully oxygen does not get to it before hand.

Next Time:
Switch WLP001 with a high ABV tolerant English strain. Something like 007 to add some light yeasty esters. Carbonate 0.1-0.2 vols more.


One thought on “Brewing for others: ESB

  1. Pingback: Full Sized Red Wine Barrel | Brewing Forward

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