Monday, April 12, 2010

English Bitter w/ WLP002

About a month ago we visited Homebrew Shop Ltd. in St. Charles IL to say hello to owner Ed Seaman, and great guy who runs a great shop. We had heard good things about Ed's extract kits (dominating the Drunk Monk competition), so we picked up the English Bitter kit (Ed's current fav), which uses DME along with Maris Otter and Crystal 40 for steeping grains. Hops were all Fuggles, with 1oz additions at 60 and 30 minutes, and yeast was White Labs English Ale 002 (1L starter). OG was 1.034 and FG was 1.011 - fermented 2 weeks at 68-69F, then kegged. Carbonated to around 2 volumes and boy is it easy to drink.

This is probably the finest extract beer we've done. I think much of that is due to us having a more solid brewing process since our last extract batch over a year ago, and also because dry extract has a better shelf life than liquid (no twang). 

The thing that I find most interesting is the yeast. WLP002 fermented like gang-busters (bit slow to start), and then dropped like a brick. I shook the carboy a little during the first week to help keep it in suspension. The second week I was gone on a trip, but with my temperature controller/ferm-wrap setup, it stayed at 68-69F the entire time. While I really enjoy this beer and can toss back 2 at a time, there's a touch of diacetyl/toffee/caramel something in there. I tasted this side by side w/ the butter-bomb of a Pils we brewed earlier in the year (and keep trying to "fix"). Tasting a beer I know has too much diacetyl showed how it can be confused with certain malts. Suddenly the bitter tasted more toffee-like than buttery. I do think the bitter has a touch of diacetyl, but it's in style and does not dominate the flavor profile.

One thing I love about the White Labs site is that Chris White has recorded himself discussing many of his yeast stains, and you can listen to what he has to say about 002. He mentions its diacetyl production, and how it's a natural part of this strain's sweetness. But if you really don't want it, you should keep the temp up and shake the carboy every day as fermentation winds down (not enough to aerate!). Either way, I recommend keeping the beer on the cake at least 2 weeks, assuming you had a solid fermentation during the first.


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