Brewing an English Pale Ale from local Beckenham hops

I was most fortunate in September in that I was the happy recipient of some very fine hops from Bob Keaveney’s garden. Harvesting the hops themselves was a great deal of fun on a very hot late summer day. Besides me, a good crowd of fellow CAMRA Bromley branch members turned up to give a helping hand. Here is a picture of us all hard at work:

The garden was like a hop jungle and it looked as if they were taking over Bob’s house!

After much hard work and plenty of refreshing beer, as well as fine food from Bob’s cuisine, we had a bumper crop of fresh Cascade, Fuggles, Target and Goldings. Here is a picture of some of the Cascade.

I took my share of the hops home and duly dried them out over 7 days on large trays in my loft. The late September weather was perfect for drying as my loft was very much like a warm oven. In a way, the conditions were very similar to the traditional oast house, but without the fire and smoke. The smell of the hops wafting through my home was wonderful.

After drying, the hops were carefully packed in 100 g bags and vacuum sealed. Stored at near zero temperature in my Brewing fridge, they will keep their usability for 2 or 3 years at least.

So, having picked and dried all these fine hops, I decided to brew a traditional English Pale Ale. For the technically minded, under the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) this would be classed as “11C Strong Bitter”. More well-known commercial varieties of this style would be Samuel Smith’s Old Brewery Pale Ale, Shepherd Neame Bishop’s Finger, Shepherd Neame Spitfire, or Young’s Ram Rod.

As well as using traditional English hops, this will be an all-grain brew using traditional kilned malts and adjuncts. The vast majority of the hops used will be “Bob’s” hops – Target, Cascade and Fuggles. However, to give the beer slightly more hop complexity, some additional hops from my own stock will be added in the boil. These will be Challenger, Northdown, Hallateur Blanc and Epic. Recipe details now follow. (For those of you who enjoy drinking beer, but may not know how to make it and the brewing terminology used, a short explanation is given at the end of this article.)

Type: All Grain
Batch Size: 45.00 L
Boil Size: 56.5 L
Boil Time: 90 min
End of Boil Vol: 49 L
Final Packaging Vol: 44.00 L
Efficiency: 75.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 80 %

Est Original Gravity: 1.066 SG
Est Final Gravity: 1.017 SG
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 6.5 %
Bitterness: 49 IBUs (International Bittering Units – how strong the hop bitterness is)
Est Colour: 23 EBC (The colour of beer is measured in EBCs. EBC stands for European Brewery Convention)

Mash Ingredients:
11.50 kg Extra Pale Propino Pale Malt whole (3 EBC) 89.4 %
0.60 kg Heritage 1823 Greenwich Crystal Malt (10 EBC) 4.7%
0.60 kg Flaked Maize (1.0 EBC) 4.7 %
0.10 kg Special B Crystal Malt [Steep] (300.0 EBC) 0.8 %
0.06 kg Black Malt [Steep] (1300 EBC) 0.5 %

Mash Steps:
1.) Mash In. Add 39 L of water at 70 C, hold at 67.0 C 60 min
2.) Mash Out and Vorlauf. Add 0.00 L of water and heat to 77.0 C over 20 min, hold at 77.0 C 15 min
3.) Fly Sparge. Sparge with 29.58 L water at 76.0 C

First Wort Hops:
34.00 g Target 14.0 IBUs
32.00 g Cascade 11.5 IBUs
32.00 g Fuggles 6.6 IBUs

Boil Ingredients:
35.00 g Challenger pellets – Boil 60.0 min 10.7 – IBUs
35.00 g Northdown leaf – Boil 5 min – 2.1 IBUs
55.00 g Hallauter Blanc – Boil 2 min – 1.8 IBUs
23.00 g Epic pellets – Boil 2 min – 0.4 IBUs
1.00 tsp Yeast Nutrient (Boil 15.0 mins)

Steeped Hops:
50.00 g Fuggle leaf – Steep at boil end – 15 min – 2.3 IBUs

4 pkg Safale English Ale S04 yeast (aka Whitbread yeast)

Water adjustment:
The biggest ingredient in beer of course is water. Water direct from the tap is often not suitable for brewing. My water is from the Thames Water Company. Although perfectly drinkable, and better than many bottled waters, from a brewer’s perspective it has several faults. Namely, it contains chlorine/chloramines for sanitation, the acidity (pH) is too neutral, the minerals in it are not in the right proportions, and lastly the alkalinity is too high.

For brewing a Bitter type beer the sulphate to chloride ratio needs to be about 2:1 or more to accentuate the bitterness. The pH of the mash and sparge water needs to about 5.2 to 5.6, as opposed to 7.5 or so from the tap. Lastly, if the chlorine/chloramines residue is not removed the beer can have a medicinal, TCP like, taste.

The total volume of water needed for this brew was 70L. So the first step is to add 500 mg of Potassium Metabisulphite to the bulk water to remove the chlorine and chloramine residues. Thames Water has chloride and sulphate mineral salts that are roughly matched at 50 ppm (parts per million) each. To change the sulphate to chloride level, careful and measured amounts of Sulphuric Acid are added to give a final ratio of around 200 ppm of sulphates to 50 ppm of chlorides. This also has the effect of changing the pH of the water to 5.4, which is ideal for the mash and sparge water. Once the water is treated and ready for brewing use, the water is no longer called water but mysteriously acquires the name of ‘liquor’.

Now for some pictures of the brewing equipment and the process.

All set up and recirculating water in the Hot Liquor Tank (HLT). The HLT is where the treated tap water (now called liquor) is heated up to the required mash temperature:

A view inside the HLT showing the heating elements and the recirculating coil:

Transferring the liquor to mash tun prior to adding the grain:

A close up on the ‘Mission Control’ centre:

A view inside the mash tun showing the sparging hose and the false bottom that holds and strains the grain bed:

Here the grains are all ground up and ready for scooping into the mash tun:

Stirring the grains in the mash, or “doughing in” as the Yanks would say:

Changing the hoses around for sparging and running off into the boil kettle (BK):

A diagrammatic view of how the mashing works:

A view into the boil kettle showing the hop filter and whirlpool arm fitted:

A view of the run-off into the boil kettle from the mash tun:

What a boil!

Have a look at the video as well on Youtube

After boiling, the wort is pumped via a Counter Flow Chiller (CFC) into the fermenter
Exit temperature from the CFC at 20 C was just perfect:

It’s a long way from the CFC to the conical fermenter! The Chugger pump handles it well:

The boil is over and the BK has been drained into the fermenter via the CFC. The whirpool arm and hop filter really worked well at keeping the hop residues back and the BK was drained practically dry:

Now the beer is happily in the fermenter and the yeast is pitched or added:

Fermenting and allowing the beer to condition takes about four weeks. Then it’s time to bottle it and keg it:

After about three weeks in the bottle it’s ready to drink. Cheers!

Explanation of brewing terms:
Mashing – The goal of mashing is to produce wort (pronounced ‘wert’), a sugar-laden liquid extracted from the starches in the grains. Hot water and the milled grist (malt, adjuncts and grains) are mixed so that the enzymes in the malt can convert starches into sugars for later fermentation.

Mash Out – After the mash sugar extraction is complete, the mash temperature is raised to around 76 C and held for 15 minutes. This helps decrease the viscosity of the wort and improves sparging performance. It also stops the enzymes from further starch conversion and ‘sets’ the sugar level. This is often combined with Vorlauf –see below.

Vorlauf – This is a German brewing term; recirculation is the equivalent English term. During this process the wort is recirculated over the grain bed, or mash, in the mash tun to establish the grain bed as a filter, which removes large particles and clarifies the wort before transfer to the boil kettle. At the start of the Vorlauf the steeping grains, which are kept out of the main mash, are added. Using the dark grains and crystal malt in this way reduces the harshness in a beer since the husk materials are exposed to hot water for a much shorter time.

Sparge – Fly sparging involves spraying water gently on top of the mash while adjusting the runoff rate to the boil kettle to match the sparge rate, so as to maintain a constant level of water on top of the mash. The goal of this step is to have clear, sweet wort with good flavour in sufficient volume for the boil kettle. Sparging is stopped once the boiling quantity is met. Care needs to be taken to avoid unwanted tannins being flushed through if the sparge water is too hot or too much sparge water is used.

First Wort Hops – A special form of hop boiling, where hops are added to the boil kettle before the boil begins. They are typically added as the first sparging runoff flows into the kettle. This method provides a smoother, cleaner bitterness with significant hop flavour.