Brewing A Green Hop Special Bitter

In the October CAMRA Bromley Branch e-Newsletter we told how Bob Keaveney’s hops were going to be used in their freshly picked ‘green’ state to make three “Green Hop” seasonal beers. As previously reported, the brewing recipes would be based on the winning entries in the Bromley CAMRA Branch “Green Hop Beer Competition”. The two members who won with their recipe ideas were Stephen Osborn and Murray Mackay. Bob was also given a ‘bye’ into the finalists round as he provided the hops!

Hops freshly picked

Stephen wanted a traditional bitter-style beer that predominantly featured one variety of the hops. Whereas, Murray went to the opposite end of the beer style spectrum and suggested a flavoursome mild using Fuggles. Along with Bob, they also had suggestions for the third recipe, which when combined with my brewer’s input, prompted the design of a strong pale ale. So the three beers brewed with the Cascade, Fuggles and Target green hops were:
• Green Hop Special Bitter
• Green Hop Cask Mild
• Green Hop English IPA.

Hops used for brewing are usually quickly dried out under controlled conditions and can keep for up to three or more years if stored correctly. Green hops, however, must be used as quickly as possible after picking, and at the most within 48 hours. Otherwise, the green hops quickly lose their unique fresh flavour and the moisture in the hops can give rise to mould. With speed in mind, the beers were made over three days commencing Monday 7 September.

Picking the hops

Bob came along to help out on the first brewing day and took some photos as well. Grateful thanks to Bob for recording the day as it is very difficult to stir the mash and take photos at the same time. Both Stephen and Murray assisted on the last brew day. Their toil, and the brewer’s, were greatly eased with plenty of beer from the brewery “tap room” as we worked. Brewing can be a long and lonely chore, so from my perspective as the brewer it was nice to have a captive audience to chat to. Besides which, with their hands on the brewery tools as “Assistant Brewer”, I had someone else to blame if it all went wrong!

This brewing write-up will cover the first of the three recipes – the Green Hop Special Bitter suggested by Stephen.

The modern hop has been developed from a wild plant as ancient as history itself. As far back as the first century AD they were described as a salad plant and are believed to originate from Egypt. The plant itself is actually in the Cannabaceae family, which also produces cannabis. So, when you look at the hop buds, they look very similar to miniature cannabis leaves and almost appear as if someone decided to make marijuana into rabbit food!

Today, the words beer and ale mean much the same, but the word ‘ale’ was originally reserved for brews produced from malt without hops. This was the original drink of the Anglo-Saxons and English, whereas ‘beer’, a brew using hops, probably originated in Germany. Hops were cultivated in the Low Countries (modern Belgium and Holland) from the 13th century.

The cultivation of hops was probably introduced from Flanders to England in the Maidstone area of Kent at the end of the 15th century. Our national drink until then had been ale, unhopped and sometimes flavoured with herbs such as wormwood. English brewers were the last of the Europeans to adopt hops and up until that transition to hops, “gruit” was the option for herbed and spiced beers.

Brewers started to import dried Flemish hops but these contained so much extraneous matter that an Act of Parliament was passed in 1603 imposing penalties on merchants and brewers found dealing in hops adulterated with “leaves, stalks, powder, sand, straw and with loggetts of wood dross”. In those early days, the sole reason for using hops was to preserve the beer in good condition: the bittering effect was thus reluctantly accepted by Englishmen. By the 17th century ale (i.e. un-hopped beer) was no longer popular and bitter-flavoured beer was the established drink.

Around the 1930s and through the second world war, English bitters rose to popularity in England as consumers opted for something other than the common dark-style ales available at the time. Post-WWII, bitter had established itself as a premium product that offered better quality and flavour. During the 20th century, bitter was the most popular type of beer sold on tap in UK pubs; some consider it “the national drink of England.”

English bitters and pale ales are generally a popular choice for people who like more flavour (compared to a light lager) and a slight bitterness from their beer (compared to an IPA), but who aren’t looking for something too extreme, overpowering, sweet, or heavy. The complexity and range of flavour for bitter beers can be broad. A style that has evolved over time, there are both lighter mild versions and stronger, more bold version of the English bitter. When brewed, it is made using top-fermenting ale yeasts. The bitterness from the hops should be less bitter than an India Pale Ale.

Today in the UK, Bitter is not a strictly governed style and beers bearing that appellation might be golden to red, drily bitter or honey-sweet, rich in hop perfume or rather austere. Depending on strength, they might be called “Ordinary,” “Best,” “Special,” or even “Extra Special Bitter (ESB).” It is easier, perhaps, to say what Bitter is not. Once the classy alternative to Mild, then the conservative alternative to trendy lager, it is now the preferred choice of the anti-hipster — it’s not American IPA, and definitely not fruit-infused barrel-aged Saison.

The recipe I am using is similar to one I have successfully used before when I brewed a clone of Jennings Cocker Hoop. However, it is modified to take on board the use of green hops and Stephen’s winning suggestions.

Let’s first talk about the hops. Green (wet) hops fresh from the bine contain about 80 percent water, so you need to use more than you would when using dry hops. In general, four to eight times as many wet hops are needed by weight as dry hops. Fresh hops may be used at any point during the brewing process. You can add fresh hops as a boil addition, whirlpool addition, dry hoping, or even in the mash. Fresh hop beers are known for their fresh green aromas. When you adapt a recipe for wet hop brewing, you can savour the difference. Due to their comparative low bitterness, they are best used at the end of the boil, or alternatively in the beer conditioning stage, mainly for aroma only, so normal dry bittering hops should be used at the start of the boil. In this recipe all the hops used are Cascade. The bittering comes from Bob’s Cascade hops that were dried from last year’s harvest, with the fresh green Cascade hops being added at or near the boil end for that beautiful green hop aroma.

Turning to the malts in the recipe, the malt bill is relatively simple consisting of Pale Malt, Munich Malt, Torrified Wheat, and a small amount of Black Malt.

The Pale Malt after the mash tun conversion process supplies the bulk of the fermenting sugars and gives both colour and a sweet biscuit flavour. Munich malt brings rich malty flavours and golden hues to light beers. It is an excellent base malt for Strong Bitter, Dark Amber Ales, Brown Ales and Milds. Munich Malt brings intense colour and malty notes, without compromising enzymic action. Despite its continental name, this malt provides a fantastic malty base for British Ales and Bitters. Torrified wheat is a pre-gelatinized unmalted brewer’s wheat that can be used as a cereal grain/adjunct in the mash, and can replace malted wheat if you desire. It increases body and head retention, as well as adding a very slight toasted flavour. Because it’s not malted, it needs to be mashed with the diastatic pale malt in order to convert the starches to sugars ready for fermentation. The black malt is used in very tiny quantities in this recipe, and is there merely to provide colour to the beer and to give it a slightly crisp edge.

The yeast process I used in this brew was slightly unusual for me. I re-used a slurry of Safale American US-05 yeast left over from a previous fermentation. A couple of days earlier I had brewed an American Double IPA (DIPA). After the DIPA had finished fermenting in it’s conical fermenter, and the beer had been transferred to the conditioning tank, what was left on the bottom was the finished yeast remains. Without cleaning out the fermenter, what I did with the wort of the Special Bitter, after boiling and cooling, was to pitch the new brew straight onto it. Within 3 hours it was going like the clappers. As the fermenting gases blew the through the airlock it sounded like a church organ! Here’s a picture of the slurry waiting to devour the sugars from the Special Bitter wort:

Slurry awaits a feast!

Size: 47.5 Litres (post-boil @ 20C), 42 Litres into fermenter
Mash Efficiency: 86 %
Attenuation: 80%
Calories: 43.5 kcal per 100 ml
Original Gravity: 1.047 (style range: 1.048 – 1.060)
Terminal Gravity: 1.009 (style range: 1.010 – 1.016)
Colour: 16.9 EBC (style range: 15.8 – 35.5)
Alcohol: 5.1% ABV (style range: 4.6% – 6.2%)
Bitterness: 45 IBU (style range: 30 – 50)

6.5 kg Pale Malt (Minch) 5 EBC (84.4 %)
0.75 kg Munich Malt (Bairds) 9.9 EBC (9.7 %)
0.375 kg Torrified Wheat (Crisp) 4 EBC (9.4%)
0.075 kg Black Malt (Crisp) 1300 EBC (0.9%)

Mash pH 5.39

75 min boil
75 g Cascade leaf hops (7.0% alpha) – added during boil, boiled 75 min (20.4 IBU)
200 g Cascade green hops (2.0% alpha) – added during boil, boiled 10 min (8.1 IBU)
300 g Cascade green hops (2% alpha) – added during boil, boiled 5 mins (6.7 IBU)
1 Protafloc Tablet (Irish moss) – added during boil, boiled 15 min
0.5 g Yeast nutrient – added during boil, boiled 12 mins
7.5 g Polyclar BrewBrite – added during boil, boiled 10 min

500 g Cascade green hops (2% alpha) – added at end of boil (hopstand for about 10 mins) for aroma (1 IBU).

Yeast Slurry SO5 500 ml
(387 billion yeast cells)


  • Add 500mg potassium metabisulphite to 62 litres water to remove chlorine / chloramine.
  • Water treated with brewing salts for a hoppy flavour profile: Ca=110, Mg=18, Na=16, Cl=50, SO4=275).
  • 2.61 L/kg mash thickness.
  • Single infusion mash at 66C for 90 mins.
  • Raise to 76C mashout temperature and hold for 15 mins.
  • Fly sparge with 40.84 L water with 5.6-5.8 pH (measured at mash temperature). Collect 56.5 litres.
  • Boil for 75 minutes, adding Protafloc, etc., per schedule. Add hopstand hops at boil end. Start chilling after 15 mins.
  • Cool the wort quickly to 20C (I use a one-pass convoluted counterflow chiller to quickly lock in hop flavour and aroma) and transfer to fermenter.
  • Pitch yeast and ferment at 20C (wort temperature).
  • Before packaging you may optionally crash cool to around 6C and rack to a bright tank that has been purged with CO2 to avoid oxygen pickup. Add 1 tsp of unflavoured gelatine dissolved in a cup of hot distilled water per 19 litres of beer, and allow to clear for 2-3 days.
  • Package as you would normally. I rack to cornie kegs that have first been purged with CO2, and then carbonate on the low side (around 2 volumes of CO2) to minimize carbonic bite and let the hop and malt flavours shine through. After 1-2 weeks at serving pressure the kegs will be carbonated and ready to serve. Like all hop forward beers this beer is best consumed fresh, so feel free to raise the CO2 pressure temporarily to 30-40 PSI to carbonate fast over a 24 hour period, and then turn back down to serving pressure.

Some pictures of the brewing day follow.

The first picture (L to R) shows the boil kettle (BK), the Mash Tun (MT), and the Hot Liquor Tank (HLT). The big black box with knobs is the Control Panel, which controls the process stages and temperatures. The chiller, wort pump, and water pump can be seen below.

Brewing kit all set up

Close up on the Control Panel:

The “Brain”

Setting the mash tun temperature:

Head Brewer at work!

Scooping the grains into the mash tun:

Easy does it!

View inside the mash tun showing the recirculation above the grain bed:

Mashing underway

Once the mash is over we start running the wort into the Boil Kettle:

Run-off into boil kettle

Once the boil is underway we add the green hops:

Green is beautiful!

Stirring in:

Giving it a good stir

Video of the boil underway:

A vigorous boil

After the boil and draining into the fermenter via the chiller, this is the spent hops that are left:

Spent hops

This picture shows the pumps and hoses set up to run the boiled wort through the chiller into the fermenter:

Cooling before pitching the yeast

Finally, the fermenter stored in the cold room next to another fermenting beer so that it doesn’t feel lonely:

Fermenting away

Once the fermentation was finished the beer was packaged into bottles and kegs. Packaged was 1 x 19L & 1 x 12L cornie, 17 x 500ml glass bottles. Total 39.5 L. Specific Gravity at packaging was 1.009, pH was 4.29. After about three weeks the beer can be enjoyed in all its glory!

This shows the front and back bottle labels:

Bottle labels

Brewing the green hop beers has been an interesting and challenging experience. Not the least because you have to work with huge amounts of the green hops. Nonetheless it was very enjoyable and I look forward to repeating it next hop-picking season with new recipes. Thanks to Bob for supplying the hops and thanks to Stephen and Murray as the “Assistant Brewers” for their excellent suggestions and help on the brewing days.

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