Special bitter ale Recipe

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Booze River Cottage HandbookBack in 1902, S.W. Arnold of Taunton made a Special Bitter Ale using Oregon hops. To make a beer which is similarly spicy and fruity, I am using Bramling Cross hops which, although English, have the flavour of the old American hop. The original recipe also calls for both Chilean and Smyrna pale malt, food miles evidently not being much of a concern back then; I’mbringing these ingredients closer to home too.

  • Yield: 25 litres


  • 2.2 kg English pale ale malt
  • 2.2 kg Scottish Golden Promise malt
  • 500 g flaked maize
  • 4 tsp gypsum
  • 75 g East Kent Golding hops
  • 200 g Mauritian light brown sugar
  • 200 g invert sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp dried carragheen
  • 45 g Bramling Cross hops
  • 11 g sachet English ale yeast
  • 1 tsp beer finings
  • 50 g sugar for priming
How to Make It
  1. Put the malts and maize into a fermenting bucket. Heat 14 litres water to 74°C, add half the gypsum, then stir into the malts and maize. The mash heat should be 67°C. Cover and keep warm for 1¼ hours.
  2. Sparge with water at 78°C until you have 25 litres wort.
  3. Pour the wort into your copper. Boil for a total of 1 hour 50 minutes, adding 30 g of the East Kent Golding hops, the brown and invert sugar, the salt and the rest of the gypsum at copper-up. The carragheen is added at 1½ hours and the Bramling Cross hops 10 minutes later. Leave to stand for half an hour, then strain into a fermenter.
  4. Liquor down until you have a specific gravity of 1051. Cool rapidly.
  5. Aerate and pitch the yeast when the wort is at around 20°C. Leave to ferment for about 5 days until fermentation is complete and the specific gravity is about 1012.
  6. Rack into a barrel or wide-neck fermenter and add the rest of the East Kent Golding hops tied in a muslin bag. Rumble the barrel or fermenter every day for a week or two to distribute the hop flavour around the beer.
  7. After 2 weeks it may be fined and primed in the barrel or bottled in the usual way.

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