Having got home on Sunday evening from my shift working behind the bar at the tasting room at Starr Hill, I opened my first homebrew of the year, from my second batch of bitter.
This was the first time I had tried this batch even though I had taken a couple of bottles to the monthly homebrew club meeting in January and was encouraged by the feedback it was getting. As you likely know, if you are following my project to make a great bitter, this recipe differed slightly from the one that took gold at the Virginia Beer Blitz in November, I had upped the flavour hops a bit, substituted First Gold with Styrian Goldings for aroma, and used the Windsor yeast strain rather than Wyeast's West Yorkshire. The Styrian Goldings substitution was a necessity as my local homebrew shop didn't have any First Gold, while using the Windsor yeast was the planned change for this batch.
One thing that won't be changing in future batches of the beer is the grain bill, I love the colour I get from a combination of Maris Otter, Amber and Caramel 20. While the colour is lovely, I think the mix of toasty nuttiness from the Maris Otter, light caramel and a honeyed toffee note from the Amber malt is just where I want this bitter to be. When I get round to doing batch three of the beer, I will revert to First Gold for the aroma hops as I prefer the slight tangerine thing you get with them as opposed to a sweet spiciness I find in Styrian Goldings.
The Windsor yeast left a higher terminal gravity than the West Yorkshire, finishing at 1.011 rather than 1.009, that combined with the slight difference in original gravity (1.040 for batch 1 to 1.038 for batch 2), made for a 0.5% difference in abv. As I don't have any of the 1st bacth left to compare, I am not really sure what difference to the taste of the beer the two yeasts made, but I will be re-brewing with West Yorkshire soon and this time I will keep a couple of bottles of batch 2 for comparison.
Overall though, I am as happy with batch 2 as I was with batch 1 and think I am well on my way to settling on a recipe for my house ale - now all I need is a job and the extra cash that comes with it to sort out a kegerator so that I can always have bitter on tap...a prospect that pleases muchly.