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I often wonder if San Diego breweries are slaves to their reputation: it’s hard to find a beer around here that isn’t big, bold, and exploding with hops; subtlety is certainly not a strong point. I get it, folks are breaking free of the grip of the macro lagers, discovering great beer, and trying to get as far away from the “old stuff” that they can get. Some of us, however, aren’t looking for every beer to melt our faces off; some of us just want a smooth, flavorful beer that won’t leave us on the floor after a pint or two. In my humble opinion, the session beer is where it’s at!
While I think the term “Session IPA” is a little goofy (lump that in with “Black India Pale Ale”), I love the idea: super flavorful beers packed with character that are easy drinking and low in alcohol. I’ve been hankering for English style ales lately, partly because many of them are supremely sessionable, and partly because I love the character that English malt and yeast bring (which is to say, more than a platform to showcase hops). I have a problem though: I’m sitting on a few pounds of bold American hops from the 2013 season that I’m desperately trying to get through before the 2014 hops are released; if I want to get through ’em I can’t got out and buy new English hops.
My solution to this problem is a tribute to my home town and the big, bold beers that are made there: the San Diego Bitter. The base of it is a slight tweak of my tried and true Special Bitter recipe, which showcases English malt and yeast, but is blasted liberally with Citra and Calypso hops. Why Citra and Calypso? All the cool kids love the Citra and the apple/pear from the Calypso matches nicely with the esters from the English yeast (which I typically think of as pear-y).
Is it a session IPA? An imperial bitter? All I know is that it’s easy drinking!
San Diego Bitter
|Batch Size||Boil Time||IBU||SRM||Est. OG||Est. FG||ABV|
|5.5 gal||60 min||48.8 IBUs||11.9 SRM||1.047||1.012||4.6 %|
|Name||Cat.||OG Range||FG Range||IBU||SRM||Carb||ABV|
|Special/Best/Premium Bitter||8 B||1.04 - 1.048||1.008 - 1.012||25 - 40||5 - 16||0.8 - 2.1||3.8 - 4.6 %|
|Pale Malt, Maris Otter||8.5 lbs||85|
|Wheat, Flaked||8 oz||5|
|Caramel/Crystal Malt - 60L||4 oz||2.5|
|Caramel/Crystal Malt -120L||4 oz||2.5|
|Pale Chocolate Malt||4 oz||2.5|
|Special Roast||4 oz||2.5|
|Citra||0.5 oz||60 min||First Wort||Pellet||12|
|Calypso||1 oz||5 min||Boil||Pellet||13|
|Citra||0.5 oz||5 min||Boil||Pellet||12|
|Calypso||1 oz||0 min||Aroma||Pellet||13|
|Calypso||1 oz||15 min||Aroma||Pellet||13|
|Citra||0.5 oz||0 min||Aroma||Pellet||12|
|Citra||0.5 oz||15 min||Aroma||Pellet||12|
|Calypso||1 oz||4 days||Dry Hop||Pellet||13|
|Citra||0.5 oz||4 days||Dry Hop||Pellet||12|
|Whitbread Ale Yeast (WLP017)||White Labs||70%||66°F - 70°F|
|Mash Out||168°F||10 min|
|Whirlpool/hopstand: Add first whirlpool addition at flamout, rest for 15 mintues. Chill wort to ~170ºF then add second whirlpool addition, rest 15 minutes.
Gypsum: 8 g
Calcium Chloride: 2 g
|Download this recipe's BeerXML file|
Right up front there’s a wallop of classic citrus hop that fades to apple and pear; we’re not talking San Diego IPA levels of hop character, more on the level of a San Diego Pale (which is probably IPA levels elsewhere). Deep down behind the hops, fruity English esters play second fiddle and even further behind that caramelly dark crystal pokes its head out.
I’ll admit it: I goofed on this one a little bit. I was under the weather when I was brewing this batch and neglected to add Whirlfloc. A few days later I realized my mistake, but because this batch wasn’t competition-bound I decided not to sweat it and didn’t do my typical gelatin fining. That said, it’s a hazy medium amber color that clears up as it warms. Between the flaked wheat and high hop content the head is fluffy and long-lasting.
There’s a firm, crisp bitter which may seem obvious, but is mandatory for an English style bitter; this is why it’s necessary to get your chloride:sulfate ratio and bittering techniques down. There’s plenty of citrus/fruity hop character, but the malt holds it own here too: toast/bready is dominant with notes of nut and caramel in the finish. Some good fruitiness from the esters which blends in with the hops. There’s a slight grassiness, but that’s to be expected from the relatively high amount of hops used in the batch.
Medium-bodied and crisp, but not sharp. I kept the carbonation on the low end (~2.0 volumes) to stay true to the English style and because low-gravity beers can seem too thin if the carbonation is high.
This is a nice summer drinker, I can’t even deal with the thought of anything stronger at the moment. Hop heads will get their fix and malt fiends like myself will get their fill too. I think next time I’d maybe drop the pale chocolate an ounce or two, but otherwise I’m pretty satisfied with the malt bill. Feel free to swap out the hops for any particular type you’re looking for, this is a great base for experimenting.
Check out the rest of my recipes in the index.