All-grain recipe: Besses Best Bitter
For the first recipe on the site, I wanted to put out my go-to staple recipe for a best bitter. It took me a year to get the recipe just right for what I wanted in my perfect pint of bitter. Coming in at around 4.7%, this bitter is biscuity, has a hint of caramel and, naturally, is hopped with East Kent Goldings and Fuggles (standard).
Besses o’th’ Barn is a suburb of Manchester. Once a village, local legend has it that the area is named after a pub that resembled a barn (long since gone) that was run by a landlady called Bess. The local invitation for a drink was “let’s go see Bessie at th’ barn”. As the number of houses surrounding the pub grew, this term was adopted as the area’s name and over the years has become Besses o’th’ Barn. The area, back in the Victorian era was home to Whitefield Brewery (it too is sadly long gone).
This beer is my tribute to the lady that gave my hometown its name. Probably nothing like the beer Bessie herself used to serve up to the local cotton workers and farm hands but who doesn’t like a nice pint of bitter?
So this recipe assumes a few things: the first being that you use a brew in the bag process. The second is that this recipe is for an 18litre batch (simply for the fact that any more and my Peco Electrim boiler would boil over). Other than that, all the details are here for you so that you can adjust as necessary for your own equipment/processes. Also, the recipe is out there on BeerSmith if you want to grab it and adjust it.
Colour: 15.1 EBC
Bitterness: 29.4 IBUs
Final volume after fermentation: 18 litres
Maris Otter (5.5 EBC) – 3.0kg
Flaked Barley (3.0 EBC) – 500g
Biscuit Malt (55.0 EBC) – 310g
Crystal Malt (60.0 EBC) – 310g
Torrifired Wheat (3.3 EBC) – 300g
Fuggles (4.5% AA) – 33g
East Kent Goldings (6.2% AA) – 33g
1 x Whirlfloc Tablet
1 x pack of Safale S-04 yeast (or a good English Ale wet-yeast from Whitelabs or Wyeast if you’re feeling flush)
Mash in 27 litres of water at 65 degrees celcius for 60 minutes (I use a no-sparge brew-in-a-bag system). The grain should absorb about 3 litres of your original strike water leaving a pre-boil volume of about 24 litres. A good pre-boil gravity would be 1.040. Bring to the boil. The total boil time is 60 minutes. Add 22g of each of the hops at the beginning of the boil. With ten minutes left of the boil, throw in a Whirlfloc tablet (and your wort-chiller to sterilise it). With 5 minutes left, add the remaining 11g of each of the hops. Cool using a wort chiller or whatever method you usually adopt, transfer the wort to the fermenter and aerate (I use an aerator from Brewferm but giving the wort a good old shake does the trick) and ferment using Safale S-04 dried yeast at around 19 degrees celcius.