BIAB#1 – Tailgunner Best Bitter


I was waiting until the Christmas holidays to do my first all-grain recipe. For the first time ever, not a gram of extract will go into my beer. Not having a mash tun, or even the expertise for conducting a mash using a 3-vessel system, I’ll be using a BIAB method using my two pots. The pots are 20 litres and 10 litres and I’m slightly restricted on boil volume because I’m boiling on the gas hob. So I’ll be doing a slightly smaller batch of 15 litres because I don’t wait to boil at too high a concentration and end up with excessive kettle caramelisation. My previous partial mash efforts have been running at a pretty rubbish 65% efficiency, so for my first BIAB I’m going to use an even lower figure of 60%. If I get a higher efficiency than that, then great. The 30 IBU I’m planning will hopefully stand up against an extra couple of points on my original gravity.


Boil Size: 12.00 l
Post Boil Volume: 10.00 l
Batch Size (fermenter): 15.00 l
Bottling Volume: 15.00 l
Estimated OG: 1.041 SG
Estimated Color: 10.1 SRM
Estimated IBU: 31.4 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 60.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 60.0 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes


2.850 kg Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM)
0.160 kg Wheat, Torrified (1.7 SRM)
0.145 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt – 75L (75.0 SRM)
0.075 kg Biscuit Malt (23.0 SRM)
0.016 kg Black (Patent) Malt (500.0 SRM)
15 g Fuggles [4.30 %] – Boil 60.0 min, 12.8 IBUs
15 g Goldings, East Kent [4.90 %] – Boil 60.0, 14.6 IBUs
11 g Fuggles [4.30 %] – Boil 10.0 min, 1.9 IBUs
11 g Goldings, East Kent [4.90 %] – Boil 10.0, 2.2 IBUs
1.0 pkg Fermentis SafAle  S-04


Boil and mash conducted on the same day. I used a much higher boil volume than usual, must have been at least 15 litres, but the hob handled it just fine. I got about 11 litres into the fermenter and had to top up with some water. Fearing a very low efficiency I added water up to 13/14 litres ans took and OG reading of 1.048! Pretty good, so I topped up to the 15 litres mark. The next step will be to actually calibrate these fermenters I’m using.

30/12/2012 – Bottled using 90g table sugar. Bowled over by the sample I took from the fermenter. It’s really bready or grainy, I can’t figure out which word describes it best. Nor can I figure out what has contributed to this flavour, the torrified wheat or the biscuit malt. At this point, I’m going to guess that it’s the torrified wheat given that it’s a very traditional grain in English styles, and my beer tastes very typical and traditional. Should have a nice level of carbonation with the 90g of of sugar. It’s quite bitter, more than the 30 IBU that I was expecting. Got a FG of 1.008. Will give this 3 weeks conditioning before trying a sample. I saved 500ml of slurry that will be rolled over into another all-grain English bitter. This time, it’s going to be based on a clone of Goose Island Honkers Ale – itself based on an English bitter. This will be more caramelly with plenty of fermentables coming from wheat malt and also a little roasted barley for extra character. I’ll be using all Fuggles for this brew, though I might not have enough. In that case I’ll use some Northern Brewer for bittering.

13/01/2013 – I should have been a bit more patient with this. The first taste is a little disappointing. Bags of potential there – a great grainy flavour and some nice residual sweetness from the caramel malt, but it just tastes like an immature beer. A little bit yeasty too, but in fairness, it was only in the fridge for a few hours before I opened it. Another 2 or 3 weeks in the bottle and I reckon this will taste excellent.

24/01/2013 – Over a week later and still no improvement. It still has that S-04 taste. I think this yeast and myself are finished. Which is a pity, as I’ve 75 bottles of beer to drink that were fermented by this yeast!!

31/01/2013 – Opened another bottle and there’s a definite improvement. The beer is now a lot brighter, which i assume is not just because of a warmer temperature and less chill haze. There’s definitely still a yeast bite to the beer though and I reckon it’s going to need another few weeks conditioning. On the plus side, there’s some fantastic grainy, malty flavours coming through. The bitterness is quite full-on for a 30 IBU beer, but it is quite light in body. All in all, there’s now a great English malt and hop character showing through and fingers crossed it will be drinking very well in a month’s time. I’ve decided that I’ll definitely be trying liquid yeasts when I do my next set of English ales. I’ll probably go for the WLP002 as it’s supposed to have low attenuation with high flocculation – a low maintenance yeast, which is pretty much up my street.

12/02/2013 – This is definitely drinking better now. It’s lost most of that yeast bite and unsurprisingly, it has dropped incredibly bright. This thing is sparkling! It’s strange though, on some sips you get lots of that grainy-bready flavour; other sips not so much. I’ll be entering this in the competition anyway and I’m looking forward to getting feedback on it. Another months conditioning should do no harm. I do think the bitter is overcarbonated though; I’ll definitely reduce the amount of priming sugar for future bitters.

18/02/1013 – Absolutely sparkling and the flavour has really improved. 6 weeks seems to be the sweet spot in a moderate-gravity bitter fermented with S-04. I do think it’s overcarbonated though which gives it a slight astringency. I might try dialing back on the hops next time too, say 28 IBU. Still not much head on the beer either.

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