The local homebrew shop (LHBS) can be a dangerous place to hang out. I was at Beer and Wine Hobby over a month ago to pick up some odds and ends. I ended up leaving with their Welkin Ringer ESB kit which is a clone of Mystic Brewing‘s beer from their Wigglesworth Series.
Often when I brew kits it is to leave my comfort zone. When I develop my own recipes I tend to drift back to the ingredients and recipes I know well and have used before. That can help master a particular beer or style, but it doesn’t help a brewer grow. Developing new recipes for new styles or using a lot of ingredients for the first time is both daunting and risky. Knowing where to begin can be daunting, and the risk is your beer not coming out very good.
An ESB stands for Extra Special Bitter. It is the biggest and best pale ale that is typically offered by a particular brewery in England. It is a style Purchasing the kit gives me a chance to brew an entirely different interpretation of a style I have brewed before and am familiar with. In my mind an English Pale Ale consists of British pale malt, Crystal malt, Fuggles and/or East Kent Goldings hops, and fruity or floral esters from English yeast. I actually have not had the original beer by Mystic, so I didn’t know what to expect. Not knowing when I would brew the kit I chose the dry yeast option as opposed to the liquid yeast which loses viability more rapidly than dry yeast..
The dry yeast they gave me was S-33. I was not familiar with it at all; the employee at Beer & Wine Hobby said it was similar to Nottingham, a strain with a much cleaner flavor profile than I would have selected if I developed my own recipe. For over a month that was my only clue as to what the recipe was.
This past weekend a Christmas party I had been invited to was cancelled at the last minute. The dry yeast that came with the kit does not require a yeast starter like a liquid yeast making it perfect for a last-second brew day. I opened the box expecting a simple extract recipe with light malt extract and probably some specialty grains. When I opened the box there was Amber malt extract, English pale malt, Aromatic malt, and most surprisingly flaked maize.
The recipe was actually a partial mash. Whenever there are unmalted or flaked grains there needs to be some type of mash. Corn is commonly used in American styles. I actually enjoy the flavor corn can contribute to a recipe and even used it in a stout. According to the 2008 BJCP Guodelines, corn is sometimes used in English styles like an ESB. I am very interested to see how it works in this beer.
The hops were Challenger, an English bittering hop I have never used, and Northern Brewer, a hop I have used many times. The last hop addition is at 15 minutes. The Aromatic malt had an intense toasted flavor, like toasted bread that is dark brown but not quite burnt.
I think the beer is going to be a malt-forward interpretation. There is only one late hop addition which is at 15 minutes. The yeast strain is clean and should accentuate the malt flavor. The Aromatic malt, along with the specialty malts in the extract should provide most of the complexity. This might not be a hop-head’s beer of choice. If you’re like me and can appreciate a balanced or malt-forward beer as well as the hoppy pale ales and IPAs that are increasingly popular, this should be an enjoyable brew.