Christmas beers are bottled and ready

I brewed beer twice in the past few months. I wanted beers to share with family and friends this Christmas. One is meant to be a warming and flavorful high gravity beer and the other a tasty session beer. I settled on brewing a robust porter for the former, and an ESB1 for the latter.

These were the first two original recipes I developed. Previously I was brewing either extract-based kits or all-grain recipes developed by others. I developed these recipes myself based on the BJCP guidelines and a few published recipes for style-leading examples I knew.

The ESB is based on a Northern Brewer recipe, notes on ESBs in general, and some recipes people shared on forums. It uses the Fuller’s yeast strain. The porter is based on Dry Dock‘s Urca Vanilla porter (without the vanilla) and a different English yeast strain. The porter has some Belgian Special B malt and some chocolate malt (for raisin and chocolate flavors, respectively), which contribute to a high finishing gravity. This should be perceived as a thicker, more fully bodied taste. I’m actually a little outside the guidelines on finishing gravity but I decided that’s OK.

I bottled these beers over the Thanksgiving weekend. The process went smoothly, but as always it was frustrating and somewhat messy. There may be ways around this but I haven’t found them. Kegging seems obvious but that requires more space than I have right now.

I took my final gravity readings and calculated the apparent alcohol and nutrition content of each beer. I also tasted the samples, which even when warm and flat give some hint of the final beer.


Style Extra Special Bitter BJCP Reference
Calories (12 oz) 170 N/A
IBUs (bitterness) 44 30 – 50
Color (SRM) 8.3 (pale brown) 6 – 18
ABV 5.5% 4.6% – 6.2%
OG 1.052 1.048 – 1.060
FG 1.010 1.010 – 1.016

Robust Porter

Style Robust Porter BJCP Reference
Calories (12 oz) 220 N/A
IBUs (bitterness) 49 25 – 50
Color (SRM) 27 (deep brown) 22 – 35
ABV 6.4% 4.8% – 6.5%
OG 1.067 1.048 – 1.065
FG 1.018 1.012 – 1.016

The ESB was very clean, with a strong bitter flavor but not a lot of hop aroma. My last hop additions (at flameout) should impart some aroma but I’ll have to wait until the bottles carbonate and I try one to know for sure. Otherwise since it is an ESB it should be bitter in flavor but have less of a hoppy nose than an IPA. Once this carbonates I think it will be if not very good at least a pleasant session beer.

The porter on the other hand was full flavored, and although it has a decent amount of bitterness in the recipe the malt flavors show through more strongly. The chocolate malt is quite noticable. The relatively high alcohol level is also noticable. The beer at bottling time still had very minor yeasty hints in the smell, but I’ve had this before and they settled out with carbonation and chilling. Hopefully that will happen here as well. I have a feeling that the porter will taste good, but may not reach peak flavor until a few months of bottle conditioning, as even with over a month in the secondary fermenter it still had a bit of an edge. Again, we’ll see. I won’t know until early December how the final result will be, and I didn’t want to wait to post this.

I’m really looking forward to sharing these beers with my friends and family next month. And now it’s time to develop and brew a new recipe.

— Steve

  1. Extra Special Bitter, a stronger version of an english Premium/Best Bitter 

Posted on 27 November 2012