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Black Sheep Bitter

The next in my series of bitters brewed with a Yorkshire Yeast is Black Sheep Bitter from the recipe in Graham Wheeler's book.

Yeast preparation

I'll be brewing this on a Saturday therefore I need to get my yeast starter going on the previous Monday night. I'll be using the Brewlab Yorkshire strain again and to guard against its tendancy to climb out of even my largest five litre flask I've got some Brupak Antifoam that should keep it under control. Two drops of the thick antifoam emulsion was added to the starter.

I made a 1.5 litre starter with the intention of pitching 1 litre and saving 500ml back for next time.

Here it is after 20 hours. The krausen looks a lot different to when I didn't use antifoam. The larger bubbles are gone leaving only small, densley packed bubbles.

Here it is after 36 hours.

The antifoam has worked. This is as big as the krausen got. It's a bit like a big cappuccino instead of the rampant beast that I had to deal with before. The net result is that I haven't lost any of the valuable yeast to messy deposits - particularly around the neck of the flask.

Brew day

Here's the recipe for Black Sheep Bitter.

Recipe Specifications
Date: 30 April 2022
Batch Size (fermenter): 24.00 L   
Estimated OG: 1.039 SG
Estimated Color: 17.8 EBC
Estimated IBU: 30.6 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 78.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 78.6 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes
Water profile: Ca:92 Mg:13 Na:9 SO4:142 Cl:92

Amt        Name                                             Type        %/IBU    
29.13 L    Tesco Ashbeck                                    Water       -        
3.90 g     Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate) (Mash)                  Water Agent -        
3.00 g     Calcium Chloride (Mash)                          Water Agent -        
2.70 g     Epsom Salt (MgSO4) (Mash)                        Water Agent -        
3.257 kg   Crisp Maris Otter (7.9 EBC)                      Grain       84.6 %   
0.380 kg   Crisp Torrified Wheat  (3.9 EBC)                 Grain       9.9 %    
0.195 kg   Crisp Light Crystal (150.0 EBC)                  Grain       5.1 %    
0.020 kg   Weyermann Carafa II  (1150.0 EBC)                Grain       0.5 %    
0.80 g     Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate) (Sparge)                Water Agent -        
0.60 g     Calcium Chloride (Sparge)                        Water Agent -        
0.60 g     Epsom Salt (MgSO4) (Sparge)                      Water Agent -        
15.00 g    Challenger [7.70 %] - Boil 60.0 min              Hop         13.7 IBUs
10.00 g    East Kent Goldings [6.80 %] - Boil 60.0 min      Hop         8.1 IBUs 
10.00 g    Fuggles [5.00 %] - Boil 60.0 min                 Hop         5.9 IBUs 
13.00 g    Fuggle [5.00 %] - Boil 10.0 min                  Hop         2.8 IBUs 
1.00 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 7.0 mins)                 Fining      -        
1.0 pkg    Brewlab Yorkshire                                Yeast       -        

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion, Full Body, Batch Sparge
Total Grain Weight: 3.852 kg
Name       Description                       Step Temperat Step Time     
Mash In    Add 24.13 L of water at 72C       69.0 C        60 min        

Four different grains make up the colourful grain bill.

I've come to expect the Brewlab Yorkshire yeast to attenuate really strongly if I mash at the 'usual' 65-67C range so I'm doing what I did with the Dark Mild and mashing in at 69C in an attempt to reign it in a bit. After an hour the temperature in my thermopot had dropped to 67.6C.

It was a nice and simple brewday and I was all done with the yeast pitched before midday. The OG was 1.040, just one point above the estimate and the colour is a nice light amber.

I collected 24 litres into the fermenter, and was able to pitch the Brewlab yeast starter straight away at 20C where it will remain for the next 2 weeks. This time I forgot to decant the starter before pitching so there'll be an extra litre of unhopped 1.036 beer in the mix but previous experience shows that this makes no difference to the end result.

Pitching the yeast at 11am meant that I'd be awake when fermentation started and sure enough by 6pm there was activity through the blow-off tube. As usual I'm running the CO2 produced by the fermentation through the keg that will hold the finished beer to purge it.

Kegging day

I finally got around to kegging this ale after 19 days in the fermenter. I'd normally do it after 14 days but was a little put off by the presence of regular bubbling from the blow-off tube at that stage so I gave it a little while longer.

A combination of overshooting my OG by two points and my usual high attenuation (1.004 again) means that I have an ABV of 4.7%, a fair bit more than the target of 3.8%. Never mind, I'll call it Black Sheep Export or something like that.

The yeast had fully flocculated so the bubbling in the blow-off tube might have just been some of the CO2 produced during fermentation off-gassing. I'd noticed that the hydrometer in the picture above had a few CO2 bubbles clinging to it. Perhaps the fact that my fermenter is sealed and the CO2 is routed through a corny (to purge it) before being led to a blow-off tube creates just enough back-pressure to slightly carbonate the beer during the fermentation and that's what comes out afterwards?

Anyway I got a full corny and 4 bottles from the remainder and the sample jar tasted very promising indeed.

Tasting notes

This is really good. Out of all my recent brews with the Brewlab Yorkshire yeast this one is the best so far. It's balanced, easy drinking even with my ABV overshoot and so smooth on the palette.

Of all my attempts to make the perfect Yorkshire bitter this one is the best so far.