Farke’s ESB 1.1

Early in 2019, I made an English bitter that turned out exceptionally. Hoping to capitalize on that success, I did a second iteration at the end of November. The overall recipe is pretty similar, although the base malt brand was Crisp instead of Bairds. Also, I dropped the crystal 90 and used just crystal 80. Finally, I fermented a very slight touch warmer, at 67° instead of 66°.

The beer, a few days after adding gelatin

Farke’s ESB 1.1

  • 8.5 lb. Maris Otter malt (Crisp)
  • 0.75 lb. 80°L 6-row caramel malt (Briess)
  • 0.25 lb. 80°L caramel malt (Briess)
  • 1 oz. East Kent Goldings hop pellets (6.0% alpha), 60 minute boil
  • 1 Whirlfloc tablet, 10 minute boil
  • 1 oz. East Kent Goldings hop pellets (6.0% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. London ESB English Style Ale Yeast

Target Parameters

  • 60 minute full volume infusion mash, 152°
  • 1.043 o.g., 1.012 f.g., 4.2% abv, 28 IBU, 11 SRM
  • Claremont tap water


  • I mashed in with 7.5 gallons of water at 168°, to hit a mash temperature of 153°.
  • After 1 hour, I vorlaufed and collected the runnings.
  • In total, I collected 6.5 gallons of wort at 1.040 s.g., for 73% mash efficiency. This was a bit better than expected for a full-volume mash, so I adjusted the boil accordingly to try and hit my target starting gravity.
  • I boiled for 60 minutes, adding hops and whirlfloc as scheduled. Then, I chilled down to ~75°, pitched the yeast, and put it in the fermentation chamber. The temperature was set at 67°.
  • Starting gravity was 1.045, with the batch brewed on 25 November 2019.
  • I kegged the beer on 23 December 2019. Final gravity was 1.008, a bit lower than I expected. This works out to 82% attenuation and 5.0% abv.
  • This yeast is described as poorly flocculent–and it was. For the first week or so, the beer poured as a hazy, yeasty mess. It wasn’t terribly pleasant to drink, although it got a bit better as the yeast started to settle somewhat. On January 3, I decided to speed things along and add gelatin, with 1 tsp. in 1 cup of water. Within two days, the beer was pouring (and tasting) much better. It wasn’t perfectly brilliant, but it was much clearer.


  • Appearance
    • Light amber color, somewhat hazy, with thin off-white head.
  • Aroma
    • Slight caramel aroma, bready, with light fruity ester. Not much for noticeable hop aroma.
  • Flavor
    • Light caramel and toffee notes on the flavor, with modest (but not over-the-top) bitterness.
  • Mouthfeel
    • Off-dry, light bodied, moderate carbonation.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • Although I really liked this recipe last time I brewed it, I am less of a fan this time around. I’m not sure why it ended up so dry (1.008 final gravity); maybe the mash temperature dropped too quickly, maybe it’s the brand of malt, or maybe I got some contamination that took off on fermenting the sugars? I don’t really taste any off flavors, but the beer is indeed a bit drier than I might like. I think the overall malt character is pretty good, and the ester character is a bit more where I want it on this batch. However, the ESB yeast is a horrible flocculator. I noticed this last time I brewed it, too, and it’s a bit on the ridiculous side, especially for a beer that I think should be drunk more fresh than not. For any future use, I would definitely cold crash and throw in gelatin right at the start, or else try a different yeast strain. I do think the overall package would be better, too, with going back to the original malt bill.
  • Overall
    • 5/10

Beer Tasting: Old Speckled Hen Clone

After a month of keg conditioning, it’s time to do a taste test of my Old Speckled Hen clone attempt!

Old Speckled Hen Clone

  • Basics
    • Starting gravity = 1.055; final gravity = 1.011; abv = 5.8%; estimated IBU = 37
  • Appearance
    • The beer is a rich amber color with orangish hints; a modest bit of chill haze. Head is low, creamy and ivory-colored; fairly persistent.
  • Aroma
    • Light caramel notes, with a bit of maltiness at the core.
  • Flavor
    • Lightly malty, with a lingering bitterness on the finish. Very hop-centered. Unfortunately, I think the bitterness overrides the maltiness more than I like. This becomes a better beer as it warms up a bit, though.
  • Mouthfeel
    • In the mouth, the carbonation has an almost creamy effect that is quite nice. The overall body, though, is moderately thin and a bit thinner than I prefer in this type of beer.
  • Would I brew this again?
    • In it current incarnation, probably not. The aroma is delightful, but the bitterness:body ratio is just a too high for my preference. I attribute this primarily to the fairly low mash temperature called for in the recipe, as well as use of the highly attenuative Nottingham yeast strain. If I were to do this again, I would mash higher (maybe 156°), use a different yeast strain (perhaps WLP002), and cut back the bittering addition just a touch. As it is, the current iteration just doesn’t hit the round, malty notes that the original OSH does.
  • Overall rating
    • 4/10
Note (19 July 2015): After a few more weeks in the keg, this is a much better beer. The bitterness has rounded out quite a bit, and more balanced relative to the maltiness. So, I would up it to 6/10; brew again, with modifications to the mash temperature and a longer conditioning time (probably 6 or 7 weeks).

Brewing Update: Old Speckled Hen Clone and Red Oak Ale

Red Oak Ale sample

Tonight I transferred the Old Speckled Hen Clone and the Red Oak Ale (right) out of their respective primary fermenters and into their kegs. Visible fermentation had long since ceased for both.

Old Speckled Hen Clone
This beer had been in the primary fermenter for 10 days, with a reasonably vigorous fermentation. The Nottingham dry ale yeast was a little slow to start relative to the liquid yeasts I’ve been using lately, and didn’t display signs of active fermentation until nearly 24 hours after pitching.

This beer had fermented down to 1.011, and is still a little hazy. I’m expecting that should settle out as the beer chills. The beer has a nice toffee color, and was a little more bitter than I expected. I think it is mainly because I had memories of a much more malt-forward beer; I expect this will come back to the fore as the beer conditions and the yeast continues to drop out. The distinct hops flavor is also probably due to the “spicier” English hops (where I usually have been using American hops in my other beers–I had forgotten how big the difference was!). Starting gravity was 1.055, which works out to 5.8% abv.

The kegged beer (~4.5 gallons) went directly into the keezer, where it is force carbonating under 13.5 psi at 42°.

Red Oak Ale
This beer showed vigorous fermentation within 9 hours of pitching the yeast. I agitated the beer a bit after 3 days (and once or twice more after that), following notes from yeast reviewers that the WLP041 strain tended to slow or stall out if left alone. I figured this was a good idea given the relatively high starting gravity, too (1.070).

The beer had fermented down to 1.015 over the past 18 days, with a gorgeously clear burn umber color (see above picture). This works out to 7.3% abv, one of the “bigger” beers I’ve done in some time. So far, I’m pretty happy with how it is turning out.

Before sealing up the keg, I added a mesh bag with 2 oz. of Willamette hops pellets for dry hopping. They’ll stay in for ~14 days (or maybe even permanently). Tomorrow, I’ll add 2 oz. of French oak chips (medium toast), boiled in water and contained in a mesh sack. Those will stay in for just a week before being pulled. I’m leaving the keg at room temperature for at least the next week.

Old Speckled Hen Clone

Time for another new recipe. One of my favorite English beers readily available in the USA is Old Speckled Hen, an ale that falls somewhere in the English Pale Ale / Extra Special Bitter style. A quick internet search turned up this recipe at BIABrewer.info (also available on the BeerSmith recipe cloud). BIABrewer user hashie posted the recipe, so it has their name at the helm. The original recipe was developed for the brew-in-a-bag technique, so I had to modify the grain bill slightly for my own batch sparge setup.

Hashie’s Old Speckled Hen
  • 8.25 lbs. Maris Otter pale malt
  • 1 lb. 120° crystal malt
  • 0.90 oz. U.S. Northern Brewer hops pellets (9.9% alpha, 4.6% beta), 60 minute boil
  • 0.50 oz. U.K. Goldings (4.8% alpha), 15 minute boil
  • 0.5 oz. U.K. Goldings (4.8% alpha), 5 minute boil
  • 0.75 lb. Lyle’s golden syrup, 5 minute boil
  • 1 tsp. Irish moss, 10 minute boil
  • 1 pkg. Nottingham yeast (Danstar)
  • I mashed in with 3 gallons of water at 164°, hitting 151.4° for the mash start. The mash temperature was at 148.5° after 35 minutes and 146° after 60 minutes. 
  • I added 1.3 gallons of water at 180°, which raised the mash bed to 151°. I let this sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected 2.75 gallons of wort.
  • Next, I added 3.25 gallons of water at 185°, which raised the mash bed temperature to 168°. I let this sit for 10 minutes, vorlaufed, and collected the rest of the wort.
  • In total, I collected 6.2 gallons of wort with a gravity of 1.043. This works out to ~69% efficiency. It’s a little less than my best brews (~75%), so I wonder if that’s because I didn’t use 5.2 pH stabilizer on this batch.
  • I brought the wort to a boil and added the Northern Brewer hops.
  • After 45 minutes, I added the first dose of Goldings. After 50 minutes, I added the Irish moss. After 55 minutes, I added the second dose of Goldings and the golden syrup. The syrup has a really nice toffee note to it–I am interested to see how that will translate into the overall beer.
  • After 60 minutes, I turned off the flame and chilled the wort down to ~78°.
  • I transferred ~4.9 gallons of wort into the fermenter, with a starting gravity of 1.055.
  • After pitching the yeast, I sealed everything up and put it in the fermentation chamber. Temperature is set for 66°.