Recent brewday: 'Locked Down and Bitter ESB'


My friend Tom and I were recently bemoaning the fact pubs are still shut for this third, interminable lock-down, and that despite the fact a lot of really good canned beer is available, we would actually quite like a decent pint of British ale.

So, I offered to brew some for us to share. I’ve been homebrewing a few years now, and have occasionally done one for a party, but this is the first time I’ve brewed a batch to split with a friend.

When the first lockdown started to lift back in June 2020, I walked down to the Southey Brewery in Penge, not far from where I live in SE London. They are situated in an alley that is covered in street art - could Penge be the new Shoreditch? On that occasion I had a pint of their best better, served on draft with a handpump: it was some kind of nectar. Several were had.

This is just the kind of experience I wanted to relive for my and Tom’s sake. A nice easy-drinking English bitter. Fortunately I have a decent collection of homebrewing books, and chose to base our emergency brew on one from “CAMRA’s Essential Home Brewing” (written by Andy Parker, of Elusive Brewing, and once a member of LAB where I met him a few times).

I picked a recipe where I could re-use the grist but decide on my choice of hops. Since I’ve had a bumper harvest of Fuggle hops in my back garden the last few years, and I recently acquired a vacuum packer, making it predominantly Fuggle seemed a good plan. With home-grown hops you have little idea of the alpha acid content, so I decided to add a bittering charge of Target that was in my freezer from an earlier brew.

This then is the recipe:


Original / Final Gravity ABV IBU Colour
1.049 / 1.011 5.1% 34 28 EBC


Description Colour Amount % bill Cost
Maris Otter 5 EBC 5.0kg 94% £10.00
Crystal 400 200 EBC 245g 4.6% £0.50
Wheat 3 EBC 180g 3.4% £0.36
Crystal 200 100 EBC 80g 4.6% £0.50
Crystal 400 200 EBC 245g 1.5% £0.16
Chocolate 1000 EBC 25g 0.5% £0.04


Description Type Amount Time % AA Cost
Target T90 pellet 12g 90min 11.0 £0.47
Fuggle Whole leaf 25g 60min ? nil
Fuggle Whole leaf 25g 10min ? nil
Fuggle Whole leaf 20g 5min ? nil
Fuggle Whole leaf 40g +5min <80C steep ? nil


Description Type Amount Cost
Safale S-04 dry 2x pkt £5.00

The brewday itself was fairly uneventful. Nothing went wrong! This is not always the case. But on this occasion the only real deviation from plan was that I overshot the target pre-boil gravity, so the OG going into the fermenter was 1.056 rather than 1.051 as planned. This gives the brew a free upgrade from Best Bitter to ESB! I hope it will be balanced, as I didn’t adjust the hopping rates. There seemed no point given that I don’t know the %AA content of my homegrown Fuggle.

The next post will go into the specifics of the brew, and will include plenty of pictures!