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I was brewing an English mild with an estimated IBU of 16. Followed the recipe exactly (I can post if needed). Added to the carboy and used a filter funnel to make sure the hops didn't make it into the carboy because in the past I didn't do this and had this same issue.

Fermentation went well and my gravites are exactly what the recipe showed. But when I went to bottle and check for FG I also sampled and it's EXTREMELY bitter. Any ideas why this might have happened so I can avoid this in the future?

  • Was this an extract or all-grain batch? If all-grain why style of mash/lauter did you use? What hops did you use, the alpha acid level? Did you use tap water? Do you know what your tap water's composition is with regard to Cl- and SO4- and Ca++ and Mg++?? Please post the recipe... – brewchez Oct 24 '16 at 10:32
  • comment on the comment re: mash tun style...why would that matter? – Denny Conn Oct 24 '16 at 16:02
  • All grain recipe. – Brandon Parker Oct 24 '16 at 23:20
  • Sorry for the accidental post. All grain recipe found at themadfermentationist.com/2014/06/…. Sterling hops because my supply store was out of what I needed and they said this was a good replacement. I used tap water from Chicago and have no idea the chemistry. I use a 10-gallon SS brewtech brew kettle. – Brandon Parker Oct 24 '16 at 23:21
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    The "hop-swap" probably explains it. See edit below – barking.pete Oct 25 '16 at 10:19
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While beers can be very bitter to taste soon after fermentation they will mellow with age and become less bitter. I made an insanely bitter DIPA some time back and thought I had made a really bad mistake in brewing it. After 8 months it was considered one of my finest brews by friends who sampled it. So beers that are initially very bitter, perhaps too bitter, will become very drinkable with time. Modern, commercial beers are brewed to be consumed quickly but a well conditioned ale is a thing of beauty! It takes time. Few brew recipes mention the point and many drinkers seem to think it a crime to drink beer more than 6 months old. Wine drinkers, on the other hand....

If however the brewer thinks the beer too bitter then the hop bill must be adjusted to suit.And that adjustment must be as the ingredients change (eg harvest to harvest or batch to batch). If one is lucky to have 25Kg sack of hops in the freezer then it should be simple enough to run a few brews and get the required taste repeatably. But with different supplies or suppliers the bitterness/taste can "wander" around the desired point.

Were the hops used higher in AA than those used by other brewers? Were the hops fresher or older as age can affect the bitterness greatly? And indeed as others point out, liquor water higher in sulphates will give the beer that famous "Burton tang" accentuating the bitterness? Was any late or dry hoping used?

Maybe posting the formula/recipe and method would give and insight.

EDIT: I note that Saaz hops were swapped for sterling. That is the probable cause of the excess bitterness. Saaz are a "noble hop" with low Alpha acids (eg 2%). whereas Sterling are usually quoted as higher AA - eg 5%-6% Alpha acid. So these are not directly interchangeable, or not without pro-rata adjustment in quantity. I imagine half the amount of hop used would have produced more equal results to Saaz.

But as I said before - this hoppy bitter beer is entirely within the bounds of possibility. Bottle and leave to condition for a month or two (or longer). You will probably wonder why you even questioned its quality!

  • No I just hopped at 50 minutes and filtered them out during the transfer to the carboy. The recipe can be found here themadfermentationist.com/2014/06/… I just didn't do the tea part of this. – Brandon Parker Oct 24 '16 at 23:22
  • Thanks. I need to work with my homebrew supplier because they never have what I order and they've been blindly swapping out ingredients because they're "a good switch match" without knowing what I am even brewing. Hops and yeast are always what I have to get swapped constantly. – Brandon Parker Oct 25 '16 at 19:46
  • I agree with giving it time to condition. Brewing an IPA a few months back I had the same problem when sampling the beer just after fermentation - overwhelming bitterness. After about 5 weeks of conditioning it mellowed out dramatically, and was really very drinkable. – Tim Oct 27 '16 at 0:44
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As indicated in the other answer, your primary culprit is probably the hops. Alternately, if you don't know your water chemistry makeup, you could be experiencing excess sulfate - your sulfate-to-chloride ratio has a very heavy effect on the perception of your hops and malt.

I strongly advise reading John Palmer's article about brewing water, or even better, buying the book. If you don't have a water chemistry setup, homebrewtalk has a lot of water profiles that people have posted - yours might be one of them.

And finally, you can always send a water sample to Ward Labs to have it analyzed. With a good knowledge of your water chem, you should be able to isolate any other problems you have with taste and Ph.

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I agree with the other answers. The target AA was 2.7% I've seen Czech saaz range up to 6%. If you still have the package you can check.

Also keep in mind that good balance residual sweetness. If you're over attenuated, the bitter will be perceived more.

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