tasting notes: Boat Bitter

Boat Bitter

We met the deadline for Chip’s block party and have also imbibed it in a boat. At the time of this writing it is coming up on 8 weeks old and my half of the batch is down to its last couple pints. Although it drank pretty well at under two weeks, I’ll allow as how it looked prettier about a week later, once the finings really took hold and the chill haze resolved. Let’s taste the Boat Bitter before it’s gone:

The nose is really well-integrated, if I do say so myself (and I did): the Maris Otter, First Gold, and yeast esters all overlay nicely, the elements blurred at the edges but individualized in the middle. It’s warm fresh bread with butter and honey, white peaches, a bit haylike, yeast-doughy, a very typically English ale-like toffee background note. If you grew up in the Driftless Area, the presence of such a high level of brewing salts in the water would remind you of the smell of wet limestone. The malt is up front with that bread and honey mixed with a pungent but not overpowering herbal/dried apricot First Gold flavor, then an outsized smack of hop bitterness chases it out. Lots of sweet-suggesting aromas, but ultimately bitter and dry. Minerally and limestoney finish with a hoppy curtain call at the very end.

I saved the yeast and still have lots of First Gold; as soon as I re-up on the Maris Otter I plan to brew an English IPA using a scaled-up version of this recipe, with the same grist percentages and similar BU:GU, but with more late- and dry-hopping. One of the next two batches. Stay tuned.

Finally, the promised video documentation of the brew day, courtesy of Chop & Brew: blam.

35 thoughts on “tasting notes: Boat Bitter

  1. Love this! I’m starting to lean toward more “session strength” ales in the kegerator lately and saving the higher alcohol items for bottling. eg, i have a 2.9% saison in there right now with a really low alc nut brown for quaffing. But now i’ve been debating doing another 2-3% saison with brett, just to give it some more character and see what happens…
    What are some other ideas for great sessionable beers?

    • I love table saisons and standard bitters – hard to top the flavor to gravity quotient of those beers, IMO. The everyday iterations of some Euro lager styles (Pils, Helles, Dunkel, and cousins) clock in closer to 4% abv than their export counterparts, too.

      • Great idea-er! I’d love to try a 4%-ish ABV Dunkel. Am I correct in supposing that “smaller” lagers also clean up a little faster than normal abv brews?

  2. I’d love to see a Cormac McCarthy inspired beer in your (our) future. Several of his titles would make excellent beer names: “Blood Meridian,” “Outer Dark,” “Orchard Keeper,” “Sunset Limited.” There may be others. I may not wait for you on this one. Keep up the good work!

  3. Would you say that 1026 is more minerally than 1099? I’ve never used 1026, but i do like the mineral profile i get from say 1469. Also like i said somewhere else on here, i’m loving this stuff…and i’m also glad i grabbed more First Gold than i needed! This may replace EKG is my lineup for Englsih styles

    • I wouldn’t go as far as replacing EKGs with First Gold, but First Gold is a mighty fine hop that is very under-appreciated. As an aroma hop I think it does wonders in darker beers.

    • Would you say that 1026 is more minerally than 1099?

      Maybe a bit? I think in this beer I’m getting that mainly from the gypsum and epsom salts.

  4. After watching the extra footage, i found and tasted a Timothy Taylors Landlord at a craft beer bar. It was incredible. Inspired me to start making more, and refining the flavours of British Pale Ales, an underrated beer style during the reign of the APA. Thanks MD!

  5. I am planning on brewing this for a friends wedding coming up, seems perfect for a late Summer wedding where folks will be imbibing for long periods. No need for the heavy hitters. If my LHBS doesn’t have First Gold can you suggest a replacement?


    • Yep – I’d personally opt for Northdown, Challenger, or Boadicea for dual-purpose UK hops with a similar alpha content and road-less-traveled factor. Good old East Kent Goldings would be great too, just adjust the additions to compensate for the lower aa%.

  6. Hey, I want to brew this coming up soon. I can’t remember if you posted the recipe somewhere or not? I’ll rewatch the episode before I brew for the other tips that you give about brewing low alc. beers.

  7. Mr. Dawson
    It is surprising to me that this was the first recipe of yours I have tried over the years. I brewed this last week and plan to bottle this Friday. I am as giddy as a (insert inappropriate comparison here), to sample this before bottling. I used the 1099 and loved the smells coming from the airlock. I’m sure I’ll not be disappointed (after all it’s still homebrew). I raise my glass to you and Chip. Thank you for your service.
    Citizen Rob.

  8. Looking forward to this one! Last Sunday I *mostly* replicated your recipe here (a tad bigger with OG=1.039 and 4 oz of 120L) and am excited to to see what the First Gold will do. Best part is that the primary was DONE in ❤ days and should have it fined and in a serving keg by this coming Sunday!

    Session beers have always been few and far between and I always try to keep a 3% dark mild on tap–it's always a welcome tipple and it stores really well.

    I (half) joke with my wife that I brew because I like beer, not booze. Thanks for the added inspiration!

      • Really diggin’ this one. I used Brit Ale II and ambient was a constant 68F–nice quick clean ferment (pitched ~140 billion cells) and got to about 74% attenuation (could have made 75% but I got impatient waiting for the last point to bubble off …but it’s not too sweet…promise ;). Still flat and turbid but hard to resist drinking (even though I’m probably swilling swim bladder too). Also, I FWH-ed this one and there’s nice faint, hoppy background flavor that carries through the finish.

  9. I use 004/1084 on my “Transmetropolitan Bitter”. I like the unique character Irish yeast lends to this style as well as thumbing my nose to Jolly Old.

  10. Thanks for the recipe, Dawson! I brewed it recently after seeing the Chop & Brew episode.

    I substituted with Fawcett’s Floor Malted Maris Otter and Challenger due to local availability (Australia). My OG was 1.039 and FG was 1.010.

    The depth of flavour belies it’s modest gravity, for sure. The drinkability is a bit of a problem, though… I can’t leave it alone!

  11. I want to give my thanks aswell for this recipe! Brewed this a couple of days after the episode was aired. Had to substitute with Maris Otter, EKG and WLP007. I think I may have mashed it a bit to low, and I think I won’t use EKG next time. The EKG gives a strange flavor that reminds me a bit of “faint herbal oxidation”

    But I will brew this beer again soon with some modifications. 🙂

  12. Bro. Seriously love this beer. Just made it for the 3Rd time using wyeast neobrit. Good stuff, thinking I might start upping flavor additions of first gold in this.

  13. Mr. Dawson,

    I’m revisiting this post because I’m contemplating brewing a session ale to celebrate the arrival of astronomical spring in just a few weeks.

    One thing that stood out for me in Chip’s video was your smooth, rolling boil. If my wort was anywhere near that close to the top of the kettle during the boil, I’d be standing over it with a spray bottle in one hand and the gas regulator in the other. That would leave me without a hand to pull out my hair.

    I believe I brew highly drinkable beers, but I’ve always had issues when it comes to controlling the boil. Guessing my inferior equipment is the culprit and I need to convince my wife that a Blichmann burner is a necessity. 🙂


  14. Haven’t seen a new post on here in a while, but on the off chance you’ll see this again, Boat Bitter has become a house favorite for me. I try to stay as close to the recipe as possible, (exceptions being Crisp floor malted Maris Otter instead of Warminster, whatever crystal malt I have on hand, slightly more generous late hop additions, and I use the recommended substitute of Wyeast 1099.) So much depth for such a relatively small beer. Would love to see some new blog posts, cheers!

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