The Ordinary Bitter and How to Brew It

Ordinary Bitter

The name “Ordinary Bitter” sometimes surprises people because this beer is neither ordinary, nor is it bitter in the way you might expect. It is a low-gravity, session ale that is meant to be consumed a few pints at a time. There is generally a nice malt flavor, but it does not overwhelm the bitterness. The 2021 guidelines for this style of beer are below.

  • Original Gravity: 1.030 – 1.039
  • Final Gravity: 1.007 – 1.011
  • Alcohol by Volume: 3.2% – 3.8%
  • Bitterness: 25-35 IBU
  • Color (SRM): 8-14

Ordinary Bitter Ingredients

Malt

The Ordinary Bitter has a malt profile consisting of bready, biscuity, and light toasty flavors. These flavors are not to be dominating and are in more of a complimentary role. To get this, I would recommend using Maris Otter as the base. This will build up the rich, malty flavor without going overboard. I would have the Maris Otter be at least 80% of your grain bill. I also like to add a touch of victory malt to enhance the toastiness. Finally, for color, add a relatively light crystal malt. I would keep the crystal additions below 10% of the grain bill. Too much crystal malt will make the beer too cloying for the style. I use a medium crystal, right around 80L.

Hops

For the Ordinary Bitter, use a British hop, such as Fuggle or East Kent Goldings. I would add bittering, flavor, and aroma hops to this style. I like to use Fuggles as my bittering hop and East Kent Goldings as my flavor and aroma additions. Keep the total IBUs right around 30.

Yeast

For the Ordinary Bitter:

  • English Ale Yeast – WLP002 (White Labs)
  • British Ale Yeast – WLP005 (White Labs)
  • English Special Bitter -1768-PC (Wyeast)
  • British Ale – 1098 (Wyeast)

Water

Last but not least, the water. For all beers I brew, I use a reverse osmosis filtration system and build up my water profile from scratch. My water profile looked like this:

  • Calcium: 50 ppm
  • Sodium: 15 ppm
  • Sulfates: 110 ppm
  • Chloride: 50 ppm

Ordinary Bitter Recipe

The following is a 5-gallon batch of an Ordinary Bitter. The numbers for this beer are included below.

  • Original Gravity: 1.030
  • Final Gravity: 1.007 – 1.011
  • Alcohol by Volume: 3.8%
  • Bitterness: 29.1 IBU
  • Color (SRM): 9.9

Grain Bill

  • Maris Otter – 6 lbs (82.8%)
  • Medium Crystal 80L – 12 oz (10.3%)
  • Victory – 8 oz (6.9%)

Hops

  • 0.80 oz Fuggle at 60 minutes (13.7 IBUs)
  • 0.80 oz East Kent Goldings at 30 minutes (11.7 IBUs)
  • 1.00 oz East Kent Goldings at 5 minutes (3.8 IBUs)

Yeast

English Ale Yeast – WLP002

Mash

Add your salts and pH buffer if needed, and fill your mash tun to the required volume and temperature for your mash to drop to 152 degrees Fahrenheit. For me, it was 2.3 gallons at 163 degrees Fahrenheit. After 60 minutes, raise your mash temperature to 168 degrees for mash out. After mashing out, begin to sparge until you reach a pre-boil gravity of around 1.034. For me, it was 5.4 gallons.

Boil

Boil the wort for 90 minutes. Add the hops in as necessary. At 10 minutes, I added yeast nutrients and at 5 minutes I added whirlfloc tablets as my clarifying agent. Once the boil is complete, whirlpool the wort for 10 minutes and then let it wind down for 10 minutes.

Fermentation

Knock the wort out in your heat exchanger so that the pitching temperature is 64 degrees and then measure the gravity/pitch the yeast. My initial gravity was 1.039. Let the temperature free rise up to 67 degrees and hold through fermentation. Once you are within 5 specific gravity points from your target FG, let the temperature free rise up to 72 degrees. After 48 hours, cold crash to 33 degrees and hold for another 48 hours. Once your cold crash is complete, transfer it to the brite tank and carbonate it to 2 vols. After 3 days in the brite tank, keg it and enjoy!

If you decide to try this recipe, or another Ordinary Bitter recipe, feel free to send us a comment and let us know how it went! And if you want to see more recipes like this, sign up for our newsletter below to be notified when a new post is released. Cheers!

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