Head to head ESB tasting

So while I have been neglecting this blog lately, I have not been neglecting the brewing. I have recently completed several batches, beginning with my first all grain, the Mild. From that I had an ESB called Ypres ESB because it used Belgian and English ingredients (and made by a Canadian), an Old English Ale, a Belgian Dubbel, and a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, or Dark Strong Ale, or something.

Today I’m brewing an IPA. I’m doing some experimenting, so, encouraged by my local brewpub’s brewmaster, I’m going to brew and re-brew the same batch a few times, making a bunch of different tweaks. This way I’ll be able to see the effects of different aspects of my brewing methods, and my brewing ingredients. I’ll report on that later.

But for today, I want to do something a little different, also in the learning vein. I am gong to do a little taste test of the two ESBs I’ve made. The Ypres and the one that I did a while ago using a cheater’s version of mashing (small cooler, poured wort through a strainer). I’m doing this because that earlier ESB, while using really hackneyed process, tastes better than the properly made Ypres. Both, however, have wartime names, with the earlier one being The Miracle at Dunkirk, also because of the Belgian and English ingredients (although Dunkirk, I believe, is in France).

Here are the recipes.

Miracle at Dunkirk (3 gallons)

  • 4Lb Cdn 2-row
  • 4 oz Belgian Special B
  • 4 oz Belgian Biscuit
  • 2 oz British Amber
  • 1/3 oz N Brewer Hops (60 min)
  • 1/4 oz each Fuggles and East Kent Goldings hops (20 min)
  • 1/4 oz each Fuggles and EKG at 1 min

Ypres: for 5 gal

  • 5 Lb maris otter
  • 3 lb Cdn 2-row
  • 8 oz Aromatic
  • 4 oz 15L Crystal
  • 4 oz 120 L Crystal
  • 1 oz N Brewer hops (60min)
  • 1/2 oz Fuggles (15 min)
  • 1/2 oz Fuggles (1min)

Visual: Both are very good looking, coppery beers.  The Ypres is cloudier, but the carbonation is far nicer.  Tight bubbles, doesn’t stick much to the glass.  The MaD is crystal clear, but with very little carbonation.  I know that I undercarbonated this batch, so consequently there are large bubbles sticking to the nucleation sites on the glass.


Ypres. A little alcoholic, but not much else.  On deep inhalations I get some pine and floral.

MaD: Nothing.  I get nothing in the nose, probably because the carbonation is non existent. I stir with my finger and get maybe a tiny tiny tiny bit of floral hoppiness.

Mouth feel

Ypres.  Is chewy, as one would expect of a beer that was mashed higher (154F).  However, it is lacking something in the flavour dept.  A little, I dunno, plasticky.  When I re-read this recipe I was surprised at how little hops I had used in this batch, given that it is a full 5 Gal.

MaD.  A little thin.  Watery as my sister so diplomatically described my mild.  A little tingle from the carbonation which would be nice were it more prominent.


Ypres. I noted plastic in the mouth feel bit.  But there is also some dryness, slightly bitter and tiny tiny bit of hops.  It’s actually not terrible once you get past the plastic.

MaD  There is a much more tannic character to this, probably because of the way I rinsed the grains.  I don’t know, though, it shouldn’t have washed too much tannin out.  I can’t recall if I rinsed with boiling water (which would pull lots of tannins from the husks) or what.


MoD.  By the time I got to the part about the finish, i couldn’t taste anything.  Rinsed with water, and there is a mild tartness, but not much else.

Ypres: More flavour here, and finishes dry and a little tart, more bitter than in the taste, actually.  Dries right out on the palate.

Thus ends my lame tasting session.  As you may be able to tell, my palate sucks.  Later I’ll try them again, chilled in the fridge, and we’ll see if I pull more flavour out of them (doubtful, since the cooler temps will dull some flavours. I guess that could mean the plastic goes away…)

*sigh* This is all a work in progress.  I have to pay more attention to my flavouring and also my process.  But I need to learn more about water chemistry, because it could be that the water here is not so great for what I’m doing.  Sounds like I need more toys (digital pH meter?).



About danmalleck

Medical historian and jack-of-all-trades curmudgeon. I tend to ramble about politics, social incivility, and our self-centred culture more interested in buying the next cool ringtone or LED TV than actively engaging in the sorts of discussions and issues that matter. The more opportunity we have to buy more stuff, the less concern there is, it seems, in politics, social justice and let's face it, basic human decency, unless those things actually can save us money or get us more things to show how awesome we are through displaying our material wealth. And I like to brew beer, make cheese, and put food in jars.
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