Amsterdam 1870 AK Bitter, 2020 Edition

The third annual brewing of 1870 AK Bitter, from Toronto’s Amsterdam Brewery, is being released this week. It’s part of the limited edition Adventure Brews series. Available in cans at Amsterdam’s two retail shops: at main brewery on Esander Street, Leaside, and at Barrel House downtown, 245 Queen’s Quay West.

It can also be ordered for delivery, at this site. It’s not yet listed under Adventure Brews but will be shortly.

I’ve discussed the genesis and first two brews in depth earlier. It’s a recreation of an 1870 English recipe using all-English malt, hops, and yeast. I collaborated with Amsterdam on each brew. Each year we tweak the approach a bit. See bottom-right corner, para. 4991, for the original recipe by “Aroma” (the brewer’s pseudonym).

This year, we used Paul’s Maris Otter malt, a classic pale ale variety, and equal quantities of Minstrel and Ernest leaf hops. The hops were added in stages, from start of boil through to whirlpool, with no dry-hopping this year. There is no crystal malt as the recipe called for pale malt only, a practice of the time.

We felt the hops conferred a largely English character but perhaps with some New World impact, particularly from the Ernest. The latter was an early, open pollination cross by famed UK hop breeder Ernest Salmon – hence its name. Salmon worked at Wye crossing English varieties with a wild hop from Manitoba intended to confer hardiness, especially. Brewers Gold and Bullion are other well-known hops he evolved using this approach.

Trialled finally in the 1950s Ernest was felt at the time too assertive for standard English beer but combined (at any rate) with the Minstrel, I find it confers substantial English character.

Minstrel is an own-brand of Charles Faram, the well-known UK hops supplier. The exact make-up is not revealed but to my mind it has similarities to Golding, hence a clean herbal taste with notes of lemon and tea.

We used two yeasts blended for us by Escarpment yeast, two English strains. The idea was to hark back to a time when multi-strain yeasts were common in the brewhouse. No Brettanomyces though, we didn’t want the wild yeast tang, as AK was a beer – essentially a lower gravity IPA – meant for relatively quick draught, and the Brett would need more time to manifest.

We got 40 IBUs, 4.9% ABV, with good, bready malt sweetness, I think 1012 FG. The flavour is very full: honeyed, herbal, tangy, orange-spice. No guava, grapefruit, or “dank” notes as often characterise craft American IPA/pale ale. A touch “bramble” in the finish, maybe.

We tried to hew as closely as possible to the temperature and other requirements of the recipe, although we didn’t mash as long – one hour, as for earlier recipes. We boiled about an hour and quarter. We didn’t use wood barrels – maybe some day, if I can get Memel oak. Of course the modern brewhouse must differ in many respects from the 1870s, but I think we got close to the “Spirit of 1870”.

This year, without the possibility to sell any draft much less cask-conditioned, it’s all been canned. Hence the beer was centrifuged and this year it’s pouring quite clear. But I’ve had few beers, from any source recently, that has as much flavour.

A classic English pale ale – buy some, I’m sure you will like it!




5 thoughts on “Amsterdam 1870 AK Bitter, 2020 Edition”

    • Thanks Gary, oh yes they are selling it online for delivery. It will be added shortly to the Adventure Series part of the site I linked (see my opening para for link).


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