[Your Hop] Special Bitter Recipe

I never tire of drinking bitters and ales and always enjoy brewing different versions of them.

This special bitter recipe was built around Mapuche hops, but you could easily substitute another to make it your own.

special bitter recipe

Mapuche stood out from a series of single hop pale ales that I brewed recently. I’d not heard of it before but was intrigued.

The smooth bitterness and strong citrus marmalade flavour were distinctive and tasty.

Keen to explore the taste further, I developed a recipe I hoped would bring out the best in it.

Although I used Mapuche, the recipe could be brewed with other types of hop to give subtle twists on the same theme.

Developing The Recipe

If you’re building a recipe to suit a particular hop, you first need to choose a type of beer.

For Mapuche, special bitter seemed a great choice. I expected the malt flavours to complement the hops well.

Marmalade on toast is a great combination, which I thought would translate to beer. A little crystal malt could replicate the granary crust.

When by chance I read this old Fullers OBE recipe on Shut Up About Barclay Perkins I felt I’d made the right choice.

That is also a single hop recipe, and the tasting notes mention orange.

I took the rough proportions of the Fullers recipe (in terms of malt to adjuncts) and merged it with my session bitter recipe which I’ve used a couple of times before.

Looking for something more easy drinking than the strong Fullers ale, but with a little more oomph than the regular bitter, I settled on a starting gravity of 1.049.

I maintained the same hop additions that I used for the single hop experiment because they gave good balance between bitterness, flavour and aroma. This is what attracted me to Mapuche in the first place.

But because it has a strong, potentially overpowering flavour I lowered the bitterness units and hop additions.

Tasting The Beer

The beer as stands is balanced, with a good hop flavour and mild bitterness.

If you like bitter beers, or are using a different hop, I’d recommend increasing the amount.

It turned out very well. The subtle hop and malt flavours make it enjoyable to drink, and moreish.

I’m sure I’ll brew another variation soon.

Single Hop Special Bitter Recipe

Recipe Volume
20 litres

81% Pale ale malt: 4 kg
8% Crystal 60L Malt: 400g
7% Flaked maize: 320g
4% Brown sugar: 200g
(Original Gravity:1.049)

Mash Time
90 mins

Mash Target Temperature

Mapuche (6.9%): 22g FWH
Mapuche (6.9%): 22g for 20 mins
Mapuche (6.9%): 16g at flame out
(24 IBUs)

Danstar Nottingham

Original Gravity

Assumes 70% efficiency


I brewed with the brew in a bag method, but there’s no reason why it won’t work with full all grain.

The mash is a straightforward single infusion at 65°C.

To achieve a smooth bitterness I used first wort hopping (FWH), instead of the 60 minute bittering addition that’s in most beer recipes.

With FWH you add hops to the wort as it leaves the mash, before boiling. It’s said to create a more pleasant bitterness, and that’s borne out by my experience with it so far.

For my brew in a bag version, I remove the brew bag, drop in the hops and leave for fifteen minutes.

The heat’s turned on, the wort comes to the boil and the other hops are added as per the schedule.


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  1. Stuart

    Hi John,

    Any chance you could knock this up on Beersmith recipes?



    • John

      Hi Stuart,

      I don’t use Beersmith, but as far as I know this beer xml file I exported from BrewTarget should work. I’d be interested to know if it does.

      Hope that helps anyway,


  2. Tristan

    Hi John,

    I’m a complete novice to homebrew, having just finished bottling my first beer kit batch (about 1 week to go until it’s ready for drinking!!).

    I love your blog and would like to try out some of the recipes you’ve written. Could you just clarify, when you mention ‘recipe volume’, is this the pre-mash volume (for BIAB), or the final expected yield that the recipe should make? If so, how much water should I be adding to start the brew when I’m mashing my malts?



    • John

      Hi Tristan,

      Thanks for the comment.

      It’s the final expected beer yield, more or less.

      You need to allow for water you’ll lose during brew day (to evaporation, hops and grain waste, spillage, etc) and on bottling day. How much you lose will depend on several factors, but as a rule of thumb you could use about 30% more water than you want to end up with. The percentage will be lower if you’re brewing large batches.

      If you get into it, try to keep a note of how much water you start with and how much beer you get. You’ll soon get a feel for how your setup works and will be able to judge pretty well how much water you need.

      Hope that helps and enjoy your first batch!