A visit to 6˚North in Edinburgh a few weeks ago turned up a beer I’ve been looking for since it was mentioned in a Facebook post last year: De Ranke XX Bitter. It was like finding the Holy Grail and there it was on tap along with two other De Ranke beers: Guldenberg and their Hop Harvest 2015.
All this reminded me of my attempt to emulate the De Ranke XX with only a couple of details to go on.
Finding it in the pub inspired me to make it again, having tasted the real thing. Here’s a post from then. The only difference looking at the website now, seems to be that De Ranke brew with Hallertauer Mittelfrüh rather than the Hersbrucker I used.
It’s bubbling away nicely in the shed, with heaters on and wrapped in insulation but here’s the story from when I first made it in September 2015.
It started with a post on Facebook by the magazine my brother Alan works for in Belgium, Belgian Beer and Food about De Ranke and their XX Bitter. In two sentences, the post said enough to make me think that that was a beer I would like to try.
It looked gorgeous.
I tried a few of the beer shops in the Edinburgh to track down a bottle to taste it but it wasn’t to be found so I decided I’d have to make my own. There was enough information there for the basic characteristics ABV and IBU and I decided that the high level of bitterness from the Brewer’s Gold would need lots of the fruity, floral characteristics of the Hallertau Hersbrucker for balance. So, I starting plugging numbers into Beer Alchemy, my favourite brewing software to work out how much malt and hops would be needed to make a 6.5% beer with the right level of bitterness.
Yeast was more difficult. You get no indication of the yeasts that brewers use. Often they use their own to get something unique so for me it was a case of looking at what was available online and picking something that I thought would be complementary. The only clue was that De Ranke’s aim was to create something along the lines of the big hoppy American IPAs but I decided against an IPA yeast and opted instead for a Belgian Ale Yeast by Mangrove Jack which offered “spicy, fruity and peppery notes”. Sounded promising – a bit of spice to go with the fruit and bitterness.
I have to say it’s turned out extremely well. Hersbrucker is the classic lager hop and there’s so much of it in this beer – 300g added to a 60 litre batch just as the heat is turned off – that it’s like lager with the flavour turned right up. I think the yeast contributes something of a wheat beer taste to it. It might be nothing like De Ranke’s XX and actually I hope it is nothing like it because that means I can claim it as my own. Inspired by a beer I’ve never tasted.
One to make again and I did, although it turned out a little stronger this time.