The very first thing you notice after you inspect the color and head of the English Bitter
and take a deep inhale, and finally that long gulp, is that it’s not really bitter at all, in fact,
it’s a fairly mellow ale when compared to standard Pale Ales, and especially IPAs.
The Bitter was so named in Jolly Old England to set it apart from the Mild or Small ales
of the 1830's. Today, the Bitter Ale is a pleasant, quaffable session ale. Golden to amber
in color, fairly well balanced aroma and flavor profiles. The alcohol by volume (ABV)
ranges from 3.7% ABV (any lower and it falls more into the Small Beer style) to around
5% ABV) The Extra Bitter Style ranges from around 5% ABV to 6.2% ABV.
The Bitter style, in my humble opinion is one of the very best ales to serve as a Cask-
conditioned style. Because the Bitter is a subtle and traditional ale style, it needs to be
brewed to close to exacting standards. The aroma and flavor profiles don’t smack you
over the head, instead you have the pleasure of seeking them out and finding them.
From the UK – The land of origin
Bluebird Bitter – Coniston Brewing Company – Coniston, Cumbria, England – 4.2% ABV
Served in a standard pint glass.
This bottle conditioned Bitter pours a nice amber/dull copper with a bubbly white head
that fades to a thin rim. The aroma is an equal balance of fruity, citrusy hops and malt.
The lightly sweet biscuity malt melds with fruit flavors and a tea-like bitterness. A mild
taste of limes can be detected in the background. This mild bitter provides a nice, easy
contrast from the big winter brews I've been enjoying lately. This brew will always be
welcome in my fridge.
Jeffery Hudson Bitter – Oakham Brewery – Peterborough, UK. – 3.8% ABV
On Cask at NERAX
It pours a pale straw gold color with a larger than normal (for a cask) white head.
It has a grassy hay-like aroma, with a mild resinous smell.
A dry malty flavor emerges, as does a solid oaky taste.
A tea-like flavor is tinged with a hint of peppery spice and just a whisper of apple peel.
It finishes dry and clean.
Fuller’s ESB (Extra Special Bitter) – Fuller Smith & Turner – Chiswick, London, England
Had this on tap in London…and wherever else I find myself.
It pours a beautiful amberish teak in color with a rich full malty body and light wood
notes. Wonderful sweet malt, fresh hop and fruity aroma. The full of complex blend
of English hops provide ample bitterness and a hint mellow apples. Very balanced,
rich and smooth. A slight alcohol fume appears in an out to remind you of its near
6% potency. Nice white head is worth a picture. This is seriously professional ale that
improves in flavor throughout!
New England representation
Gritty McDuff’s – Portland, Maine – 5% ABV
On-tap in Portland, ME.
This brew is SO much better on-tap than the bottled version. They are like two
completely different beers.
It pours a tannish-amber with a fast-fading bubbly head and a fair amount of sticky
The aroma is almost completely grainy malt with a light smell of tea and floral hop.
The malt is biscuity and a bit raw and grainy tasting, with just a touch of sweetness.
The hops have a sharp and edgy citrus bite, with a mild tea-like taste and faint metallic
tang. It begins to sweeten a bit towards the end, but all in all, it has a fairly dry finish.
Amherst ESB – Amherst Brewing – Amherst, Mass. 5.3% ABV
My son, Ben took me and his two younger brothers (they had the root beer) to this nice
college town Brew Pub on his 21st Birthday a few back (I paid).
Nice ESB! Rusty Amber with a foamy off white head and nice trails of lace. Pleasant
hop and sweet malty aroma. Medium malty body and plenty of metallic and citrusy
hops. Well rounded and balanced. Again, it’s hard to judge "In the Moment" when my
wonderful sons are present. But, I think it's a pretty good beer.
A pint of Bitter in a cozy pub is the perfect remedy to brighten up a dreary day, or even if
it's sunny and bright, a Bitter makes it better.
Quote: "There are only two acceptable times of day to enjoy beer...day time and night
time" - Beer Researcher