Today (Thursday the 21st) we'll be pouring our next Brewer's Choice beer, an English Bitter. The term bitter is often misleading to American drinkers. While a bitter American beer tends to have intense hop flavors and a bitterness that pushes the malt and yeasts characters to the background, an English Bitter is an exercise in balance between the various flavors. There is a healthy amount of bitterness from hops added early in the boil, but the hop flavor and aromas are only slightly noticeable. There is a firm malt character and some fruity esters contributed by the yeast during fermentation. However none of these flavors play a dominating role in the beer. They compliment each other as a balance is reached.
Bitters have a range of color that is acceptable to the style. They can range from the bright golden color to a beer with some amber highlights. Beers with a more amber or red appearance to them are generally brewed with the addition of darker crystal malts. These malts can lend a touch of caramel-like sweetness to the beer. Of course the beer shouldn't be cloyingly sweet, but in a Bitter the sweetness generated by crystal malts will be properly balanced by the addition of extra bittering hops. Remember, this beer is all about balance.
The next important thing to know about the English Bitter style of beer is that it isn't a strong beer. Often times it is referred to as a session ale. Session ales are popular in England where people enjoy gathering at their local, having several pints over the course of many hours before heading home. Their goal isn't to get drunk, merely to enjoy a tasty beverage in the company of good friends and conversation. The lower alcohol allows a person to enjoy several over the course of the evening without falling out of their bar stool! Our Bitter is just above 3% abv. Don't think that means that it has the water downed taste that can accompany several mass produced lower alcohol beers that are immensely popular. The trick to a good session ale is to have it be full of flavor, and have some body, but without being strong or heavy.
While we may not be serving ours in the traditional cask that is the hallmark of Real Ale in the UK, we like to think that we've honored the spirit of the English Bitter with our newest offering. On the paler end of the Bitter spectrum it has a nice subtle hop character from generous additions of Golding Hops. The hops quickly give way to the malt character - some toasty notes from fine English malts. The beer finish with hints of almost fruit like flavors generated by the yeast during fermentation. So come in today and cool off with a couple of pints of our new Brewer's Choice. Don't forget to bring along some friends and have a proper session over beers and good company!