Friday, 28 December 2012

Is a pint of 'traditional bitter' becoming an endangered species?

I have been drinking cask conditioned beers for many years now. It was back in the late seventies, when I first sampled the delights of cask bitter.

Of course, in those days is was a straight choice between bitter and mild. Or perhaps 'Best Bitter' and 'Best Mild', as it was called occasionally.

 Now, when you walk in to a 'real ale'pub, you will find five,six, or more to choose from.

But hang on, how many of those five or six ales, would you call a traditional bitter? A bitter of the amber variety. A 'session bitter'. It always confuses me a little when trying to define 'traditional bitter'.

I suppose I would describe it as amber in colour, refreshing and malty. A strength in the 3.5% to 4% range. With a long bitter hopped aftertaste.  

However, I am finding these types of beers more uncommon nowadays. For example, I had the superb, award winning, 'Barnsley Bitter', from Acorn Brewery recently. And I noticed the other five were of the blonde, and more robust variety. Plus a strong porter. 

Now, I am not complaining about this regular situation. Just highlighting that 'real bitter' choice, in my opinion, is becoming somewhat more limited. I do love a wide range of beers, as you know, from a pale to a porter!

However, I would just like to find out if you agree with my observations. Have you experienced regular, limited choice for this type of beer? Does it really matter, you might say. Perhaps the jury is still out on that last question! 

Please let me know if it is........



  1. Still alive and well in tied pubs, of course - Holts, Hydes, Lees, Robinsons, Sam Smiths, Thwaites - but I agree in other outlets it can be hard to find now.

  2. Cheers pal for your usual educated and informative response. Much appreciated.

  3. Similarly to yourself, I developed a taste for cask ale in the seventies. At that time, many of the old brews had been killed off by the takeovers but Brakspear, Wethereds, Youngs, Fullers were still brewing the traditional amber bitter. Sadly, we've lost a couple of these since but Elgoods Cambridge, Everards Tiger turn up in the free trade. I resorted to brewing my own in 1976 and had some success considering ingredients and know-how were sparse at that time. I do believe I invented ruby bitter with my British hopped pale malt, crystal malt and black malt recipe! When I reach retirement age soon, I may yet brew again. Ideally, I would like to buy a freehold pub and set up there as the new generation of brewery taps are doing well: notably the Bank Top in Bolton. However, back to the point, some now consider that the new breed of 'citrus' tasting pale beers have taken over but I still see ample indication that the traditional amber bitter still has a big market.

  4. Cheers Nigel, for a most informative and interesting response.