bitter ale

Bitter ale

being compared to pale ales makes this beer bitter

Hop Character: 
brutal, intense, nothing a hop head can't handle
Malt Type: 
pale malts, some can be darker
pale ale
cask aged

A bitter ale can be golden to bronze in color, from mild to strong bitterness depending on the level of hops used during the brewing process. There are bitter micro brew ales that are malty and some that are very dry. A micro brewery will create their own style of bitter, and separate them from pale ales by giving them a dark color and strong aroma.

micro brew

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A bitter ale is different today than a pale ale, though they both started out as the same thing. A craft beer co. will make their ale more distinct from the competition by using the moniker “Bitter,” when referring to their pale ale. Bitter beers usually come with pre-fixes like “extra special,” or “best.”

The best bitter type of beer will have a scent of malt, and a red-brown-caramel look to them. They will have a mild fruit (citrus) taste with a flavor of hops that will be a challenge to detect. In the current craft beer market, some bitter ales strongly resemble a traditional English bitter, while others seem to have a distinct American influence, (meaning, hops). Depending on which side of the ocean your getting your bitter from, you will definitely see a difference.

In essence, a bitter ale IS a pale ale, in the same way that light brown khakis, and light brown Dickies are BOTH a kind of brown pants. This post will try to focus on the destiny of the bitter beer, as opposed to that of pale ale’s- but we’ll see that the two are nearly identical.

The beer making process for bitter brews was developed in the late 1800s. Brewers wanted to have a beer that could be used in pubs after only a couple days of being stored in a cellar. A common name in the 1700s used for bitter beer was pale ale. The two beer names were joined during 1830s and a bitter became known as the same thing as pale ale.

Eventually, bitter was a word used to set this micro brew apart from other ales that were mild. Bitter beer was the first ale to have a distinctive aroma, which also started the trend of making more sensually appealing beers, (or those that could be distinguished by their scent). This was done when hops was put in the beer mixture late in the brewing process. The result of its popularity was that farmers focused even more on raising hops, which made these types of beers MORE available. Beer makers worked on creating many different types of bitter brews based on strength. A bitter was distinctive because it was lighter. By the late 1800s brewers were regularly producing a wide variety of popular bitter types of beer.

During the 1900s the consumption of bitter beers changed. Rationing during the wars, a transformation in the beer industry and a shift in the public’s taste for beer all played a role in transforming bitter ale. The demand for bitter ale increased drastically among the English and remains strong today.

During the middle half of the twentieth century many brewers were leaving the old-style brewing method and creating mass produced bitter craft that was considered bland, by most beer drinkers. Consumers were so displeased that they formed The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) in 1971. This began the quest to produce traditional bitter beers and ales.

After the increased attention from consumers, the bitter, micro brew ale traditions were recaptured by many craft breweries. These craft beer makers began making traditional bitter ale that was served from a cask during early stages of the aging process.

micro brews

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Today the brands of beer referred to as bitter ales, are an old-style English ale that has a light color. There are craft breweries that use a variety of words to describe their bitter micro brew such as “extra special” and “premium,” which is usually referring the level of alcohol contained within the beer. Bitter beer made at a micro brewery can have crystal malt and dry hops used during the process. They also come with ABV classifications that are largely ignored.

The bitter ale has it’s own legacy, mostly due to the new demand for distinct craft beer. But, in much the same way two cousins can be seen to have similar features, a uniquely compatible age, and relatively shared history, the bitter and the pale are definitely both wearing brown pant’s.

Interesting Nugget:

Beer is interesting: just like the shared origins of stout and porter, the bitter and pale ale story is equally entangled.

Bitter ale Beers: