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English Bitters: Explained

English Beer Culture

Who doesn’t like going to a place that serves beer, primarily to socialise with others? Every Brit loves to get together in bars, pubs, and restaurants to talk about politics, watch sports, and catch up on gossip. Traditionally, Brits would order beers like bitters, pale ales, porters, stouts, milds, red ales, brown ales, etc. and often more non-traditional styles like lagers and pilsners or Belgian beers too. In this blog article, our focus will be on English bitters and will cover the essential information about that beer style.

What are English Bitters?

Bitter is another term used for an English pale ale or English-style bitter. English bitter is, in essence, a type of pale ale. During the 20th century, English brewers constantly adjusted their recipes to create a cost-effective ale with a great flavour. After World War 2, bitters were the most popular beer sold in British pubs and eateries. Gradually, they became a part of the British tradition for celebrations and parties.Bitters became popular because they had more round and robust flavour than light lagers and were comparatively less bitter than heavily-hopped IPAs – imagine having a perfect blend between traditional English ale and a bitter IPA. English bitters are an excellent choice for people who do not want anything too extreme, sweet or heavy. If you prefer more flavour and imperceptible bitterness in your beer, unquestionably, English bitters are your beer style. You can check some examples on Tipplehub.

Flavour profile 

The flavour profile of different types of beers results mainly from the malt-to-hop ratio. Brewers create an approachable balance between lightly toasted malt flavours with herbal, earthy hop aromas to make bitters. Please, note that despite the name, bitters are not that bitter in taste. When you taste beers in a microbrewery, you will usually get served different beer styles in distinct glassware. We recommend a nonic pint glass for bitters because its shape allows enough room for the 1-1.5 inch foam head usually found within the style.

Pairing food with bitters

If you want to have the best experience matching bitters with food – go for the following choices:

  • Roasted Chicken: A crisp, flavourful taste of chicken perfectly blends with bitters. Bitter beers have a strong enough flavour to stand up to the roasted chicken crispiness, sapid and harmonic taste.
  • Fish and Chips: Malty flavour of bitter beer compliments the batter on the fish, while the malt sweetness adds a contrast to the salt and vinegar. Fish and chips are an excellent match for bitters.
  • Cheese: The sweetness of English bitters perfectly matches the tanginess in cheese, while hops in beer add contrast to the creaminess.

Some types of English bitters you can find in our online drinks shop.

By experimenting with the malt-to-hop ratio and alcohol content, different microbreweries create unique flavoured bitters that are different from your standard list. Some examples you can find at TippleHub include:

  • Jaw Brew DriftA mellow golden ale with notes of biscotti. Subtle British hops, Challenger and Fuggles, create a perfect flavour for the beer and a distinct taste typical for the style.
  • Summit Else English IPAAlthough it is marketed as “An English Style IPA”, Summit Else can be seen as a special bitter. It is a full-bodied, complex flavoured amber beer with a rich hop aroma that is brewed by combining traditional English methods with innovative techniques. Almost sure to deliver satisfaction with every sip.