Last autumn we wrote 1,500 words on bitter for the American magazine Beer Advocate and that article has just been made available free online.
For us, this was pretty much like writing about water, or bread, or the sun — that is difficult despite, or maybe because of, the apparent simplicity and familiarity of the subject.
Anyway, we were quite happy with how it turned out, and people on Twitter seem to be enjoying it. Here’s a good bit:
Today in the UK, Bitter is not a strictly governed style and beers bearing that appellation might be golden to red, drily bitter or honey-sweet, rich in hop perfume or rather austere. Depending on strength, they might be called “Ordinary,” “Best,” or “Extra Special Bitter (ESB).” It is easier, perhaps, to say what Bitter is not. Once the classy alternative to Mild, then the conservative alternative to trendy lager, it is now the preferred choice of the anti-hipster—not Double IPA, and definitely not fruit-infused barrel-aged Saison.
And asking nosy questions paid off here, too:
“Southwold Bitter is still our best-selling cask beer and its place as No. 1 is probably secure for some time yet, but it has been caught up by Ghost Ship [a hoppy Golden Ale] in the last few years,” Fergus Fitzgerald explains. “When I joined Adnams 10 years ago, Bitter was about 70 percent of what we did, but it’s now closer to 40 percent as we have expanded the range of styles we brew, and as tastes broaden.”
Sadly, since we wrote it last summer Fuller’s Chiswick Bitter has ceased to be a regular brew (Twitter) and is now seasonal only. When it comes to writing about specific brands beer is a moving target.