From the HBD Archive
Subject: English Bitter styles
Date: 1992-06-19 14:01:00 GMT


I had just joined this list and spotted:

> I'd like some info on the English bitter ale style. What characteristics
> define an English bitter?

Eric Pepke replies well, and observes "Bitter" is a continuum not a point.

I offer the following definitions for your thoughts. It is true that
beer style definitions are not normally produced, but the homebrewers over
here do just that. The National Guild of Wine and Beer Judges (NGWBJ) is
organisation to which 'certified' amateur judges belong and they publish,
the guidance of judges and competitors, a small book which includes the

Light Ale.
The term 'light' refers to the flavour and not colour, so with an OG of
30-35 and alcohol level of 3-3.5%, the colour may vary from straw to
The beer should have a bouquet light in hop. The taste should be clean,
and lightly hopped with no flavour components too prominent.

Pale Ale or Bottled Bitter.
OG should be from 40-45 and the colour from golden to deep copper. The
of hops in the bouquet should lead to those of malt and grain. The flavour
should be full, malty and grainy with a hoppy bitter farewell and perhaps
little sweetness from residual dextrins. Alcohol content ranges from 4-5%.

India Pale Ale.
This full bodied premium bitter has an OG of 50-60, and a rich golden to
deep copper colour. The bouquet should be hoppy, alcoholic and grainy. The
flavour should be full, malty and grainy with a prominent hop and a clean
bitter farewell. There should be a little residual sweetness to balance
hop. Alcohol content is from 5-6.5%.

These are, therefore, the definitions to which the amateurs work, but they
not always translate directly into the commercial arena. For example, most
pubs would regard 'light ale' and 'pale ale' as synonymous. Also,
IPA was the premium bitter as we describe it above, but it is now often the
name given to the 'ordinary' bitter in a pub.

> One more thing: do not use Cascade hops under any circumstances.
> Use Northern Brewer or something like that.

I personally don't use Northern Brewer as it can be a little aggressive on
the palate. As others have observed, it is difficult to beat Fuggle or
on the nose of a good bitter.

Geoff Cooper

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