From the HBD Archive
From: (Rob Bradley)
Subject: bitter
Date: 1992-06-23 22:12:05 GMT

Let me add my $.015 to the recent discussion of English bitter.
Drinking real ale in England during the 2 years I lived there
opened my eyes to beer outside of the Molson/Labatt/O'Keefe
axis (beers which my Dad assured me were the 'best in the world').
The wish to duplicate (OK, approximate) fresh English bitter is
what inspired me to take up homebrewing more than 7 years ago.

Most of the comments which have appeared recently have been on
the mark (continuum not point, classification of style as a
function of gravity, etc.). Especially the matter of Fuggles or
Kent Goldings as finishing hops (although Northern Brewer makes a
good bittering hop, especially in combination with Fuggles).

I can't stress enough the importance of serving bitter on draft
if you really want to experience the stuff they serve in English
pubs. At very least, it should be fresh and lightly carbonated.
And what's the point of bottling if that's what you want?

I used to 'keg' my bitter in the 5 gal. (20 litre, actually)
collapsible polythene cubes which can be bought in camping supply
(and sometimes homebrew supply) stores. I'd keg the stuff on
about day 7, and serve it a couple of days later. The cube
would puff out a bit during these few days. It should be checked
opnce or twice a day -- draw off a pint if it's puffing up too
much. The beer comes out quite flat but, if you're lucky, the
first gallon or so will be lightly carbonated. It's best served
at a party and finished off that evening (usually no problem).
At the very least it has to be drunk within 48 hours of the time
when the air starts bubbling into the cube. This 48-hour deadline
is typical of English bitter, in which air replaces the beer which
is pumped out of the keg.

These collapsible kegs come in a 2 1/2 gallon size, alllowing you
to keg half a batch and bottle the rest.

Another trick is to use a little sugar (horrors!). A pound of
brown sugar in an otherwise all-malt batch doesn't hurt the beer
and gives the sort of flavour you might find in a darker bitter.
And don't forget to dry hop, or at least finish the beer aggressively.

As far as commercially available bitter, Wellington County Brewery
in Ontario makes excellent bitter. Unfortunately, you'll have to
travel to Ontario to get it. In the provincial beer stores, there
are 4(?) varieties available in 1-litre plastic bottles. However,
there are a handful of pubs in the Toronto area that serve the stuff
on draft. There are two real ales: Arkell Best Bitter - lighter
gravity, hoppier and made with Fuggles - and County Ale - higher
gravity, maltier and made with Goldings. Perhaps a Toronto hbd'er
can supply the names of pubs which carry's been 3 years since
I've lived in Toronto. In those days I usually drank it at the
University of Toronto graduate student's pub.


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