As autumn approaches and the leaves turn brown, many a seasonal beer drinker will turn to bitters and brown ales. This nurtures the annual craving for something a bit sweeter than the refreshing golden ales we have been enjoying all summer. So we thought this would be the perfect opportunity to review some of the locally brewed beers in these styles.
Bitters are classified by strength starting with “bitter” or “ordinary bitter” as it was originally known. These are typically 4% Alcohol By Volume (ABV) or below so a good choice for session drinking. Examples in this category would be Windmill from 8 Sail or No. 10 from KCB.
As the ABV increases between 4% and 5% then we find ourselves in the realm of the Best Bitters like Newton’s Drop by Zest or Jack Rawlshaw by Welland. If we increase the ABV further then we have Extra Special Bitters (ESBs) at 5% and above like Rundle Beck by Brewsters and XSB by Xtreme.
As the name suggests, bitters use hop bitterness to balance out the sweetness of the malt (although don’t expect the hop hit that you get from golden ales, pale ales and IPA’s). So those in search of more sweetness should look to brown ales, old ales and barley wines.
Brown ales have a similar strength to Best bitters and ESB’s however they are darker with a sweeter finish. English and American versions of brown ale are available with the latter having greater hop aroma. Try Brown Derby from Bowlers or Wildwood from Miletree.
Imperial Brown Ales, Old Ales and Barley Wines are the sweetest beers but be warned that they pack a punch with an ABV usually greater than 7%. Strong beers had a bad reputation but recently drinkers are more open to rediscovering these traditional styles. Exceptional beers such as Curfew Bell from Round Corner, Saxquatch from Xtreme or Nip from Grainstore not only taste great but also pair well with foods that share that sweet note.
At a microbrewery scale, the cost to make a bottle of beer is not far off the price that many supermarkets charge! It is unrealistic for microbreweries to compete in big retail leaving mass produced beer on our supermarket shelves. With low profit margins but high volume, mass produced beers are made to a tight budget where unfortunately quality and diversity suffers. This is not deliberate, but is the reality of large scale production.
ThirstBourne was founded to provide easy access to a large range of hand crafted beers from local microbreweries. Supplement your beer shop with a ThirstBourne order to enjoy a greater variety of quality beers that have been developed for great taste over great profits. After all, drinking is supposed to be enjoyable!