They Brew it, I sell it, You Drink it... and so do I..

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Merry Men

Sometimes you just need a good old pint of Bitter.

Bitter gets a bit of an unfair 'bad rep' these days. Some people like to use the words "boring brown bitter" and others like to say that's it's a bit too "plain" or "one dimensional". I am here to tell you otherwise. I think some people have been a little too drawn in by all the hype about what's 'new' at the moment, or what 'new style' is all the rage at the time. I can say though, every time I go back to a really good pint of Bitter, you can't help but take the smile and the satisfaction from my lips. After all Bitter, partnered with Ale, is what made this country! I challenge anyone who is a lover of beer to have a really well produced pint of Bitter and not enjoy it.

Tonight I'm drinking three variants of Bitter from the same brewery, a brewery I'd never even heard of before, if it had not been for my sister's christmas present. The brewery is Magpie Brewery and comes from Nottingham - Sherwood Forest country.

First up to bat is Hedgehopper; a 3.9% Refreshing Golden Bitter.
I think this beer has the best head retention I've ever seen. Bright white thick froth which feels like the milk foam you get when you steam for a cappuccino (but obviously cold) It might as well have been poured through a sparkler. A really inviting aroma which leads you to thoughts of instant refreshment; lemon, fresh cut grass, straw, sherbet and a hint of lemon curd. More of the same comes through in the flavour. Refreshing bitterness which lingers. The citrus fruit peel notes die away just in the finish long enough for a straw like biscuit malt fullness to come about. Very pleasant beer, I could drink all night.

Unfortunately I won't be able to as it's time to move onto a different Bitter. Second along comes Thieving Rogue: a 4.5% Smooth Blonde Bitter. A similar quality of beer to the last. Aromas are a lot dryer to this one; lots of dry straw and a little musty hay. There's a little wheat about this brew too which is different. The real difference comes about in the flavour though. A lot more green skinned fruits to this beer. Fresh apple skin, just like the skins which got chucked in a big sack, off the cooking apples your Grandma used to use for making crumble with. The flavour is just what you'd want from a Blonde Bitter, and the finish is dry and very moorish, with just a hint of tartness coming from the bitter bite.

Save the best for last ey? Well I did. The 4.2% Magpie Best Bitter certainly comes across with a different shade to the previous two. As you can see Bitter is not just classed to the 'boring brown' colour. The aroma on this last beer is beautiful; cascades of toffee, caramel, orange pith, fruit salads, a little chocolate and a combination of the previous two beers really shines through, but with a sense that this really is the Best Bitter. The flavour is just fantastic. Rich, juicy, it has all the components that you want, and crave, from a 'Best Bitter'. Smooth caramel, a little honey sweetness, juicy fruits and a bittersweet flavour which just makes you want to drink sip after sip, mouthful after mouthful and pint after pint of this delectable and invigorating beer.

Were these three beers boring, plain or one dimensional? Hell No they weren't! Were they excellently made, full of flavour beers which were also full of character? Hell Yes! And while the branding of these beers wasn't really anything worth writing home about, I just proved a point that the beers themselves were worth writing about, cos I just did! And I loved them!

Anyone who want's to bad mouth the name of Bitter around these parts, or any parts for that matter - For Shame. For Shame Indeed.


  1. Like the rest of the beer world, I've been swept up in the IPA hype and have largely ignored bitters for about a year. However, I've recently been drinking bitters and ESBs again and you're absolutely right - they're anything but 'boring'.

    At Christmas, I was lucky enough to get my hands on a bottle of Green Jack's Gone Fishing ESB. It's an absolutely wonderful beer and in terms of sheer depth of flavour, embarrasses many new-world hop dominated IPAs. If someone had stuck a Magic Rock or Thornbridge label on this, people would be all over it.

  2. Praise the balance of a good bitter. Not cool nowadays . . .

  3. I confess: until very recently I was one of those people largely pooh-poohing bitters as boring. But they have grown on me: first, it was a kind of counter-reaction to the extreme beer trend, where I found that it was simply not possible to drink ABV 7.0+ beers all the time, and that it takes real brewing skill to make a flavourful, low-ABV beer. Second, I simply had some cracking bitters: I really liked York Brewery's Stocking Filler Christmas Bitter, for example, and Bath Ales Barnstormer Dark Bitter (both of these are slightly higher ABV bitters, but still). I've heard a lot of good things about session bitters from places like Ilkley and Brodie's, and I'm looking forward to trying them. So I'm definitely finding my way back to bitters, as it were.

  4. Well said, a 'good old pint of bitter' is my beer of choice, and there's plenty of flavour in something like a Timothy Taylors Landlord or especially a premium bitter like Sharps Special or an ESB - and I agree with Olsta that Green Jack's Gone Fishing is another good one. These are the beers I'll return to again and again.