English Bitter

Bitter is the term given to British ales and is more of a catch all than a defined style and is one of the reasons I don’t like styles. It is the most popular of all ales sold in Britain today. The most notable characteristics are the colour is between straw and amber, too dark and you are going to brown ale territory. Bitters are lightly to moderately hop accentuated and most often are English hop varieties although that is beginning to change.

British bitters can vary widely and so the category has been broken up into subcategories, the ones listed below are most commonly what you will find

Best Bitter

Most examples of best bitters range between gold to deep copper in appearance, malt is on the palate and fruity esters are typical for the style. Most grain bills include a Pale malt such as Maris Otter and crystal malt of some sort to round the beer out. Hop bitterness is usually high and aroma is moderate and typically English varieties of hops such as East Kent Goldings and Fuggles. Most examples are cask conditioned and served with low carbonation and very fresh often only a few weeks old.

IBUs: 25 – 40
SRM: 5 -16
OG: 1.040 – 1.048
FG: 1.008 – 1.012
ABV: 3.8 – 4.6%

Extra Special Bitter

ESB Beer Style


The Extra Special Bitter or ESB as it is commonly known is a bigger, maltier, hoppier version of the best bitter and is not as common as it typically was in the UK. Fullers ESB is synonymous with the style and displays the typical characteristics of the style.

Fruity notes from the extra malt and yeast esters are apparent and a good balance is still required between malt and hops, floral, earthy English varieties of hops are the norm and strength ranges up to around 6.5% ABV

IBUs: 30 – 50
SRM: 6 – 18
OG: 1.048 – 1.060
FG: 1.010 – 1.016
ABV: 4.6 – 6.2%