English Bitter started as a draft ale served fresh under no pressure (cask only) at cellar temperatures. It was created as a lower-strength draft alternative to English Pale Ale. The term “Pale Ale” was first used in 1703, but “Bitter” became synonymous by 1830. Eventually the pub-goers referred to Bitter as being a less-hoppy beer than Pale Ales and Porters.
Characteristically, English Bitters will have some malt aroma, and they often have a caramel quality to them. Look for a mild to moderate fruitiness with some hops that will vary from moderate to none. They’ll have the color of a light yellow to light copper with good clarity and a low to moderate off-white head. If you get one on cask, there may be very little head due to low carbonation.
Varieties made in the United Kingdom will have an earthy and floral quality. There will be a low to medium maltiness with some caramel notes and a dry finish. The balance of the beer will be bitter but not overpowering.
Goose Island Mild Winter, Chicago: Toffee brown, medium-bodied with a creamy head and an aroma of raisins and freshly-baked dark bread. Mild Winter’s rich caramel malt and spicy rye flavors are sure to take the bite out of Old Man Winter.
English Bitter Food Pairings:
An excellent choice to pair with a variety of foods, English Bitter finds a perfect partner with fish and chips. Roasted chicken, pork or lamb are also great choices to have with Bitter, along with grilled meats, fried foods and pizza.
Some great pairings with cheese include mild English cheeses such as Lancashire or Leicester, Asiago, Gouda and Havarti. For dessert, try English Bitter with some oatmeal cookies.
Authentic Fish and Chips
4 (1-inch thick) cod fillets
1 cup flour, plus more for dredging
1 1/4 cup English Pale Ale or English Bitter beer
1 Tbs cornstarch
2 large russet potatoes, peeled
oil, for frying
Slice the potatoes into 1-inch thick wedges. Heat oil in a fryer or wide, deep skillet to 325° F. (If using a skillet, fill with 3 inches of oil.) Place the potatoes in the oil for about 2 minutes to partially fry. Remove to a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Increase oil temperature to 350° F.
In a large bowl, add the flour and egg; mix to combine. Slowly add the beer while whisking. Add the cornstarch and whisk again. Rinse the cod and completely pat dry. Spread some flour on a plate. Dredge the fish through the flour, and then place in the beer batter, coating completely. Immediately place in the oil. Fry until crisp and golden-brown for about 4 to 5 minutes, and remove to drain on paper towels.
Place the potatoes back in the oil. Fry for an additional 2 minutes until golden-brown. Serve fish and chips with tartar sauce on the side and malt vinegar sprinkled over the top.
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