Style Details

Name
Strong Bit­ter
Cate­go­ry
Bri­tish Bit­ter
BJCP Style Code
11 C
Appearan­ce
Light amber to deep cop­per color. Good to bril­li­ant cla­ri­ty. Low to mode­ra­te white to off-white head. A low head is accep­ta­ble when car­bo­na­ti­on is also low.
Aro­ma
Hop aro­ma moder­ate­ly-high to moder­ate­ly-low, typi­cal­ly with a flo­ral, ear­thy, resi­ny, and/or frui­ty cha­rac­ter. Medi­um to medi­um-high malt aro­ma, optio­nal­ly with a low to mode­ra­te cara­mel com­po­nent. Medi­um-low to medi­um-high frui­ty esters. Gene­ral­ly no dia­ce­tyl, alt­hough very low levels are allo­wed.
Fla­vour
Medi­um to medi­um-high bit­ter­ness with sup­por­ting malt fla­vors evi­dent. The malt pro­fi­le is typi­cal­ly brea­dy, bis­cui­ty, nut­ty, or light­ly toas­ty, and optio­nal­ly has a moder­ate­ly low to mode­ra­te cara­mel or tof­fee fla­vor. Hop fla­vor mode­ra­te to moder­ate­ly high, typi­cal­ly with a flo­ral, ear­thy, resi­ny, and/or frui­ty cha­rac­ter. Hop bit­ter­ness and fla­vor should be noti­ce­ab­le, but should not total­ly domi­na­te malt fla­vors. Moder­ate­ly-low to high frui­ty esters. Optio­nal­ly may have low amounts of alco­hol. Medi­um-dry to dry finish. Gene­ral­ly no dia­ce­tyl, alt­hough very low levels are allo­wed.
Mouth­feel
Medi­um-light to medi­um-full body. Low to mode­ra­te car­bo­na­ti­on, alt­hough bot­t­led ver­si­ons will be hig­her. Stron­ger ver­si­ons may have a slight alco­hol warm­th but this cha­rac­ter should not be too high.
Over­all Impres­si­on
An average-strength to moder­ate­ly-strong Bri­tish bit­ter ale. The balan­ce may be fair­ly even bet­ween malt and hops to some­what bit­ter. Drin­ka­bi­li­ty is a cri­ti­cal com­po­nent of the style. A rather broad style that allows for con­si­derable inter­pre­ta­ti­on by the bre­wer.
Typi­cal Ingre­dients
Pale ale, amber, and/or crys­tal mal­ts, may use a touch of black malt for color adjus­t­ment. May use sugar adjuncts, corn or wheat. Eng­lish finis­hing hops are most tra­di­tio­nal, but any hops are fair game; if Ame­ri­can hops are used, a light touch is requi­red. Cha­rac­ter­ful Bri­tish yeast. Bur­ton ver­si­ons use medi­um to high sul­fa­te water, which can incre­a­se the per­cep­ti­on of dry­ness and add a mine­ral­ly or sul­fu­ry aro­ma and fla­vor.
Histo­ry
See comments in cate­go­ry intro­duc­tion. Strong bit­ters can be seen as a hig­her-gra­vi­ty ver­si­on of best bit­ters (alt­hough not necessa­ri­ly “more pre­mi­um” sin­ce best bit­ters are tra­di­tio­nal­ly the brewer’s finest pro­duct). Bri­tish pale ales are gene­ral­ly con­si­de­red a pre­mi­um, export-strength pale, bit­ter beer that rough­ly appro­xi­ma­tes a strong bit­ter, alt­hough refor­mu­la­ted for bott­ling (inclu­ding incre­a­sing car­bo­na­ti­on levels). While modern Bri­tish pale ale is con­si­de­red a bot­t­led bit­ter, his­to­ri­cal­ly the styles were dif­fe­rent.
Comments
In Eng­land today, “ESB” is a Ful­lers trade­mark, and no one thinks of it as a gene­ric class of beer. It is a uni­que (but very well-known) beer that has a very strong, com­plex malt pro­fi­le not found in other examp­les, often lea­ding jud­ges to over­ly pena­li­ze tra­di­tio­nal Eng­lish strong bit­ters. In Ame­ri­ca, ESB has been co-opted to descri­be a mal­ty, bit­ter, red­dish, stan­dard-strength (for the US) Bri­tish-type ale, and is a popu­lar craft beer style. This may cau­se some jud­ges to think of US brew­pub ESBs as repre­sen­ta­ti­ve of this style.
Com­mer­cial Examp­les
Bass Ale, High­land Ork­ney Blast, Samu­el Smith’s Old Bre­we­ry Pale Ale, She­pherd Nea­me Bishop’s Fin­ger, She­pherd Nea­me Spit­fire, West Berkshire Dr. Hexter’s Hea­ler, Whit­bread Pale Ale, Young’s Ram Rod
Ori­gi­nal Gra­vi­ty
1.048 - 1.060 SG
Final Gra­vi­ty
1.010 - 1.016 SG
Color
8 - 18 SRM
Alco­hol
4.0 - 6.0 %vol
Bit­ter­ness
30 - 50 IBU