Style Details

Strong Bit­ter
Bri­tish Bitter
BJCP Style Code
11 C
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.
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. 
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.
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.
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.
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
8 - 18 SRM
4.0 - 6.0 %vol
30 - 50 IBU