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Hop on the British Bitter Bus

Three tasty takes on the hoppy staple

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Back in the day, most British breweries produced two ordinary ales for consumption in the local pub: a mild and a bitter. There could be wide stylistic differences between breweries but compared to the mild, the bitter would be the drier, more hop-driven of the two. I can't imagine an American industrial brewery labeling its beer as bitter, but what we're talking about here is a soothing, sessionable ale with a nice hop bite designed for everyday consumption. Here are three rather different takes on the style:

Batemans XXXB

Batemans has a nice copper pour with a tight head, is darker than most bitters and offers up soft hops, biscuit and nutty malt aromas. It opens with smooth malt on the palate, backed by a subtle fruit component with touches of green tea and fennel. The dry hop flavors balance things out on the finish. It's a great choice as we segue into spring.

Coniston Brewing Bluebird Bitter

This one pours a clear, bright amber with a creamy head that fades quickly but leaves a nice lacing. Soft and grainy hops dominate the nose, colored by a floral touch of herb and mineral. It's very dry on the palate with just a whisper of sweet, biscuity malt and a well-balanced hit of light, smooth hop bitterness. Despite a fair amount of carbonation, this is an easy-drinking, eminently quaffable ale.

Wells Bombardier

A scarlet-tinged amber in color, the Bombardier throws a thick tan head with good persistence. The aromas are a mix of lightly herbaceous hops and malt with a hint of spice. In terms of body and flavor, it strikes a happy medium between the Batemans and the Coniston ales--not as rich as the former but not as dry as the later. The mild malt flavors up front give way to a refreshing hop bitterness with just sweet fruit coloring the mid palate. Definitely worthy.