I need to brew an Ordinary Bitter, recipe review

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BongoYodeler

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At this month's brew club meeting we each blindly drew a beer style to brew to bring in for July's meeting. I selected an Ordinary Bitter, a style I've never brewed before. After a little bit of research I came up with the following recipe and entered it into Beersmith. I'd appreciate your thoughts on it.
* I've only started looking at recipes, so I'm not hitched to this one at the moment.

Ordinary Bitter
biab
og: 1.034
fg: 1.009

ibu's: 30
color: 10.9 srm
abv: 3.2%

mash: 152°f 60 mins
boil 60 mins

Crisp Maris Otter 91.4%
Crisp 60L crystal 6.1%
Briess chocolate malt 2.6%

Fuggle 60 mins 13.8 ibu's
EKG 30 mins 11.3 ibu's
EKG 5 mins 4.7 ibu's

Yeast: Lallemand London ESB (dry)

Water: distilled
calcium 52ppm
magnesium 3.5ppm
sodium 16.9ppm
sulfate 109ppm
chloride 48.7ppm

Thoughts?
 
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I think it looks solid as is. My only suggestions would be to swap the chocolate for a British pale chocolate since I like that better in a bitter. I’m an EKG fan so I would go all EKG and if you’re not limited to dry yeast I would say go for wyeast1469 West Yorkshire.
 
I think it looks solid as is. My only suggestions would be to swap the chocolate for a British pale chocolate since I like that better in a bitter. I’m an EKG fan so I would go all EKG and if you’re not limited to dry yeast I would say go for wyeast1469 West Yorkshire.
Thanks. So I was trying to limit the ingredients to those my LHBS stocks, and they don't stock British chocolate malt only Briess. But, based on your reply above I took a closer look online at his inventory, and lo and behold he stocks Crisp pale chocolate, so I'll definitely go with that. Also, I'm not at all limited to dry yeast. He also stocks 1469 but it's currently out if stock. If he gets that in before brew day I'll grab it, if not I'll go dry.
 
Yeast: Lallemand London ESB (dry)

Hopefully your LHBS still has London in stock.

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At this month's brew club meeting we each blindly drew a beer style to brew to bring in for July's meeting. I selected an Ordinary Bitter, a style I've never brewed before. After a little bit of research I came up with the following recipe and entered it into Beersmith. I'd appreciate your thoughts on it.
* I've only started looking at recipes, so I'm not hitched to this one at the moment.

Ordinary Bitter
biab
og: 1.034
fg: 1.009

ibu's: 30
color: 10.9 srm
abv: 3.2%

mash: 152°f 60 mins
boil 60 mins

Crisp Maris Otter 91.4%
Crisp 60L crystal 6.1%
Briess chocolate malt 2.6%

Fuggle 60 mins 13.8 ibu's
EKG 30 mins 11.3 ibu's
EKG 5 mins 4.7 ibu's

Yeast: Lallemand London ESB (dry)

Water: distilled
calcium 52ppm
magnesium 3.5ppm
sodium 16.9ppm
sulfate 109ppm
chloride 48.7ppm

Thoughts?
With an anticipated OG of 1.034 I would suggest bringing the hop level down to ~24IBU to produce the traditional balance of a bitter. The roasted malt is OK but is going to make a darker beer than my preference. If not for this batch try 94% pale and 6% crystal on a future brew. Your water numbers will be fine for a first go. If you want something more minerally and flinty the gypsum addition could be bumped up next time.
 
The last one I did was:

5 gal
OG: 1.034
IBU: 29
SRM: 10

6 lbs British Pale malt (I have Simpson’s)
6 oz Crystal 65 (Fawcett)
6 oz Special Roast (Breiss)

First Gold 8% .6 oz 60 min
Kent Goldings 5.6% 1 oz 20 min
Kent Goldings 5.6% 1 oz 5 min

Wyeast 1099

My water numbers were similar:
Ca: 57 Mg: 9 Na: 33 Cl: 53 So: 100

I liked it. I haven’t used 1275 for awhile, but I won awards for a bitter and a mild made with that yeast years ago and it used to be one of my favorites.
 
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At this month's brew club meeting we each blindly drew a beer style to brew to bring in for July's meeting. I selected an Ordinary Bitter, a style I've never brewed before. After a little bit of research I came up with the following recipe and entered it into Beersmith. I'd appreciate your thoughts on it.
* I've only started looking at recipes, so I'm not hitched to this one at the moment.

Ordinary Bitter
biab
og: 1.034
fg: 1.009

ibu's: 30
color: 10.9 srm
abv: 3.2%

mash: 152°f 60 mins
boil 60 mins

Crisp Maris Otter 91.4%
Crisp 60L crystal 6.1%
Briess chocolate malt 2.6%

Fuggle 60 mins 13.8 ibu's
EKG 30 mins 11.3 ibu's
EKG 5 mins 4.7 ibu's

Yeast: Lallemand London ESB (dry)

Water: distilled
calcium 52ppm
magnesium 3.5ppm
sodium 16.9ppm
sulfate 109ppm
chloride 48.7ppm

Thoughts?
Decent recipe. I get my calcium over 100 parts per million. Try to keep the sulfate and chloride ratio about where you have them now, 2:1
 
I think if you look at British sources, you'll find Ca at least 100 and as many BU[:GU]s at .8 as .6

Bitters are a wide range depending on where they come from and from which era.

As far as 100% malt goes, adjunct and sugar is totally typical of British brewing with the last couple decades being an outlier.
 
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Well, I have a whole thing with hops. The hops we’re buying and using now are last year‘s harvest, right? Harvested when, packaged when, shipped how, stored how?

Even if they’re 6 months in the package they’ve most likely lost some. So when you’re getting hops that say 8%, are they really still 8%? And when your software is figuring 30 IBUs is it really 30 IBUs?

Not to mention that all the software packages have several hop utilization models. I think most of us use Tinseth. But short of sending our beers out for testing nobody really knows. It’s all a guess at best.
 
I brew several batches of bitter every year. Mostly with base malt only or with a small amount of crystal. Each batch uses a different hop.
 
With an anticipated OG of 1.034 I would suggest bringing the hop level down to ~24IBU to produce the traditional balance of a bitter. The roasted malt is OK but is going to make a darker beer than my preference. If not for this batch try 94% pale and 6% crystal on a future brew. Your water numbers will be fine for a first go. If you want something more minerally and flinty the gypsum addition could be bumped up next time.
Just an fyi, and I was surprised to hear this from the horse's mouth, but Coniston's Bluebird Bitter is BU:GU 1.0 (OG = 1.036, IBU = 36). I believe the bottled version of Bluebird is much lower - iirc, OG = 1.042, IBU = 26, BU:GU .62. That same individual indicated 1.0 BU:GU isn't unknown in English bitters - he mentioned Hepworths Sussex Bitter as an example.

It might be a Northern thing (?), but my understanding is they don't shy from bitterness and often have BU:GU ratios in the high '80's, if not more. I tend to be .82-.87.

Since taking a special fondness to the Northern (Yorkshire) style, I've changed over my use of crystal. Not a religion, but they tend to be lower than the "standard" 5% crystal, and they aren't afraid of using inverts and other sugars. I tend to about 3% crystal, 5% torry wheat, and 10% invert of various colors, but obviously each to his or her own. And I will note that among Yorkshire homebrewers for whom I have immense respect, it isn't like they always brew with such a low crystal content. Just more of a regional thing in general. You probably know more crystal in southern England is common.

Your recipe looks great to me. The only note I might suggest is that you considering pulling your Ca up to 100+ as some have mentioned, and that minerality in SO4 and Cl is definitely not a problem for British brewers. My bitter waters (learned again from the British guys I really respect) range Ca 180, SO4 253, Cl 178; Ca 170, SO4 300, Cl 150, etc. My current tap treated with H2SO4 for bitters yields Ca 130, SO4 304, Cl 185.
 
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Just an fyi, and I was surprised to hear this from the horse's mouth, but Coniston's Bluebird Bitter is BU:GU 1.0 (OG = 1.036, IBU = 36). I believe the bottled version of Bluebird is much lower - iirc, OG = 1.042, IBU = 26, BU:GU .62. That same individual indicated 1.0 BU:GU isn't unknown in English bitters - he mentioned Hepworths Sussex Bitter as an example.

It might be a Northern thing (?), but my understanding is they don't shy from bitterness and often have BU:GU ratios in the high '80's, if not more. I tend to be .82-.87.

Since taking a special fondness to the Northern (Yorkshire) style, I've changed over my use of crystal. Not a religion, but they tend to be lower than the "standard" 5% crystal, and they aren't afraid of using inverts and other sugars. I tend to about 3% crystal, 5% torry wheat, and 10% invert of various colors, but obviously each to his or her own. And I will note that among Yorkshire homebrewers for whom I have immense respect, it isn't like they always brew with such a low crystal content. Just more of a regional thing in general. You probably know more crystal in southern England is common.

Your recipe looks great to me. The only note I might suggest is that you considering pulling your Ca up to 100+ as some have mentioned, and that minerality in SO4 and Cl is definitely not a problem for British brewers. My bitter waters (learned again from the British guys I really respect) range Ca 180, SO4 253, Cl 178; Ca 170, SO4 300, Cl 150, etc. My current tap treated with H2SO4 for bitters yields Ca 130, SO4 304, Cl 185.
Thanks Gad.
 
An ABV of 3.2% isn’t a bitter in my opinion it’s a mild. I would never go below 3.8% for an Ordinary Bitter but the term isn’t used in the UK. Who is going to buy something called Ordinary.
Thanks, good to know. In beginning to research the style I first looked at the 2021 BJCP guidelines for an idea on where to start. Unfortunately not having anything locally in that style to sample I thought it best to "go by the book" as my starting point.

Form BJCP 2021:

Screenshot from 2024-05-11 07-12-36.jpg
 
Thanks, good to know. In beginning to research the style I first looked at the 2021 BJCP guidelines for an idea on where to start. Unfortunately not having anything locally in that style to sample I thought it best to "go by the book" as my starting point.

Form BJCP 2021:

View attachment 848442
Personally I highly recommend it. To me it's a great way to learn - there's really nowhere to hide. Any process flaw along the chain will tend to be more transparently revealed and it's quite an accomplishment in my opinion to come up with a flavorful brew of great character at such a modest gravity. Coniston's Bluebird Bitter with 95% pale malt, 5% medium crystal and 100% Challenger, brewed at 1.036 for 3.4% abv, is a perfect example.

I shoot for 1.2-1.3 vCO2, myself.
 
Thanks, good to know. In beginning to research the style I first looked at the 2021 BJCP guidelines for an idea on where to start. Unfortunately not having anything locally in that style to sample I thought it best to "go by the book" as my starting point.

Form BJCP 2021:

View attachment 848442
There is no such thing as Ordinary Bitter, I should know I’ve been drinking Bitter for 56 years. Make a Best Bitter at around 4% as Lumpher says.
 
There is no such thing as Ordinary Bitter, I should know I’ve been drinking Bitter for 56 years. Make a Best Bitter at around 4% as Lumpher says.
I do not have your experience in any way, but I do have to disagree. Yes, the BJCP gets a lot wrong. But personally I am not a fan of dogmatic approaches in general. And I have seen the term "Ordinary" among many English sources. Ron Pattinson, for one:

Let's Brew: 1970's Youngs Ordinary Bitter

One step up from Light Ale was one of Young’s biggest sellers: Pale Ale or Ordinary Bitter as it was called down the pub.

Ultimately is the word "ordinary" a deal breaker? "Best Bitter" is also there, and many breweries do use the term. And from reading Graham Wheeler and others, there are plenty of British bitters in the 3.* range. And a look at Wikipedia:

Session or ordinary bitterStrength up to 4.1% abv. This is the most common strength of bitter sold in British pubs. It accounted for 16.9% of pub sales in 2003.[6]

Before we hammer the source, the source they cite is: Statistical Handbook / A Compilation of Drinks Industry Statistics. British Beer and Pub Association: 21. 2003. So I don't know. I'm not too concerned about the word "ordinary" personally.

This is just from Graham Wheeler's Brew Your Own British Real Ale:

Adnams Southwold Bitter - 3.7%
Boddington's - 3.6%
Brakspear Bitter - 3.7%
Bunce's Benchmark - 3.6%
Cameron's Traditional Bitter - 3.7%
Chester's Best Bitter - 3.7% (something I often find interesting - what a given brewery may call its "best" bitter is down in the lower ABV range)
Coniston's Bluebird Bitter - 3.6%
Everard's Beacon Bitter - 3.8%
Hook Norton Best Bitter - 3.7% (ditto to Chester's "best")
Marston's Burton Best Bitter - 3.7% (again)
Sam Smith's Old Brewery Bitter - 3.8%
Shepherd Neame Masterbrew Best Bitter - 3.7% (again)
Smiles Brewery Bitter - 3.8%
Tetley Bitter - 3.6%
Timothy Taylor Best Bitter - 3.8%
Tolly Cobold Bitter - 3.6%

Too many to list, but if you look through Roger Protz's Real Ale Almanac, there are tons in the 3.* range there. Theakston Best, Vaux's Lorimer's Best and Vaux Best, Bass's Light 5 Star, Special Bitter and Piston Bitter, Clark's HB, Garthwaite and Traditional, Franklin's Linfit Bitter - all 3's abv. The book's not even out of NE England and Yorkshire yet.

My point being I think the 3-something abv bitter is definitely there and very much worthy of attentin. I do think it's one of the harder things to pull off well, which goes to my general philosophy (former French chef), that the hardest thing to pull off on a plate is to rely on total simplicity - wizardry on a plate may impress, but it takes mastery to strip things down and trust. Matt Brynildsen of Goose Island (now Firestone-Walker head brewing honcho), with whom I worked, said exactly this to me one day (brewing low gravity, simple malt and hop bill beers) and the notion stuck from that point forward.

I will never forget my first taste of Bluebird and it has been a kind of background mission ever since.
 
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Note:

Thread title calls for help on an ordinary Bitter. Not an Ordinary Bitter.
Typo, I believe. He mentions in his first post he's looking for an Ordinary recipe.

At this month's brew club meeting we each blindly drew a beer style to brew to bring in for July's meeting. I selected an Ordinary Bitter, a style I've never brewed before. ...

Ordinary Bitter
biab
og: 1.034
fg: 1.009

Maybe you're suggesting he change his title, so it guides the input better? At any rate I'm personally still a fan of working on very lean things for awhile. Though I can't stick to that myself, lol.
 
Note:

Thread title calls for help on an ordinary Bitter. Not an Ordinary Bitter.

Typo, I believe. He mentions in his first post he's looking for an Ordinary recipe.



Maybe you're suggesting he change his title, so it guides the input better? At any rate I'm personally still a fan of working on very lean things for awhile. Though I can't stick to that myself, lol.
Yes, typo. Thread title should have been ....."help on an Ordinary Bitter."

Also, I didn't mean to cause a ruckus re: Ordinary vs. Mild vs. whatever...but quite honestly I'm finding all the replies helpful as they are contributing to me learning as I go.

I have a "Best Bitter" recipe (now you all have me paranoid about labeling these beers), that I've brewed a couple times and it tastes good to me, though living in the US I obviously didn't grow up on the style so I have very little to compare it to.

Pic of my 4.3% "Best Bitter" from a couple years ago.
723392-62993CCA-5FEE-4069-8F03-80E02E9E317E.jpeg
 
Yes, typo. Thread title should have been ....."help on an Ordinary Bitter."

Also, I didn't mean to cause a ruckus re: Ordinary vs. Mild vs. whatever...but quite honestly I'm finding all the replies helpful as they are contributing to me learning as I go.

I have a "Best Bitter" recipe (now you all have me paranoid about labeling these beers), that I've brewed a couple times and it tastes good to me, though living in the US I obviously didn't grow up on the style so I have very little to compare it to.

Pic of my 4.3% "Best Bitter" from a couple years ago.
View attachment 848449
That is a helluva pint man! I might have forgotten (I am forgetful), but regardless, thanks for sharing. 👍
 
That is a helluva pint man! I might have forgotten (I am forgetful), but regardless, thanks for sharing. 👍
Thanks. That recipe has a small amount of Special Roast, which from my understanding is not required, or possibly even frowned as not being traditional. In an attempt to brew something more traditional I'd like to keep my Ordinary recipe, in post #1, much simpler. Based on some of the suggestions I may even drop the chocolate altogether. There's something to be said about still getting a lot of flavor and character from a very limited set of ingredients.
 
I never commented on bitters at 3.6%-4%, I did however on 3.3% which is too low. Personally I only brew bitters at 4% and above but for me Best Bitter should be 4%-5% not 3.8%-4.5%as classified by BJCP. I notice that the list of beers below 4% that none are called Ordinary Bitter, however many beers are called Best Bitter.
 
There's something to be said about still getting a lot of flavor and character from a very limited set of ingredients.

That's probably THE major difference between traditional European brewing and American craft. American craft attempts at recreating European styles required heavy use of specialty malts because they were starting with domestic 2-row. Start with a full-flavored European base and you're already there.

Ordinary, best, special, strong. If there's a best and a special, there's likely a normal, basic, typical, dare I say ordinary. They're all just descriptors.

Pattinson has shown that A) breweries often call beers differently than what's offered at the pub or bottle and B) beer categories change drastically over time and place.

A brewery's ordinary lowest gravity bitter in 1980 likely had the same brewers' designation and likely trade name, a different grist and BU:GU, and different ABV than their ordinary lowest gravity bitter today. In the same year, a brewery in London will be making a different ordinary lowest gravity bitter than one in Manchester. Different enough that they might as well be different 'styles'.

C) British breweries don't care much about strict adherence to style categories. Least of which those defined by BJCP.

I want to brew an English bitter. Ok, London? Northern? Modern with some New World hops? CAMRA approved? Pre-CAMRA 80s? Post-war? Cask or bottle?
 
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I never commented on bitters at 3.6%-4%, I did however on 3.3% which is too low.
I was just responding to this, Cheshire:

I would never go below 3.8% for an Ordinary Bitter but the term isn’t used in the UK. Who is going to buy something called Ordinary.

I just thought excluding any Ordinary below 3.8% was cutting out a lot of possibilities - as shown by the examples. And not trying to bust your chops, but when you said the term isn't used:

There is no such thing as Ordinary Bitter, I should know I’ve been drinking Bitter for 56 years.

I'd just seen it used, that's all. I am only guessing but it does seem with the outweighing-influence of BJCP here in the States, we Americans tend to more religiously use the terms - by far - than over there. But my point was, I have seen the term used over there, if not as much.

Basically I was pushing back a bit because I think it would be a shame for anyone wanting to explore British bitter making to somehow think low-gravity bitters are a waste of time. And particularly when we're new to it, referencing your experience of 56 years lends a kind of, well, gravitas that may naturally close off some avenues, especially for those of us who admire British brewing and sincerely seek to make authentic British ales as best we can. Hope it's clear what I'm saying.

Personally I only brew bitters at 4% and above but for me Best Bitter should be 4%-5% not 3.8%-4.5% as classified by BJCP. I notice that the list of beers below 4% that none are called Ordinary Bitter, however many beers are called Best Bitter.

Yeah, that was my point.

Chester's Best Bitter - 3.7% (something I often find interesting - what a given brewery may call its "best" bitter is down in the lower ABV range)

These are commercial English brewers calling these low-strength, 3.6-3.7% ales their best bitter, which is something I always found interesting. They're not being guided by BJCP, obviously, just choosing to call lower strength ales best bitters.
 
I do not have your experience in any way, but I do have to disagree. Yes, the BJCP gets a lot wrong. But personally I am not a fan of dogmatic approaches in general. And I have seen the term "Ordinary" among many English sources. Ron Pattinson, for one:

Let's Brew: 1970's Youngs Ordinary Bitter



Ultimately is the word "ordinary" a deal breaker? "Best Bitter" is also there, and many breweries do use the term. And from reading Graham Wheeler and others, there are plenty of British bitters in the 3.* range. And a look at Wikipedia:



Before we hammer the source, the source they cite is: Statistical Handbook / A Compilation of Drinks Industry Statistics. British Beer and Pub Association: 21. 2003. So I don't know. I'm not too concerned about the word "ordinary" personally.

This is just from Graham Wheeler's Brew Your Own British Real Ale:

Adnams Southwold Bitter - 3.7%
Boddington's - 3.6%
Brakspear Bitter - 3.7%
Bunce's Benchmark - 3.6%
Cameron's Traditional Bitter - 3.7%
Chester's Best Bitter - 3.7% (something I often find interesting - what a given brewery may call its "best" bitter is down in the lower ABV range)
Coniston's Bluebird Bitter - 3.6%
Everard's Beacon Bitter - 3.8%
Hook Norton Best Bitter - 3.7% (ditto to Chester's "best")
Marston's Burton Best Bitter - 3.7% (again)
Sam Smith's Old Brewery Bitter - 3.8%
Shepherd Neame Masterbrew Best Bitter - 3.7% (again)
Smiles Brewery Bitter - 3.8%
Tetley Bitter - 3.6%
Timothy Taylor Best Bitter - 3.8%
Tolly Cobold Bitter - 3.6%

Too many to list, but if you look through Roger Protz's Real Ale Almanac, there are tons in the 3.* range there. Theakston Best, Vaux's Lorimer's Best and Vaux Best, Bass's Light 5 Star, Special Bitter and Piston Bitter, Clark's HB, Garthwaite and Traditional, Franklin's Linfit Bitter - all 3's abv. The book's not even out of NE England and Yorkshire yet.

My point being I think the 3-something abv bitter is definitely there and very much worthy of attentin. I do think it's one of the harder things to pull off well, which goes to my general philosophy (former French chef), that the hardest thing to pull off on a plate is to rely on total simplicity - wizardry on a plate may impress, but it takes mastery to strip things down and trust. Matt Brynildsen of Goose Island (now Firestone-Walker head brewing honcho), with whom I worked, said exactly this to me one day (brewing low gravity, simple malt and hop bill beers) and the notion stuck from that point forward.

I will never forget my first taste of Bluebird and it has been a kind of background mission ever since.
They’re all over the place and they’re not even consistent with each other. One brewery’s Best is the same as another brewery’s Ordinary. Another brewery’s Best is the same as somebody else’s Strong.
 
They’re all over the place and they’re not even consistent with each other. One brewery’s Best is the same as another brewery’s Ordinary. Another brewery’s Best is the same as somebody else’s Strong.
I agree. I actually appreciate that. I am not a fan of slavish adherence to anything, really. British IPA for instance. Ron Pattinson has shown me, forget about it. All bets are completely off.

Though I do think there's some usefulness to a kind of loose-hand approach to "style," if it helps sort of provide a context within which to explore something.
 
I’ve been drinking Bitter for 56 years.
I envy you for that! We just don’t usually see it here in the US. I see very little British beer except for stuff like Boddington’s in nitro cans. Fullers London Pride or ESB are around in 4 pack bottles. Bitter is rare, Mild here is non-existstent.

Even Bass ale which I used to see all the time here years ago is much less common now. We used to see more of the pale ales - Bass and Whitbread being the most common - but Bitter was never really a thing. The average American drinks Bud and Coors and doesn’t know a lager from an ale.

British bitters and milds were beers I started brewing from my early days of brewing 26 years ago or so and I still regularly brew them because I like them and they are not commonly available here. And few of us can do casks on a homebrew scale due to equipment plus the time it takes to go through one.

There is one specialty place not too far from me that is a re-creation of a British Pub called the Bull’s Head Tavern. They do table service, serve the Traditional Breakfast, and have Bluebird on cask. They used to do a cask festival once a year but that stopped with covid. Its a little over an hour drive and I don’t get there nearly as much as I’d like.
 
I envy you for that! We just don’t usually see it here in the US. I see very little British beer except for stuff like Boddington’s in nitro cans. Fullers London Pride or ESB are around in 4 pack bottles. Bitter is rare, Mild here is non-existstent.

Even Bass ale which I used to see all the time here years ago is much less common now. We used to see more of the pale ales - Bass and Whitbread being the most common - but Bitter was never really a thing. The average American drinks Bud and Coors and doesn’t know a lager from an ale.

British bitters and milds were beers I started brewing from my early days of brewing 26 years ago or so and I still regularly brew them because I like them and they are not commonly available here. And few of us can do casks on a homebrew scale due to equipment plus the time it takes to go through one.

There is one specialty place not too far from me that is a re-creation of a British Pub called the Bull’s Head Tavern. They do table service, serve the Traditional Breakfast, and have Bluebird on cask. They used to do a cask festival once a year but that stopped with covid. Its a little over an hour drive and I don’t get there nearly as much as I’d like.
We used to get all kind of British ales in Chicago, even if they weren't in the best shape by the time they reached our shores. For years. Even the Hook Norton we had as part of a brewing tour swing through England was available seemingly everywhere. But everything has dried up. It's such a drag.
 
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