Cream of the Craft: Battle of the bitters
March 29, 2017 by Patrick Newman, contributing writer
Bitters are traditional English-style pale ales that use English malts; they’re slightly hoppier than a regular ale but tend to make for a fairly balanced pint. I first had bitters when I travelled to the UK many moons ago; I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for a good one. I recently had two different Extra Special Bitters (ESBs): bitters with more alcohol by volume than regular bitters, which hover around 4% ABV. One of the ones I tried is from Victoria’s Hoyne Brewing, and the other is from Steel & Oak Brewing Co. in New Westminster. Both brewers are highly regarded for their quaffable quality and delicious delights; let’s see which one you should choose to get the most for your brew buck.
Appleton Extra Special Bitter
Hoyne’s ESB is named for Frank Appleton, a man who helped kick off BC’s craft beer revolution back in the early ’80s—and we’re all the better for it. Appleton is British, so, fittingly, this beer is very British in flavour. With a nice creamy head and a lovely caramel colour, this is a super pint of bitter. It’s a little on the sweeter side at first, but the hops balance it out in the end, and it goes down smooth. If I could only ever have one beer to go with fish and chips, it would be this. It’s hoppy and delicious, and you could have a few of these easily without feeling too full. If you’re not a stout fan, this would be a good recommendation for St. Patrick’s Day; many Irish people would be insulted that you’re drinking a beer named for a Brit, but who cares about convention? Drink what you love and love what you drink!
Steel & Oak
Dry Hopped ESB
This is a simple (like its label), clean, dry-hopped ESB; S&O don’t fuck around. While this is a little lower in alcohol than some ESBs, it’s a tasty, tasty brew. However, it does aim to please BC craft brew fans by going the extra mile with extra bitterness; the addition of dry hops at a later stage in the process gives it a very recognizable hop flavour. Where most ESBs tend to be more balanced between hoppy and mild, this one lets you know it was brewed in the Pacific Northwest. It has a nice frothy head and a copper colour, and it smells grassy and a bit herbaceous due to those hops. The hops also round out the medium body; it doesn’t make it overly bitter, but it does add some earth and citrus to it. Have it with chicken and potatoes.