Tag Archives: Bitters

166. Black Sheep Best Bitter

Exciting times, once again, as Threehundredbeers hits the road and heads for The North. Today we’re in the tiny village of Bamford in the Peak District.

It’s Sunday and we’re in The Anglers Rest, the community-owned village pub, post office, café, gift shop and of course dry cleaning drop-off point. What’s not to like?

Very little, as it happens. The pub was once under threat, but is currently owned and run by about 300 local residents, reminding me of The Ivy House, another pioneering community-owned favourite, that one a little nearer to my home in South-East London.

The Anglers Rest, Bamford

As per tradition, Threehundredbeers is first to the bar, staking our claim to a barstool before the cagoule-and-muddy-boots hordes arrive for a well-earned pint and a Sunday roast.

The bar is stocked with local treats including beers from Sheffield’s Abbeydale and Bradfield breweries, and—conveniently enough for our ridiculous project—Black Sheep Best from Masham in North Yorkshire.

Black Sheep Best at the Anglers Rest, Bamford

The beer itself? Well, it’s a classic Yorkshire Bitter and you’d be hard pushed to wander around this part of the world without finding a pint of Black Sheep Best in front of you. Not that you’d complain.

It pours a lovely burnished copper colour with a light tan froth on top. It isn’t sparkled here, so we can’t be that far north, after all. The aroma is all woody English hops and tired-but-happy Morris dancers, but it tastes better than that.

Black Sheep Best weighs in at just 3.8% and I’d say that’s reflected in the taste. This is not a strong beer and does not pretend to be. Instead you’ve got a good, sessionable pint. It’s refreshing, if a little light and watery at first, but soon fills the mouth with a huge bitterness, alloyed by a rich, caramel sweetness.

The bitterness builds to an almost numbing level, much to my surprise. You could drink a few of these, as long as it’s in good condition, as it most certainly will be at the Rest.

Threehundredbeers is starting to wonder if we could sneak another one in before the cagoules arrive with their mud-spattered dogs and tired, disagreeable children but let’s not. The Official Threehundredbeers Mother has Sunday dinner in the stove back in the cottage, and some things are more important than beer.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Black Sheep Brewery, Masham, North Yorkshire
Style: Bitters
Strength: 3.8% ABV
Found at: The Anglers Rest, Bamford, Derbyshire
Serving: Cask, pint

160. Woodforde’s Wherry

It’s getting rarer to find these beers by accident now we’re beyond the halfway mark. But here we are back at the Alleyn’s Head—right near my house—for a spot of dinner, and look what’s on the pumps at a mere £2.59 a pint.

Woodforde's Wherry at the Alleyn's Head, Dulwich

Woodforde’s Wherry hails from Woodbastwick, way out in Norfolk. On the face of it, it’s a pretty standard English Bitter of the type that rarely gets me excited. But this pint is in impeccable condition, as is so often the case with the cask ales here at the Alleyn’s Head.

It’s a little paler in colour than most bitters, pouring a rich copper colour with a modest off-white head. It’s as smooth as can be, too, with none of the harsh aftertaste that can plague a lot of beers of this style.

Instead, there’s a full-yet-balanced, malty body with a fruity, almost tangy, caramel sweetness and a little peppery bitterness from the English hops.

Wherry successfully packs in a great deal of flavour for its eminently sessionable 3.8% strength. I’m still not sure I’ll be going out of my way for a pint of bitter, even this one, but served in this good a condition it’s a great little beer.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Woodforde’s, Woodbastwick, Norfolk, England
Style: Bitters
Strength: 3.8% ABV
Found at: The Alleyn’s Head, Park Hall Road, London SE21
Serving: Cask, pint

116. Brakspear Bitter

A trip to the West Dulwich mail sorting office to collect a package is always a good excuse to stop by The Alleyn’s Head, a pleasant enough local pub with a traditional but regularly changing guest cask lineup.

Since the sorting office is only open in the morning, we’ve reached the pub at a scandalously early hour, so perhaps something on the sessionable side is called for. Fortunately, there on the pumps is another of the many English Bitters we need. At an improbably reasonable £2.95 a pint (£2.49 all day Mondays) it won’t break the bank either.

Brakspear Bitter at the Alleyn's Head

Brakspear Bitter hails from somewhere in Oxfordshire, and comes to us courtesy of the same folks who brew that rather nice Brakspear Triple we enjoyed back in this blog’s infancy (last year).

It’s a fairly standard colour for a Bitter, in other words brown, if a little darker than some examples of the style. There’s a smallish cream coloured head that clings to the glass in an appealing fashion.

Well, it’s certainly bitter. There’s an unmissable citrus tang all the way from front to back. There are some juicy underlying malts and a tiny hint of butterscotch sweetness, but it’s that sharp bitterness that gets the attention.

In fact it’s hard to taste much else unless you concentrate quite hard. It’s not unpleasant though, and in fact is quite moreish. There’s no doubt that the Brakspear Bitter is in impeccable nick today, so I had a second pint. At that reasonable a price, it would seem rude not to.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Brakspear Brewing Co., Witney, Oxfordshire, England
Style: Bitters
Strength: 3.4% ABV
Found at: The Alleyn’s Head, Park Hall Road, London SE21
Serving: Cask, pint

114. Triple fff Alton’s Pride

You simply have to love The Grape & Grain. I’ve said it before, but the contribution the pub has made to this blog, not to mention the South London beer scene, has been absolutely priceless.

This is no less than the tenth beer that the Grape & Grain have been able to furnish us with. Look, I’ve even given the relevant posts their own super special Grape and Grain tag now.

Shall we swing by once again on the off chance there may be something of interest among their 12 hand pumps? I don’t think there’s any doubt that we shall.

Triple fff Alton's Pride at the  Grape and Grain

I know very little about Triple fff, other than they’re a fairly small brewery tucked away somewhere remote in rural Hampshire. Alton’s Pride is yet another past winner of CAMRA’s coveted Champion Beer of Britain award, along with such beers as Mordue Workie Ticket and the wonderful Kelham Island Pale Rider. Perhaps I should create a tag for past winners too, as there are more to come.

Alton’s Pride is another fairly typical English bitter. I’ve been known to accuse examples of the style of being a bit boring and even crushingly unexciting, but this one is in a different league entirely.

It pours a very appealing deep bronze colour with a big, foamy tan head that fades quite quickly. Unlike some bitters, this one actually tastes of something.

Indeed, it’s big and fruity, with both citrus and dried fruits up front and vying for your attention. There’s a dense underlying Lyle’s Golden Syrup sort of sweetness from the Maris Otter and Cara Gold malts, and an immense, long bitter finish from the First Gold and Northdown hops. And when I say long, I mean I drank this beer several days ago and can still taste it. In a good way.

What a lovely pint. If I was looking to find fault, I might mention that the body is perhaps a little on the thin side, but for a beer weighing in at a modest 3.8% ABV, that isn’t really anything out of the ordinary.

What you get in return is a beer that’s hopelessly easy drinking, and an excellent session bitter that isn’t actually boring at all. Good stuff, and I’ll be keeping an eye open for more beers from this brewery.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Triple fff Brewing Company, Alton, Hampshire
Style: Bitters
Strength: 3.8% ABV
Found at: The Grape & Grain, Anerley Hill, London SE19
Serving: Cask, pint

110. Adnams Southwold Bitter

For the second of the two Adnams beers that we need to try, let’s seek out an actual Adnams pub. In fact, it’s terribly convenient that the sizeable Suffolk-based brewery happen to have one, and it is just the one, right here in London.

And so to the Bridge House on the southern slopes of Tower Bridge. As an Adnams pub, you’d expect their flagship Southwold Bitter to be in good condition here. You’d also expect your pint to be reasonably close to containing a pint, and to be served in less than 10 minutes if you’re the only customer waiting at the bar. But you might well be disappointed.

Adnams Southwold Bitter

Stingy measures and disinterested service aside, the Southwold Bitter is a handsome enough beer, being a deep reddish copper colour with smooth off-white head, albeit one that fades quickly.

It’s relatively full bodied and indeed full flavoured for an “ordinary”, and in fact reminds me more of a Best Bitter. Still, I guess the sober 3.7% payload would preclude that particular classification.

Beyond that, it’s a Bitter, and you already know what it tastes like. There’s very little to distinguish the Southwold Bitter from any other example of the style that you might come across, and so I’m struggling to come up with colourful adjectives to describe it. It doesn’t help that it’s a style of beer that doesn’t tend to be particularly exciting in the first place.

Still, it’s in good condition here, and it was entirely drinkable and seemed to go down quickly enough. Which was convenient as it allowed me to press on to the Draft House just down the road for a rather more interesting selection of beers.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Adnams, Southwold, Suffolk, England
Style: Bitters
Strength: 3.7% ABV
Found at: The Bridge House, Tower Bridge Road, London SE1
Serving: Cask, pint

106. Harveys Sussex Best Bitter

Harveys Sussex Best is one of those beers that are tremendously easy to find all over London. It’s also a beer that, like many bitters, unless kept well and served in top notch condition, can be a little underwhelming. Indeed, despite its ubiquity, I don’t think I’ve ever had a truly good pint.

Let’s find out just how good this beer can be by making our way to one of only two Harveys pubs in London, and one I’ve never visited before, the rather wonderful Royal Oak in Tabard Street.

The Royal Oak, London SE1

It’s a handsome enough pub, that’s for sure. A traditional, two room Victorian street corner pub tucked away not far from the hustle and bustle of London Bridge. The interior doesn’t appear to have changed in a good century or so. And why would it.

Even early doors, there’s an eclectic yet pleasingly reassuring mix of customers: the familiar regulars studying the racing form in the Sun over a half of Mild, a couple of card-wielding CAMRA gents in actual sandals, and a young family enjoying a hearty feed. Everyone seems to be on first name terms.

And of course there’s a nerdy beer blogger sat awkwardly in the corner pretending to do the cryptic and waving a cameraphone at anything that moves. Pint of Best please, chief.

Harveys Sussex Best Bitter

Harveys Sussex Best is a lovely bronze colour, with a light, rocky tan head. It’s in impeccable condition here, of course, and it’s a different beer to the few pints I’ve had elsewhere.

The flavour is all sultanas, caramel and biscuity malts, with a big long bitter finish courtesy of the peppery English hops. At 4.0% it’s eminently sessionable, but without being in any way boring.

To be honest, if you know what a Bitter tastes like, you know what this one tastes like. It tastes like a Bitter, obviously, but a little bit better.

I think that’s a function of being brewed, conditioned and served with absolute pride. It’s a fine beer indeed, at a fine pub. I had another. And then I found beer number 107 quietly minding its business behind the bar…

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Harvey & Sons, Lewes, East Sussex
Style: Bitters
Strength: 4.0% ABV
Found at: The Royal Oak, Tabard Street, London SE1
Serving: Cask, pint

55. Shepherd Neame Master Brew

This is another beer that I’ve had sitting around for a while, and never quite got round to trying. With some of the amazing beers that small London breweries like Beavertown and The Kernel have been putting out recently, it has been difficult to summon up much enthusiasm for a 4.0% English Bitter from the corner shop.

Of course, that sort of lackadaisical approach to the 300 Beers project isn’t going to have the thing finished any time soon, so let’s crack this one open and see what I’ve been missing out on.


Well, Shepherd Neame Master Brew is certainly a fine looking beer, pouring an inviting deep bronze colour with a generous off-white head. The aroma is remarkably malty, with delicate hops and the faintest hint of the distinctive smell of a beer that’s been sat in a colourless glass bottle for slightly too long. That’s entirely my fault, rather than the beer’s, of course.

And it tastes…absolutely terrific. I’m taken aback, as if I’ve learned nothing from my expectations turning out to be entirely misguided countless times already. Master Brew is full of biscuity malts and peppery English hops, and there’s an underlying toffee and dried fruit sweetness that’s the signature of a good Bitter.

Those toffee and fruit notes remind me of the last Shepherd Neame beer we saw, Bishop’s Finger and also Fuller’s ESB, though Master Brew is much lighter and more floral than both of those.

At a fairly tame 4.0% ABV, this one would be eminently sessionable too, and I suspect it has the potential to be absolutely wonderful on cask if kept and served well. I also discovered by accident that it pairs surprisingly well with cheeses such as Camembert, and no doubt other food too.

Good stuff from Shepherd Neame once again.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Shepherd Neame, Faversham, Kent, England
Style: Bitters
Strength: 4.0% ABV
Found at: Maxy Supermarket, Norwood Road, London SE24
Serving: 500ml Bottle