Is traditional bitter heading for the sidings?

I visit many watering holes, in pursuit of a good pint of beer. Thankfully, in the majority of pubs I descend upon, beer quality and beer choice, is good to exceptional. However, it is beer choice, of late, that I wish to highlight in more detail.

I’m sure you will agree, that we now have a much wider selection of beer style, brand and strength, from which to choose. A plethora of differing ales will now greet the discerning ale quaffer, in many watering holes - and to be honest, on most occasions, it’s a pleasurable dilemma to have.

We witness golden ales, wheat beers, IPAs, black IPAs, stouts, porters - and of late, a range of “craft” keg lagers.

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“Err, hang on,”I hear you say. “Haven’t you omitted a traditional English style bitter, on the bar?” Oops, profuse apologies. Indeed I have. How could I forget this classic British pub tipple. The refreshing, malty, tangy tipple, that has quenched our thirst for many, many years.

This ordinary beer, of immutable character, is becoming more of a rare species on the bar.

A beer that is slowly being shunted into the sidings, by the increasing demand, for example, of the American style IPAs, a more robust, citrusy, hop laden beverage.

Now, I have to say, I do have a preference for the ales that deliver a “hop bomb”.

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However, it’s not to everyone’s palate. And it has to be most frustrating, for a traditional bitter drinker, the beery connoisseur who regularly finds his or her choice limited to one beer, or maybe having to choose an alternative potion.

I can highlight many instances where there were five or more cask ales on offer. But, a traditional bitter style, session beer, was not one of them, as you would witness a line-up of the stronger IPA, and light golden ale type brands.

Many of the older generation I speak to, are quite dismayed about an “old friend” being ignored more and more. They bemoan the number of blonde, citrusy beers being available, at the expense of their much-loved traditional, session bitter. And they are frustrated at witnessing a line-up of premium strength beers, in excess of 4%.

However, they perhaps should appreciate, and I’m sure most do, that this premium strength and style of beer, has been a major factor, in the increasing demand for cask conditioned ales and has prevented many, many, traditional pubs from calling last orders.

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Drinking habits and tastes are changing at a pace. It’s most noticeable with the young ’uns.

This is a generation which is recognising the qualities and flavours, that cask ales have to offer as opposed to the bland, tasteless, over carbonated, mass produced lagers.

Beer drinkers are undoubtably demanding more choice and more flavours. Maybe a more robust, crisp and fruity slurp, is now the popular order at the bar. Dare I say, a less malt-laden flavoured beer. That in turn results in more flavours being identified on our palates.

I suppose it’s fair to say, it’s all down to supply and demand. And the ever increasing call for more choice and style of beer, has, in my opinion, led to the demise of the English, traditional, session bitter.

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So, is this iconic beer we cherish, being gradually shunted into the sidings?

Well, maybe its journey into the said sidings, is possibly gathering pace.

However, worry not. As this classic brew is very unlikely to ever hit the beery buffers.

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