Anyone out there remember the television ads for Keystone Light from a few years back? The ones where a normal-looking schlub took a sip of beer other than Keystone only to have his face turn inside out to the horror of his compadres… I know you’ve seen it. Everyone screams “Bitter Beer Face!” and runs around like lunatics because we all know, without a doubt, this to be the biggest detriment to society.
Well, anyone who truly believes in that kind of malarkey can go ahead and have their sugary, flavorless macro brews… their light beer, too. Bitter is certainly not a dirty word in the wide world of beer.
Beer enthusiasts and loyal readers of this column know that a beer’s four essential ingredients include hops. Hops contain concentrations of certain alpha oils that impart bitter flavors of anything from flowers to pine needles. Their role in beer is multi-faceted: preservative, fuel for alcohol production and flavoring agent. Without hops’ bitterness to balance the natural sweetness of malted grain, we’d be left with a low-alcohol wheat Koolaid of sorts.
The British have been making what they call “bitter” for a very long time now. We here in the States know it better as pale ale although the Yank version usually utilizes strains of hops bred here in America such as Cascade, Nugget and Mt. Hood. Folks in England still refer to their pale ales as bitter, mild bitter and premium bitter to distinguish between their preference and other less hopped ales. The use of darker malts in classic bitter, logically, also prevents the style from being truly “pale.”
We usually never see a lot of English-style bitter here on our shores so when Victory Brewing from Pennsylvania began making Uncle Teddy’s Bitter, we had to give it a big try. Turns out, it’s a hands-down winner. It is hazy orange-gold with a huge head that quickly settles down to a thin ring of foam. Traditional scents abound with Uncle Teddy’s: biscuity caramel malts with a noticeable dusting of earthy, citrusy hops. There’s a toasty grain flavor happening here reminiscent of Captain’s Wafers (?) along with nuts, fruit, a drop of honey and the perfect amount of citrus. Hops have been very successfully balanced in this beautiful ale and its rather low abv of 4% all make for a very drinkable beverage.