This week’s Canada’s Craft Beer post comes from our Atlantic Canada craft beer guy, Todd Beal. This week Todd checks out bitter beers, with stops at Propeller Brewing and Picaroons.

Canada's Craft Beer | Bitter Beers

This month I'm visiting a couple of bitter beers from two breweries I mentioned before. The BJCP 2014 style guide says  that, "The family of English bitters grew out of English pale ales as a draught product in the late 1800s. The use of crystal malts in bitters became more widespread after WWI. Traditionally served very fresh under no pressure (gravity or hand pump only) at cellar temperatures (i.e., “real ale”)." One comment I get often is, "I don't like "bitter" beers so I won't like this one." Despite the name the hops are dialed back on these, especially the bittering, giving a very drinkable beer for many people.

Bitters style has its own unique lingo for its three types: Standard or Ordinary; Special, Best or Premium; and  Extra Special (ESB) or Strong Bitter. Each type has a slightly higher ABV with the Extra Special Bitter being the highest from 4.6 to 6.2 percent.

Propeller Brewing — Extra Special Bitter

5% ABV | 30 IBUs | Available NS, NB, BC

This most popular beer from Propeller pours brown and clear with a nice head of foam. The aroma is slight but has lots of malt and caramel with a little earthy hop bitterness. The taste is very nice with a sweetness followed by a short dry finish. The beer is easy drinking and refreshing with a light creamy mouth feel and a good amount of carbonation.

Picaroons — Best Bitter

Canada's Craft Beer | Bitter Beers

5.2% ABV | Available NS, NB

RELATED:  Canada's Craft Beer: Double IPAs in Ontario & Quebec

The name Best Bitter is a bit confusing; not to get hung up on it, but it actually falls into the ESB range. This is a clear dark copper in colour and has a lovely thick tan head. The smell is quite strong and is a malty sweet caramel aroma. The flavours are stronger than Propeller, yielding a bready, malty sweetness with a lingering dry finish. Very nice beer from Picaroons.

Both of these beers are very good, so remember: when you see "bitter" on your beer menu it's not as bad as it sounds.

Still Thirsty?

Check out all our Canada’s Craft Beer articles.

Todd covers Atlantic Craft Beer
David covers Ontario and Quebec Craft Beer
Bryan covers BC Craft Beer

Todd Beal follows the craft beer scene closely in the Canadian Maritimes and reports on it weekly on his blog, Maritime Beer Report. He is asked to comment frequently on television, newspapers and magazines as a craft beer expert. He can be heard Friday afternoons on News 95.7 commenting on beer. Visit his blog and follow him on Twitter @MaritimeBeerRpt.


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Hey Todd, great article. I am familiar with both breweries and as a matter of fact my husband is drinking Propeller as we speak.
I liked your definition of what makes a bitter.
In my humble opinion I have to say Picaroons is hands down a much better brewery.
Thought and talent go in to their beer and they are a bit on the radical side as well. Always, trying to push the envelope.
It was really nice to see you tasting notes on both though and I love that you had a misnomer about what bitter meant and still approached your tasting with professionalism.
Great work.
Kellie from Princess and The Yard Ape.

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