The first incarnation of Cain’s Brewery started in 1858 when Robert Cain opened his brewery in Liverpool. The beer he produced quickly became famous and after 25 years, he had expanded his empire to 200 pubs. By 1887, Robert Cain built his second brewery and continued to be very successful and highly regarded, and was given the title of Lord by Queen Victoria. In 1907, 3,000 mourners attended his funeral. Cain’s brewery went through a series of mergers, with the individual breweries being sold throughout the 20th century. By 1985, having recently been sold by Boddingtons, the original Cain’s brewery was closed. In 1990 it was re-opened, but had troubles staying afloat until it was bought by the Dusanji brothers in 2002. The Dusanji brothers turned the company around, bringing Cain’s back to prominence. The brewery now brews 23 different beers, and exports around the world.
British Bitters are a style that many Americans don’t seem to get. When many Americans hear the word bitter they either think of those stupid “bitter beer face” commercials from the 80s-90s, or an extreme hop bitterness. I suppose that’s somewhat understandable since until recently it has been very hard to find a good English Bitter, or Special/Best Bitter in the US. Heck, it is hard to find British style bitters outside of any country that has a large population of British ex-pats. Excellent Bitters can be found in India, Thailand, Hong Kong, Australia, and of course England. However, until recently they were extremely hard to find here. Bitter is one of my favorite styles, so a British Bitter was one of the first batches of beer that I brewed. Needless to say I was elated when I found a can of bitter in the liquor store and had to try it. Typically, a British Bitter is a session beer (under 4.5% ABV) and a pint is meant to be one of many over the course of a night. After all, a good low ABV beer is an important part of any social occasion. There is nothing wrong with a high gravity beer, but it is hard to have more than one once the ABV gets over 8 or 9%. On to the review, of this wonderful Best Bitter, BJCP style 8B. For those of you who care, the style guideline is below this post.
On Beeradvocate, Cain’s Finest Bitter has an 81. Over at ratebeer it has a 33 overall and a 29 for style. Seriously, ratebeer, what is up with that? Are you guys not familiar with what a bitter should taste like? As is usually the case the rating is more accurate over at BA.
CHAMPION BEER OF BRITAIN 1991
A regular winner of awards for quality and flavour, and winner of the silver medal at the International Brewing Industry Awards 2002, this refreshing yet full-bodied bitter is a favourite with beer drinkers everywhere. The rich flavours of premium malt and goldings hops are unmistakable in this well balanced, traditionally brewed bitter.
Cain’s FinestBitter pours dark copper with a very creamy, though smaller than expected, head that had excellent retention. A little more head would have made it the perfect pour, but I am not at all disappointed. As is typical with British styles, and a British Bitter in particular there is a very mild spicy hop aroma, but British beers are known for their emphasis on malts. It has a wonderful caramel and toffee aroma with background biscuit notes. The aromas were right along the lines of what I was expecting out of a well-brewed British Bitter.
The flavor of Cain’s Finest Bitter is equal parts caramel and bready with a slight spicy hoppiness in the background and a pleasant bittersweet aftertaste. It is medium bodied with light to moderate carbonation. This is an excellent, very drinkable Premium Bitter and would be an excellent session beer to break out for a long night of philosophizing with your friends. Just be sure to have a packet of crisps to pair with this excellent beer!
That’s all for tonight. My next two updates will be Velvet Rooster from Tallgrass Brewing and Stone Teepee Pale Ale from Tyranena Brewing, they should be up on Friday and Monday respectively.
Aroma: The best examples have some malt aroma, often (but not always) with a caramel quality. Mild to moderate fruitiness. Hop aroma can range from moderate to none (UK varieties typically, although US varieties may be used). Generally no diacetyl, although very low levels are allowed.
Appearance: Medium gold to medium copper. Good to brilliant clarity. Low to moderate white to off-white head. May have very little head due to low carbonation.
Flavor: Medium to high bitterness. Most have moderately low to moderately high fruity esters. Moderate to low hop flavor (earthy, resiny, and/or floral UK varieties typically, although US varieties may be used). Low to medium maltiness with a dry finish. Caramel flavors are common but not required. Balance is often decidedly bitter, although the bitterness should not completely overpower the malt flavor, esters and hop flavor. Generally no diacetyl, although very low levels are allowed.
Mouthfeel: Medium-light to medium body. Carbonation low, although bottled and canned commercial examples can have moderate carbonation.
Overall Impression: A flavorful, yet refreshing, session beer. Some examples can be more malt balanced, but this should not override the overall bitter impression. Drinkability is a critical component of the style; emphasis is still on the bittering hop addition as opposed to the aggressive middle and late hopping seen in American ales.
Comments: More evident malt flavor than in an ordinary bitter, this is a stronger, session-strength ale. Some modern variants are brewed exclusively with pale malt and are known as golden or summer bitters. Most bottled or kegged versions of UK-produced bitters are higher-alcohol versions of their cask (draught) products produced specifically for export. The IBU levels are often not adjusted, so the versions available in the US often do not directly correspond to their style subcategories in Britain. This style guideline reflects the “real ale” version of the style, not the export formulations of commercial products.
History: Originally a draught ale served very fresh under no pressure (gravity or hand pump only) at cellar temperatures (i.e., “real ale”). Bitter was created as a draught alternative (i.e., running beer) to country-brewed pale ale around the start of the 20th century and became widespread once brewers understood how to “Burtonize” their water to successfully brew pale beers and to use crystal malts to add a fullness and roundness of palate.
Ingredients: Pale ale, amber, and/or crystal malts, may use a touch of black malt for color adjustment. May use sugar adjuncts, corn or wheat. English hops most typical, although American and European varieties are becoming more common (particularly in the paler examples). Characterful English yeast. Often medium sulfate water is used.
OG: 1.040 – 1.048
IBUs: 25 – 40
FG: 1.008 – 1.012
SRM: 5 – 16
ABV: 3.8 – 4.6%
Commercial Examples: Fuller's London Pride, Coniston Bluebird Bitter, Timothy Taylor Landlord, Adnams SSB, Young’s Special, Shepherd Neame Masterbrew Bitter, Greene King Ruddles County Bitter, RCH Pitchfork Rebellious Bitter, Brains SA, Black Sheep Best Bitter, Goose Island Honkers Ale, Rogue Younger’s Special Bitter