Friday, 25 May 2012

Endangered Species


As CAMRA celebrates Mild Month, with the aim of promoting a style of beer that was in danger of disappearing from our pubs, it is perhaps a fitting time to point out another endangered species. While few of us indeed can walk into a pub as a matter of routine and order a pint of mild, how many of us can walk into a pub and make that classic order "Pint of Bitter please"? Chances are that unless you live near a pub owned by one of the Family Brewers, you can't. Or at least since bitter is a fairly well known generic term, you can't without further discussion as to which "bitter" you want.  Now of course it may well be that you have no interest whatever in "ordinary" bitter, but I for one regard it as a classic English icon and it would be a shame to lose it as a widely understood term.There is something particularly "right" to me in ordering one, but then again, I'm a sentimental old git.

So when was the last time you walked into a pub and asked for a pint of bitter and were given a pint without further discussion as to what you actually wanted?

I do my bit to preserve it every Sunday of course. And the odd day in between. So it isn't my fault.

12 comments:

Cooking Lager said...

Last night, you still find "bitter" in dumpy old mans pubs & clubs where the beards fear to tread due to less than 8 hand pumps. Dirt cheap it was too.

My thoughts were that "bitter" is one of those generic terms customers used in a vertically integrated pub landscape. These days the marketeers like to build brands and offer choice. Where it too often fall down is when the punter has no idea what kind of "ale" is behind a branded pump.

StringersBeer said...

Bender: Ah, beer! So many choices, and it makes so little difference.

Phil said...

Where it too often fall down is when the punter has no idea what kind of "ale" is behind a branded pump.

Titanic Lifeboat, last night - ordered on spec, assuming it'd be pale and extremely bitter. It was dark, sweetish, malty and extremely bitter - a weird combination, & frankly one I'd rather have avoided.

As for ordering bitter, I've spent a lot of the last five weeks trulling around Hyde's, Holt's and Robinson's pubs, so it doesn't look like a huge problem to me. But it's true that in guest-beer land they are thin on the ground, for obvious reasons.

Marble seem to working on the principle of "We've completely run out of names but we'll keep coming up with new beers anyway" at the moment; I think they may have a "Bitter", alongside "Draft", "Pint", "Good Beer" and the like. But of course that would be Marble Bitter, not Marble bitter.

RedNev said...

The last time for me was when I was in the Cheshire Lines, a Tetley-only pub and the Mason's, a Robinson's pub - both recently.

Curmudgeon said...

Definitely in Holt's and Sam Smith's pubs. In a Hydes pub where Original was the only cask beer, although normally in Hydes pubs I would drink something else. In a Robinson's pub I would tend to ask for Unicorn by name, although I don't regularly go in any now that only have Unicorn and 1892 (Hatters as was).

Anonymous said...

if you ask for bitter you know you are probably in a crap regional brewery pub.i know you like Lees beer but the lets be honest its not very exciting.if you lived anywhere else in the country you probably wouldnt give a toss about it.i dont. cheers john

Erlangernick said...

My problem is not being understood when I ask for a pint of bitter, so clarification is required regardless of what's on. "Ah, *biTTer* -- I thought you said 'bidder'." And then it goes on from there.

Ben Viveur said...

What annoys me is when barstaff collectively call all the real ale available 'bitters', even those which are clearly milds, porters, stouts, old ales etc.

The problem is that 'bitter' has become such a generic term that in the world of the oversimplified everything is (incorrectly) divided into two camps: 'lager' or 'bitter'.

'bitter' seems to encompass all cask beers plus any keg bitter that might happen to be around, but also cask lager.

So you can walk into a pub and ask for a pint of bitter, and the clueless barperson will offer you a choice of Schiehallion, Oscar Wilde or Old Growler... sigh...

Glyn Roberts said...

It may of course be a sign that joe average buying the pint is 1) getting a bit more choice than just a bitter and 2) getting a bit more educated because of the choice on the bar.
Personally I can't remember the last time I ordered a pint of bitter. Lucky me.

Curmudgeon said...

It's probably even rarer now for people to just ask for "a pint of lager". The idea that a brewery has a "house lager" is a thing of the past, as even the family brewers who may have a standard bitter don't have a lager equivalent. People will ask for Carling, Carlsberg, Fosters, Becks or whatever by name.

TIW said...

Timothy Taylor are actually holding a competition to rename their Best Bitter as something else...

Paul Bailey said...

I hadn't really thought much about this, until I read your post Tandleman, but I can't remember the last time I asked for "a pint of bitter". Even in a Harvey's tied pub I would tend to ask for "a pint of Best", especially as many Harvey's pubs also sell their Hadlow Bitter and Armada Ale, (both of which are also bitters).

I tend to avoid Shep's pubs, but even their ordinary bitter is called Master Brew, and the other two bitters both have names, (Spitfire and Bishop's Finger).