An English-style Best Bitter in a Nonic Pint Glass

Best Bitter

The English Best Bitter is one of a trio of beer styles that originated in the 19th century. This particular style is a flavorful and refreshing session beer. Its color ranges from copper to a light amber with good to brilliant clarity. Its aroma has a low to moderate malt character that can consist of bread, biscuit, or toast and can be sweetened lightly with caramel. Mild to moderate fruitiness may be present and its hop aroma may be low to none. The palate has moderate to moderately-high bitterness with hop flavors that can be floral, earthy, resin or fruity. Malt is low to moderate and its character follows the nose. The Best Bitter leans hoppy but its bitterness shouldn’t overwhelm the malt. Its feel should be medium-light to medium with low to moderate carbonation. Comparatively, the Best Bitter is stronger than the Ordinary Bitter and less so than the Strong Bitter. The style has more malt character and color than an English Golden Ale.

Style Expectations

The English Best Bitter is 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.


Pale amber to medium copper color. Good to brilliant clarity. Low to moderate white to off-white head. May have very little head due to low carbonation.


Low to moderate malt aroma, often (but not always) with a low to medium-low caramel quality. Bready, biscuit, or lightly toasty malt complexity is common. Mild to moderate fruitiness. Hop aroma can range from moderate to none, typically with a floral, earthy, resiny, and/or fruity character. Generally no diacetyl, although very low levels are allowed.


Medium to moderately high bitterness. Moderately low to moderately high fruity esters. Moderate to low hop flavor, typically with an earthy, resiny, fruity, and/or floral character. Low to medium maltiness with a dry finish. The malt profile is typically bready, biscuity, or lightly toasty. Low to moderate caramel or toffee flavors are optional. 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.


Medium-light to medium body. Low carbonation, although bottled examples can have moderate carbonation.


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