Monday 11 October 2010

Bateman’s XXXB — Old School Bitter

I’m sitting in the Bridge, it’s Saturday afternoon; in front of me on the pine table a new book from the antiquarian bookshop several doors down. A pint also stands there, off-white collar of foam atop, darkish golden brown beneath; meanwhile Danté the pup wriggles about trying to get a sip of the beer (our dogs always like a drop — poor old Monty the boxer was partial to Old Freddy Walker, Jack the Jack Russell likes anything and everything, he’s a bit odd like that). The beer is Bateman’s XXXB, an old favourite; bittersweet, liquorice and toffee mingling on the tongue and around the mouth, a dry bitter finish, chewy almost; this is a big mouthful of beer. It’s robust, tannic, plain-speaking, blunt almost in its flavour; take me as you find me; a pean to crystal malt. I’m enjoying it and it’s time for a second, and then I start thinking about this old school bitter. It’s been around since the end of the 1970s, and become a familiar on the premium beer guest circuit, Lincolnshire’s answer to Broadside perhaps. Old school? I’ve been rather partial to Founders’ Dirty Bastard, really love what I’ve had of Kernel, while BrewDog’s Hardcore IPA remains a favourite (though I wasn’t that enamoured of the bottle of I ♥ Hardcore I tried), but even amidst this blitz of hop-edged flavour I find myself drawn back to the old school of XXXB. It was almost like returning from some buzzy city in which you’d made your home to the town you had grown up despising and realising that were things about it you loved. This epiphany also made me recall the brief wobble I had with Double IPAs in the US during the summer, when it just got too much and I craved US Alts, Saisons, Pilsners and Tripels. It was only a brief divorce but did my palate and sanity no end of good. So back in the Bridge the second pint is ahead of me, an old school bitter at its best and a substantial reminder that the search for the new and the post-modern sometimes needs to be put to one side and the old school revisited.


  1. I know it's missing the point a bit, but XXXB is a great beer that you can also pick up in the supermarket.

  2. It’s not the same, I find the carbonation too high and also the pasteurisation mutes the flavour, like softening a note on the piano with a pedal, but not with such an effective and attractive effect.

  3. Well, mind you, unleashing even bottled XXXB on unsuspecting continental palates is an interesting thing to do, especially once you've pointed out it moderate alcohol contents, whereas its body and presence would put to shame many a 7% belgian ale...
    It's one of those beers I sometimes use in tastings down here when it comes to ramming the point home about good british beers being huge in flavour for their actual alcoholic strength.