Boxcar: Mills: Best Bitter (England: Bitter: 4.6% ABV)

Visual: Caramel brown. Slightly hazy main body. Beige touched thin head that leaves a sud rim.

Nose: Malt drinks and crushed malt biscuits. Light orange zest. Lightly earthy. Caramel. Apple.

Body: Caramel and toffee mix. Orange skin. Lightly earthy. Hops prickle. Choc limes. Nettles. Light grapefruit. Moderate bitterness.

Finish: Choc orange. Orange skin. Caramel. Grapefruit. Peppery. Malt chocolate drinks. Earthy. Tart grapes.

Conclusion: Man, this isn’t what I think of when I think of a best bitter. Ok, correction, it somewhat is, but also heavily isn’t.

Why are things so hard to explain? Probably because I drink. Anyway, let’s give this a go…

This has a solid caramel to toffee base, which is in line with what I expect from the style, but delivered sweeter and more evident. I can see how a lot of places are listing this as an ESB with the heavier malt sweetness.

More notably best bitter like, this has the earthy, slightly pepper bitterness and hop character. Initially milder than I expected, giving the malt a lot of room to show, but it gets more present as time goes on, leading into a very earthy filled finish.

What makes it more unusual is that it leans more into the hop fruitiness – most best bitters have some fruit notes, but generally they are subtly used. Here it starts subtle with orange notes, but gains apple and grapefruit freshness. These are especially evident early on but struggle against the late earthy character as it sinks back into more traditional best bitter stylings.

It gives some range and progression to the beer without fully sacrificing the base bitter – it makes for a refreshing yet earthy bitter with just a touch of sourness. A lovely dash of a few extra layers over a traditional take. Nice.

Background: You don’t see many of the newer small brewers do Best Bitters these days. It seems to be a style that has fallen out of fashion with the new wave of brewers – though it is still fairly easy to find existing examples in real ale pubs so it is not like it has gone away. Still, that made this catch my eyes, and I quickly grabbed it. I know Mills better for their sour beers, and I don’t think I’ve grabbed anything from Boxcar before, so it is one I was really not sure what to expect from. Went with Arch Enemy: Will To Power for music while drinking. Mainly as their tour has been delayed due to the Coronavirus and I wanted to listen to them. This was a beer grabbed from Independent Spirit after I got back from India.