Bitter beers are a style from the old world—the mid-19th century, to be exact. The bitter ale came to be an alternative to porters and stouts across the pond. It's not actually bitter unless you compare it to porters and stouts (as a rule of thumb). In Central Oregon, Deschutes Brewery has been brewing bitter ales since opening in 1988. In fact, Bachelor Bitter, Black Butte Porter and Cascade Golden Ale where the first beers at the downtown pub. A month later the brewery added Mirror Pond Pale Ale to the lineup. Big Rig Bitter isn't anything new, either. It's been around quite a long time but is deserving of a little more time in the spotlight.
Big Rig Bitter is what Deschutes calls a classic pub ale. Its name was inspired by the big truck driven by one of the original brewers. It's heaven for those who are lovers of maltiness. If you only drink IPAs, get a taster first to see if you like it. This beer is extremely malt forward. I had it on tap at the pub, and it was served very cold. I would recommend you let the beer sit for 5 to 10 minutes to allow it to warm. Some styles of beer taste better when they're allowed to warm (especially stouts and porters), as they become more aromatic and flavorful.
When my glass of beer first hit the table, there was very little aroma. It tasted pretty good. I sipped on it, then set it aside when my French onion soup came to the table. P.S., the French onion soup at Deschutes' downtown Bend pub is money and pairs great with Big Rig Bitter!
I ate a bit of my soup and did a little research on Deschutes and the beer, then went back to my glass. I brought the glass up to take a drink and hey, I could smell some aromas now! Yay! On the nose, Big Rig Bitter is sweet and malty with a very light underlying hop aroma that lends a hint of earthiness. On the palate, the beer starts sweet from the maltiness, and as it rolls along the sides of the tongue, it tingles and has a touch of pepper from the carbonation and crystal hops. That's about all the hops you will taste in this bitter—perfect for this style of beer. The hops lend brightness and balance to the beer, cutting through the sweetness. This beer is all about the malts, though. They're the star of the show.
Many times, a malty beer will be way too sweet. With this beer, the hops balance that sweetness out to perfection. I really love the carbonation in this beer, adding a brightness and lightening the beer significantly.
Drinking this beer is an experience. Take your time. Drink it slowly so you can see how it changes as it warms. On the drinkability scale, this beer gets a 5. It's pleasant for beginners and experts alike.