Batham's Brewery, Best Bitter
The Batham’s story starts way back in the 1830s when a butcher called Charles Attwood started selling beer alongside his mighty fine meat selection in the village of Cradley in the Black Country. Beer sales began to dominate and Charles’s shop soon became The White Horse Inn.
Daniel Batham and his wife Charlotte (the latter being a talented home brewer) took over the pub in 1882 and started to build a local empire that today stands at 10 pubs. The best of those is the “Bull & Bladder” brewpub (its actual name is “The Vine Inn” but nobody calls it that) in Brierley Hill. Today Daniel’s great, great grandson Matthew is at the helm, making him the fifth generation of this family-owned brewing institution.
Until the 1950s the only thing you could get a pint of in the industrial heartland of the West Midlands was Mild. But then, in what was a fairly brave move at the time, Bathams Bitter was first brewed in 1951. It was a punt worth taking because it’s for this beer that Bathams are now most famous. It has taken on a mythical status as demand consistently outstrips supply. The acclaimed beer writer Pete Brown tried to put his finger on how Batham's Best Bitter has earned such a cult like following...
“I never see Batham's at festivals. I never see anyone writing about it. I don't see it in shops. Some beers go beyond rationale analysis and objective evaluation, and attain mythic status. The affection people have for them is not based simply on a hoppy aroma and firm malty base; it doesn't have much to do with ingredients or flavour. It transcends the liquid itself -or perhaps, that liquid becomes something divine and attracts all the clothing of religious devotion. Detailed analysis of the flavour is beside the point - that's not what this beer is about. It's a beer that can be drunk easily and yet is satisfying, and it's a beer that brings a smile to your face. It doesn't overwhelm you - you don't have the first sip and go, "My God, that's awesome!" But the more you like it, the more you drink. And the more you drink, the more you like it.”
Logan Plant, founder of London-based Beavertown Brewery even cites it as the beer that got him into brewing and the one beer he’d most like to recreate before he kicks the bucket… “It’s the beer that got my taste buds going for everything malt and hops. Simple but definitive.”
Boak and Bailey described it best (as they often do) after they travelled for 6 hours from Cornwall just to try the stuff… “And there it was: Batham’s Best Bitter… There are some mental contortions to go through when tasting a legendary beer for the first time… Ultimately, though, it had that quality which makes writing about beer difficult at times — something impossible to put into words, but which is perhaps a result of freshness, or a subtle combination of barely-perceptible aromas and flavours. A certain magic.”
Let’s hope that Batham's continue to keep that magic alive.
You can also find Batham's on Twitter.