Bitters are designed to add flavor and complexity to cocktails, so it makes sense to add them to beer as well.
Alexander Hauck and Stephan Berg, long-time mixologists and founders of The Bitter Truth, have been experimenting with flavors such as grapefruit and peach bitters in beer—the grapefruit in particular adds the citrus flavor you often get from an IPA-style beer. It brings forward the bitterness you get from the hops in an IPA while also adding in some fruit notes. Here’s what Hauck told Chilled about this flavorful trend.
Talk to us about the popularity of bitter flavors on today’s palate.
Within the last 12 years, bitters have regained their rightful place on bar shelves. In 2006, there were just a handful of bitters brands, whereas today, we have a vast variety of different brands and flavors. People have started to put them in all kinds of drinks—not only those that call for bitters. They come in small bottles, but have a great effect on beverages and food if used properly. They act as a seasoning, adding complexity and balance to cocktails, long drinks, and even lemonades, sodas, or beers!
Why should we be putting bitters in our beer?
Beer and bitters are good companions. Like in cocktails and long drinks, a few dashes add a certain spiciness and (sometimes unusual) flavors without making the beer significantly sweeter or bitterer. Grapefruit bitters work especially well. Grapefruit and hops are actually of the same “family.” There are actually hops in our grapefruit bitters.
Do you have some tips on which bitters go with which beers?
The rule is: Dark bitters go well with dark beers; light bitters go well with light beers. Aromatic bitters, Jerry Thomas’ Bitters, or chocolate bitters are great with stouts, porters, or other malty beers. Grapefruit, orange, lemon, peach, or even celery bitters are really tasty in lagers, pilsners, and pale ales. You should start with two or three dashes in a pint. Sometimes this is enough, but it might take a bit to find the right ratio.
Talk to us a bit about The Bitter Truth brand, and your inspiration for starting the brand.
Stephan and I started The Bitter Truth in 2006 with the aim to bring back long-forgotten and new, innovative flavors to the bar world. Back then, both of us worked as bartenders who traveled the world going to trade shows, meeting other bartenders, buying cocktail stuff we couldn’t get in Germany, and looking for old cocktail books from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Those books were a great inspiration for us, since they contained original recipes of classic cocktails and recipes of ingredients like bitters, cordials, and liqueurs, which back then didn’t exist anymore.
Tell us about your background in the industry.
We were working as bartenders for several years when we started the business. We both made bitters for the bars where we worked. Stephan has quite a big collection of very old cocktail books and bitters, and I have a diploma in graphic design and was also a professional graphic designer. Those were ideal circumstances. While Stephan was working on our first bitters’ formulas, I created the visual world of The Bitter Truth.