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Arkell Best Bitter - Wellington County Brewery

Arkell Best BitterArkell Best Bitter

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

93 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 93
Reviews: 63
rAvg: 3.69
pDev: 12.74%

Brewed by:
Wellington County Brewery visit their website
Ontario, Canada

Style | ABV
English Bitter |  4.00% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes/Commercial Description:
Originally served as a real ale, Arkell Best Bitter has a loyal following. This delicate and well-balanced bitter is Wellington’s session beer.

(Beer added by: the42ndtourist on 11-25-2002)
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Ratings: 93 | Reviews: 63 | Show All Ratings:
Photo of JamesMN


3.51/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: A light orange/amber hue with good clarity and a thin cap of off-white foam.

Aroma: Sweet caramel and amber malts with a certain 'grainyness' about it.

Taste: Pleasant and light amber and caramel flavors at first and then lends a nice earthy bitterness in the second half and finish. At 4% ABV it has more flavor than I was expecting. A light metallic off-flavor in the aftertaste but otherwise pretty clean.

Mouthfeel: Between thin and medium in body with slightly above average carbonation and good drinkability. Sessionable if you enjoy the style.

Final Thoughts: A decent beer and a good example of how much flavor can be packed into a low ABV. Would I drink it again? Yes.

Serving type: can

04-28-2013 02:43:30 | More by JamesMN
Photo of Kremlock

Ontario (Canada)

3.19/5  rDev -13.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A: Medium copper in colour. Pours a white frothy 3/4 inch head that has good stability. Beer is very clear.

S: Caramel malt, toasted malt and hints for bread in the background. A hint of grassy hop aroma present.

T: Hints of the aromas in the flavours. But everything is Low to None. Caramel is very low, hops are low. Bitterness is low, malt flavours are low, sweet finish.

M: Carbonation is low but the body is low-medium.

O: This beer starts well on the nose. Makes you look forward to tasting it but then when you do you're disapointed by the lack of flavours, bittereness and dry finish. It's not a bad beer just not on style.

Serving type: can

01-18-2013 22:19:59 | More by Kremlock
Photo of JG_brew

Quebec (Canada)

3.78/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Very drinkable beer. Good tasting. Nice aroma. Very well balanced, not too bitter but you can taste hopiness. Enjoyed this one. Enjoyed the tall can format. I would drink this beer more often if it was available in Quebec. Seems true to style of English bitter, but I need to try more English Bitter’s to compare.

Serving type: can

01-10-2013 19:34:52 | More by JG_brew
Photo of EgadBananas


3.63/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a tall boy can.

Pours a tawny, dark auburn color with a finger of egg shell colored head. The aroma was toasty, with doughy bread crust, crackers and a subtle herbal hop note. Tast wasn't really bitter, though by English standards, it may be great. Bits of caramel, soft sweet bread notes. Had a nice feel, light, but with a silky sort of feel on the palate. Nothing mind blowing, but a nice little session ale.

Serving type: can

12-28-2012 19:17:26 | More by EgadBananas
Photo of SebD

Ontario (Canada)

3.83/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: It has a nice clear orange/copper color to it. It has a nice off-white head that dies down moderately fast and leaves some nice lacing.

Smell: The aromas definitely give out hints of toasty and bready malts, biscuits, caramel and grassy/earthy hops.

Taste: Like the aromas, it has some nice bready and toasty malts, light caramel, biscuits, earthy hops and slight citrus.

Mouthfeel: It has a medium carbonation with a nice overall balance and feel.

Drinkability: It's a very smooth drinkable beer accompanied with good flavors and aromas.

Serving type: bottle

11-20-2012 21:37:05 | More by SebD
Photo of andrenaline

Ontario (Canada)

3.8/5  rDev +3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Another from the Holiday OCB mixer pack.

A - Pours a nice copper colour, finger of head with some retention and no real lacing.

S - Scent is dominated by musty caramel, bready notes, and toasted biscuit. Hint of leafy greens on the finish.

T - Much like the nose with a solid musty caramel flavour, toasted cracker and biscuit with the leafy greens and a touch of bitter citrus rind.

M - Medium, a tad prickly and a touch of dryness.

O - A tasty rendition of the style, solid flavour profile and an easy drinking brew. Glad this was a part of the mixer pack.

Serving type: bottle

11-04-2012 20:42:20 | More by andrenaline
Photo of MaxwellSchaefer

Ontario (Canada)

2.78/5  rDev -24.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

3rd Review on BA
473mL can to bolleke globlet

Purchased at a downtown Toronto LCBO for $2.60

App-A medium amber color to a pale amber color, no cloudiness, and a nice light carbonation.

Smell- Nothing too exciting here, the label on the can says it best, it's a subtle, well-balanced, sessionable beer and the nose definitely alludes to that. Nothing overwhelms you but the caramel of the malt definitely comes to the forefront of the first whiff.

Taste- very, very, very drinkable. The taste here is very light, subtle, and nothing is off-putting about it. But, at the same time--nothing is exciting about it either. There is a simple yet distinguishable malty character to the beer but despite what the label says I can't really make out the hoppy after-taste. Maybe it's because I enjoy my super-hoppy IPA's but nonetheless I just don't see it.

Mouth-I'd call this mouth taste light, at least as far as the category for bitters goes. The carbonation, like everything else with this beer, is subtle. Overall, in the mouth, the subtlety makes you want to swallow.

Drink- If this was my local microbrew I'd buy it constantly to keep them in business. The beer has an ease of drinkability that makes it so simple to finish a six-pack. Plus, on this trip to the LCBO, out of all the local craft brews I purchased it was buy far the cheapest (even per mL, I nerdily felt the need to work it out.) Despite all of these facts, I live in Toronto and have so many small microbrews on tap from all over Ontario and the Greater Toronto Area that I probably won't pick up Wellington's Arkell Best Bitter again, but I'd tell a friend to pick it up when exploring the craft scene here in Ontario.

Serving type: Can

Serving type: can

10-30-2012 04:04:15 | More by MaxwellSchaefer
Photo of decimator

Ontario (Canada)

3.7/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

473ml bottle can poured into a pint glass. ABV 4%.
Served with a couple slice of deluxe pizza.

A - Poured a clear copper with a bubbly cream head that quickly vanished. Minimal lacing.

S - Bread, earth, caramel, buttered toast, some floral. Smells like an English bitter.

T - Caramel sweetness, toasted grains, some buttery notes, mild bitter finish.

M - Medium-light carbonation, medium body, slick, watery, bitter aftertaste is subdued and short.

O - Pretty flavorful for a light beer. Indeed sessionable but it could use a bit more bitterness from hops in my opinion. Otherwise it is a well crafted beer.

Serving type: can

10-26-2012 23:03:11 | More by decimator
Photo of tbeckett

Ontario (Canada)

3.1/5  rDev -16%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A - Pours copper with strong carbonation while being bright and having a half finger of white head. Little to no lace, film of retention.

S - Biscuity, earthy, a little buttery and a little caramelly, and fruity. Typical English style Bitter from my memory.

T - Kinda buttery, oddly metallic I think. Fruity, toasty malt. A little odd tasting. Not alot of that pleasant fruitiness comes out in the flavour.

M - Fairly strong carbonation, medium body, no perceived bitterness. Mouthfeel seems off for the style.

O/D - I've had this beer and enjoyed it before but it's not really doing much for me in the can. Off for the style. While drinkable, it's nothing to write home about, especially if judging to style.

Serving type: can

09-10-2012 00:51:38 | More by tbeckett
Photo of liamt07

Ontario (Canada)

3.7/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Can from the LCBO, 473ml into a pint glass. Best before April 16, 2012.

Filtered amber brown, with a loose off-white head. Some lacing and moderate retention. Nose has some nice hop notes, earthy, bready and lightly caramelized malts. A touch of diacetyl - simple and pleasant. Taste is a bit restrained, more lightly bready notes, some cracker, fruits but the richer earthier English malt notes on the nose weren't as pronounced on the palate. A bit watery, a bit from some carbonation and a modest hop bitterness. Light and relatively flavourful, I'm sure this is substantially more enjoyable fresh. Good stuff nonetheless.

Serving type: can

03-28-2012 01:41:19 | More by liamt07
Photo of korguy123

Ontario (Canada)

3.68/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

16oz can.

A- Rich amber pour with a finger width head. Great sticky lacing.

S- Light caramel, brown sugar with dates and figs. There is a nice toasted malt

T- Roasted malt resembling toast. Caramel and slight stone fruit.

M- Light bodied, slightly prickly carbonation.

O- Good bitter, note really familiar with the style but worth looking into more.

Serving type: can

01-08-2012 00:27:13 | More by korguy123
Photo of spinrsx

Ontario (Canada)

3.33/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

12oz Bottle

Appearance – Clear light copper colour with an average size fizzy off-white coloured head. There is a low amount of carbonation showing and there is some decent lacing. The head lasted for only a short while before it disappeared.

Smell – Malts, caramel, dark fruits, light hops

Taste & Mouth - There is a below average amount of carbonation and I can taste malts, caramel, and some very light hops. There is also an earthiness and some dark fruit flavour mixed with red apples. It ends with a malty slightly bitter aftertaste.

Overall – Not a very exciting beer by any means, but it I guess it work well as a session beer. Only thing is I think it would be quite boring to drink these one after another. Anyways, it's a decent beer but not something I'd buy again.

Serving type: bottle

12-30-2011 13:38:57 | More by spinrsx
Photo of NV9

Ontario (Canada)

3.79/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a tall can into a pint glass.

Very nice looking beer. Clear deep amber colour with a good 3/4" of head that stayed around for a few minutes with some lacing.

Hops evident in the smell, somewhat yeasty as well.

Taste is sweet at first, easily drinkable for a bitter, part of that may owe to the lower ABV as well 4%, it does say it's intended as a session beer and it seems to achieve what they set out to do.

Serving type: can

10-22-2011 15:18:43 | More by NV9
Photo of biegaman

Ontario (Canada)

3.63/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This polished, golden-amber tone looks like it belongs on a trophy. First prize! The way it gleams in the light you'd think they'd melted down brass. It is clear, despite some chill haze, and the bubbles are quite active. Its head was initially very puffy but in time the surface came to look like someone laid a tissue overtop, nothing more.

Full, mellow tones of high-quality pale malt resonate in the nose along with some fruity ale yeast esters. A faint hop bitterness lingers but remains largely out of sight (err, smell). While it has nice character it doesn't have a ton of it. A trickle of honey-sweet malt comes through with warmth, however, and boosts things up a little bit.

The flavour, too, is driven by a full, but mellow, high-quality pale malt. Again, just a smidgen of toffee is noted. While some vague earthy bitterness registers, nothing more than a hint of hops is ever tasted. A touch of dry apple flavour provides the only highlight for a beer that is a cleanly brewed and, by and large, neutral.

Water salts bring about some of the characteristic mineral stiffness of English bitters, just enough to avoid the body being 'papery'. Still, it is a little light for my tastes (the fact that it's 4% alcohol notwithstanding). Hops delicately temper sweetness, although they are never noticed. Then again, this biscuity pale malt is hardly what you'd call 'heavy'.

Arkell Best Bitter is perfect for a 21st century beer set in early 20th century England. It is a simple, neutral, malt-forward and clean-brewed ale that lends itself to being knocked back easily, and in large quantities. This is a beer better suited to cask, no doubt, but even in the bottle is worth a try. A good alternative to commercial lagers.

Serving type: bottle

10-07-2011 00:00:19 | More by biegaman
Photo of thehyperduck

Ontario (Canada)

3.73/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Friends from Guelph have told me this stuff is pretty good, but this is the first time I've seen it at my LCBO. This can is courtesy of the brewery's pub pack, one of two brews in the pack I've never had before. Haven't had a bitter in months but I tend to like the style.

Pours a brilliant translucent amber, topped with 1.5 fingers of creamy, beige head. Head retention isn't very impressive, but a filmy coat and reasonably thick collar remain behind. The smell is enough to get me interested; some caramel malts, plums, fresh baker's bread, and some earthy hops in the background.

The smell wasn't misleading, I already like this stuff. Bready, lightly roasted malts, gentle caramel sweetness. Some fruity esters, as well as some buttery notes. These flavours all lie on top of a firm backbone of leafy english-style hops. Decent balance between the malts and hops but a bit more of the latter might help. Medium-thin body with moderate carbonation. It seems watery, but honestly for 4.0% ABV the flavour is reasonably rich. Very drinkable, but I've never had a bitter that wasn't.

Wellington's Best Bitter is well-crafted and tasty, certainly one of the better beers I've had from this brewery. For a lower ABV beer, there are plenty of flavours here, and none of them are off (although they are also by no means mind-blowingly awesome). If bitters are your thing, give it a shot. A perfect session ale, and one I will probably pick up again.

[Updated Jan. 8 2014]

Another can, this time compared with a few other bitters (Trafalgar ESB, Fuller's ESB and Wells Bombardier). This one is noticeably lighter than any of those three, but that isn't surprising given the abv. Arkell Best Bitter doesn't impress me as much as it used to, but it's still a passable session bitter that I don't mind returning to once in a while. I still say the English imports are better - not to mention cheaper.

Final Grade: 3.73, a B+

Serving type: can

08-26-2011 18:40:23 | More by thehyperduck
Photo of ritzkiss

Ontario (Canada)

3.5/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pint at The Only. Arrives a clear golden hue with hints of mahogany. Finger of head fed by lots of rising bubbles, maintains a head.

Nose has a slight mineral character, bready malt, caramel, light fruitiness. Flavor is more fruity, pretty sweet for a bitter, honey bread, light grassy bitterness gives a drying finish, light lemon, a bit of butter, caramel. Definitely over carbonated, a little thin in this format, even for a bitter. It's not bad but we do some better bitters than this in Ontario.

Serving type: on-tap

07-26-2011 20:13:01 | More by ritzkiss
Photo of Stocean1

Ontario (Canada)

3.5/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured a one finger head on tap at the Golden Kiwi - little lacing and head dissipated quickly - nice dark amber colour - S - slightly grassy, a little caramel and light malt - the taste follows the nose - also buttery with a little spice - pleasant and very sessionable but a little understated with only a hint of hops - nice but could be more bitter - O - very decent although compared to other bitters could use a bit more punch IMO.

Serving type: on-tap

07-20-2011 18:11:35 | More by Stocean1
Photo of hopsolutely

Ontario (Canada)

3.85/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Release in cans is very new and offers a pleasant surprise. Lots of flavour in this low alcohol beer.

Pours a clear, orange-hued amber with decent head. Very carbonated, but not unpleasantly bubbly. Both aroma and taste are pure caramelized malts with biscuity tones. Hint of hops in flavour, but overall a very mild drinking bitter.

Would definitely recommend.

Serving type: can

07-17-2011 21:20:38 | More by hopsolutely
Photo of Kartoffeln

Ontario (Canada)

4.38/5  rDev +18.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Pours coppery orange with a modest but dense off-white head. Good retention, gradually dissipating to a foamy ring; there's a bit of lacing, too.

S: Toffee malts and fresh floral, fruity, and slightly grassy hops. Undertones of biscuit malt, honey, peppery spices, and butter.

T: Toasty biscuit malts forward with hints of caramel and light rye (much more dominant than in the nose). Faint floral hops come to the fore in the swallow and reveal a grassy, herbal bitterness, joined by roasted malts. Nutty undertones throughout.

M: Body is on the heavy end of light with light but crisp, almost coarse, carbonation. The herbal hop and roasted malt finish provides light, lingering, and nuanced bitterness to balance the malty flavour cleanly and encourage a follow-up sip.

D: An exceptionally flavoural and sessionable bitter; probably the best offering from Wellington's. It took me a while to find it (finally got it on tap at Hometown Eatery, i.e. Yukiko's, in Waterloo), but it is unquestionably worth seeking out.

Serving type: on-tap

06-26-2011 03:15:37 | More by Kartoffeln
Photo of dgilks


3.63/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Received in a trade with JohnnyBarman. Thanks Matt.

Clear copper colour with a small, off-white head. Head retention is pretty average.

Mild caramel malt aroma mild earthy hop character. A touch metallic and dull.

Refined malt flavour with mild esters and a touch of creaminess. Light hop character. Good but lacking depth.

Medium body with moderate carbonation. It feels a little gassy.

A well crafted English ale but lacking in the depth of malt character that makes this style rock.

Serving type: bottle

04-27-2011 08:05:27 | More by dgilks
Photo of bryehn

Ontario (Canada)

3.78/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

Wow, what a surprisingly good "light" beer.

Pours a lovely amber colour with a moderate, soapy white head that leaves a bit of lacing and a small collar.

Creates a nice, crisp, inviting aroma that seems well-balanced. I get a fairly deep malt tone out front with hints of a dark fruit such as prunes and a nice, citrus and grass end.

Unfortunately, after all that rich aroma, the taste comes off as slightly flat. There really isn't much going on hear. I get a bready, malty taste primarily and though I wouldn't put it high on any bitterness scale, there is enough to balance things nicely.

The mouthfeel is a bit watery, but more substantial than most light beers. It has a decent feeling of carbonation on the tongue and leaves a clean dry aftertaste. I find this extremely drinkable.

This review was based on my second sample out of a six pack, but I've already had enough to know the beer will make it into high rotation for social gatherings or poker games.

Serving type: bottle

01-13-2011 17:02:32 | More by bryehn
Photo of JohnnyBarman

Ontario (Canada)

3.48/5  rDev -5.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Copper-amber, with a decent foamy head, solid retention. Patches of lacing scatter the glass. Looks pretty damned good for a bitter.

Nose is malt, dark fruit, mild earthy hops.

Not a bad tasting bitter, but certainly not my favorite. Everything tastes washed out - not nearly the flavor profile I was expecting for something styled as a bitter. An English pale, perhaps, but not a bitter. Mild malt character, a touch metallic, earthy hops finish things off.

Despite this, I must say this one is a good session drinker - it's easy to get down, doesn't taste bad or anything, it's just nothing special.

Mouthfeel is watery, feels a bit thin. Okay carb for a bitter.

Decent, easy to drink, but lacks a solid flavor profile to really enjoy. I actually prefer the SPA to Arkell as my Welly sessionable.

Serving type: on-tap

09-24-2010 01:46:23 | More by JohnnyBarman
Photo of kwjd

Ontario (Canada)

3.35/5  rDev -9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had this on cask at Queen & Beaver in Toronto. I find the quality of this beer on cask here really can vary, so I'm reviewing it from one of the better pours to be fair to the beer.

It pours a deep copper with thin white head. The aroma is pleasant, but very mild. It has some floral hops and some biscuit malt. Taste has a sligtest hint of bitterness, with some caramel coming through. It is an fine bitter, but nothing special.

Serving type: cask

07-12-2010 15:44:42 | More by kwjd
Photo of Dawkfan

Alberta (Canada)

4.05/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A- This one pours a slightly hazed amber/copper with a small off white head that dissipates rather quickly, no lace to speak of.

S- Caramel malt and bread. It smells sweet almost fruity I guess. I'm having a hard time picking up any hops, but the aroma is quite inviting.

T- I was expecting something different given the nose, it's much milder. Again, I can't detect much hop flavor, but what I'm getting is light toasted caramel malt, biscuit, bread, and a somewhat minerally/spicy type finish.

M- Light body, moderate carbonation, crisp, and refreshing.

D- This is probably the best session beer available in Canada at 4% abv, unbelievably easy to get down. This packs a lot flavor for 4% IMO.

Serving type: bottle

07-09-2010 23:38:27 | More by Dawkfan
Photo of PEBKAC

New York

2.98/5  rDev -19.2%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2 | overall: 4

Sealed six pack smuggled across the border. Snazzy-looking Duke portrait bottle caps to add to the collection.

Pint glass pour. A somewhat dull, filtered amber-colored body. An inch of thin, eggshell head. It looks bored.

Not a whole lot on the smell. Toasted brown bread crust, some caramel, glassy pine. Smells a bit of leather too.

Taste is mild & doughy. A touch muddy/minerally, with a so-so bite of grassy hops. Dry, yeasty, peppery finish.

Lackluster carbonation. Tacky mouthfeel. Dusty going down.

A decent thirst quencher. Not something I'd buy again though.

Serving type: bottle

04-24-2010 06:40:39 | More by PEBKAC
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Arkell Best Bitter from Wellington County Brewery
83 out of 100 based on 93 ratings.