Category Archives: Bitter/ESB/English Strong Ale

Fuller’s 2017 Vintage Ale


“As the new Head Brewer, this 2017 edition of Vintage Ale champions a new American hop variety Denali, used to give the beer a citrusy, pine-like flavour and a new British malt variety Laureate. Combined with trusty British hops Target and Goldings, our 21st Vintage Ale is a well-rounded and balanced beer with Fuller’s yeast adding the orange, marmalade characters to it.”

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Slightly muddy copper pour with a short fizzy head which quickly disappears. Next to no lace as we go.

Aroma: The classic sweet malts come to the forefront bringing toffee, caramel fudge and rich butterscotch. Not as much toast and nutty malts as your typical English ale though, they’re replaced by residual sugars, port, raisin, dates/prunes and jaffa. Even after all these years it still holds on to some hop character too – a touch of sweet orange and candied lemon, herbs and spice. Impressive.

Flavour: It’s like this thick, earthy and malty presence that masquerades as a Barleywine but is light enough to pass as an ESB. All the while offering your classic English particulars like toffee apple, caramel, marmalade, orange citrus, biscuits, fruit cake and ginger-like spice. It’s amazing…it keeps this intensity of flavour all the way through to the finish.

Mouthfeel: Dense and meaty. Quite surprised by the Co2…it’s fairly active for the style. 8.5% ABV is so well concealed.

Overall: Well well, what a beer. We only just tried the 2019 vintage a week ago and now we’re on a mission to try them all. This 2017 vintage is immaculate. Who’d have thought we’d be giving brewery of the month to Fuller’s! Completely deserved though.

Fuller’s London Pride


“London Pride is a smooth and astonishingly complex beer, which has a distinctive malty base complemented by a rich balance of well developed hop flavours from the Target, Challenger and Northdown varieties in the brew.”

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Beautiful deep amber hue with full transparency. It forms a thumb of off white head which gradually peels off. It drags a wet lace down the glass.

Aroma: The first thing that strikes us is the impeccable balance. She’s obviously malt-driven…dominated by the sweet caramel and toffee, bready and nutty malts but the citrusy, earthy and kinda spicy hops cut through it like butter. Certainly picking up the fruity/estery yeast as it’s offering up hints of banana, apple/pear and rosewater. There’s even a flutter of umami! Incredible.

Flavour: It follows on from the nose with that exquisite balance. Just as the sweet, bready and nutty malts start to tip the scales the hops counteract with notes of orange citrus, marmalade and more of an earthy spice late in the piece. And keeping with the flow of the beer those sweet malts return to deliver a beautifully balanced finish with excellent duration.

Mouthfeel: Slick, gelatinous, medium bodied. Co2 is perfectly weighted. 4.7% ABV. Everything just screams balance with this beer.

Overall: This is the epitome of English ale. Well structured malt bill with just enough hops to keep it in check. Full flavoured yet somehow sessional. No wonder they call it “London Pride”…plenty to be proud of with this. Top shelf.

Fuller’s 2019 Vintage Ale


“For the Vintage Ale 2019, we have traveled 12,000 miles for inspiration, as West London meets South Island New Zealand. Wai-Iti hop brings mandarin, lemon, and lime to the fore, whilst Crystal malt – grown on the New Zealand’s Canterbury Plains – adds notes of toasted bread and honey. Looking a little closer to home, our famous Fuller’s yeast gives the beer its familiar orange marmalade backbone.”

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: An attractive burnished chestnut with a short khaki head. It quickly retreats to the rim with minimal lace in its wake.

Aroma: A dead set malt bomb but we dig it! Initially it’s all about the super sweet toffee, raisin, dates/prunes, butterscotch and floral honey but as it settles it takes on more of a dry-aged character with hints of old oak, licorice, tobacco and banana bread…although the latter is probably representative of the old world English yeast. Mild spicy and citrusy hop qualities in the background. Superb!

Flavour: It’s a mirror image of the aroma but we must admit there’s a lot more earthy-ness and hop bitterness setting it apart. Alas, tonnes of dark fruit sweetness, honey, caramel, toffee and buttery biscuits alongside the floral and citrusy hops and somewhat fruity yeast profile. There’s a long drawn out finish of toast, orange blossom and dried wood which punctuates beautifully.

Mouthfeel: Fairly chewy, dense and silky. Medium-full body, mild-moderate Co2. The 8.5% ABV is perceptible but mostly well contained.

Overall: Believe it or not this is our first crack at the Fuller’s vintage range. Damn we wish we jumped on sooner as this is amazing! It’s rich, warming, sweet yet a little bitter and earthy. Brilliant.

Coniston Brewing ‘Bluebird’ Bitter


“It is, quite simply, a wonderful beer. It is exceedingly pale (21-22 units colour), with just a hint of colour in its cheeks from the dash of crystal malt. It has a massive orange fruit aroma from the challengers, balanced by biscuity malt. Juicy malt and tart hops vie for attention in the mouth while the finish is tart and hoppy but well balanced by creamy malt. The bitterness rating is a substantial 36-38. The tangy fruit lingers on the back of the tongue until it develops a hint of orange liqueur.”

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Clear bold amber with a short white head which quickly retracts. Not a lot of lace is left in its wake.

Aroma: Slightly muted notes of semi sweet honey malts, light musky florals, peppery spice, somewhat earthy hops and cereal grains. It all started off a little shy but as we go it starts to come out of its shell. How ironic that we’re talking about a beer in that fashion!

Flavour: Very much like the aroma…soft and almost watered down notes of caramel and honey mix with earthy and floral hops. A flutter of herbal spice here and there as well. Some toast and cereal grains coming through as it finishes rather vague and bland. Not a great deal of length to it either.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, silky, maybe just a tad lean but it is only 4.2% ABV. Flat-ish Co2, moderately bodied. A bit meh.

Overall: It’s all a bit meh to be honest. It’s very weak and insipid at times. The upside is that it does hit the traditional English ale features but it’s just too shy for our liking. Won’t be wasting our time on this one again.

Black Sheep ‘Riggwelter’ English Strong Ale


“Riggwelter takes its name from a local Yorkshire Dales farming term which has Nordic roots; “rygg” meaning back, and “velte” meaning to overturn. A sheep is said to be rigged or ‘riggwelted’ when it has rolled onto its back and is unable to get back up without assistance. What better name for a strong beer from the Black Sheep Brewery in Yorkshire, eh?!”

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Gorgeous deep crimson pour with two fingers of finely beaded foam resting atop. Excellent retention and healthy lace clinging to the glass as it ebbs.

Aroma: We already love it as we can smell it as it sits idle on the table. Below the nostrils it offers an intense array of sweet malts and floral and fruity hops. Oodles of caramel, toffee, dark fruits like raisin, dates and plum, light florals, variants of orange citrus like blossom, marmalade and flambèed. Getting this scent of burnt butter and mushrooms? Kinda nice though.

Flavour: She’s actually richer and more complex on the palate. It almost reaches Dark Ale level with its heavy caramel, toffee and lightly roasted malts. Still plenty of dark fruit sweetness but the burnt toast, coffee and cocoa through the mid adds another dimension to this already brilliant beer. Then throw this almost funky English yeast in the mix and we have one smashing beer.

Mouthfeel: Chewy and gelatinous yet still quite crisp and perfectly balanced. Medium body, flat-ish Co2. 5.7% ABV is nicely disguised.

Overall: We’re absolutely loving our English ales lately. They’re such an underappreciated style and when they’re done this well you just have to appreciate it. Superb.

Timothy Taylor’s ‘Boltmaker’ Yorkshire Bitter


“A well-balanced, genuine Yorkshire Bitter, with a full measure of maltiness and hoppy aroma – Boltmaker is first choice for the discerning drinker – on both sides of the Pennines. Formerly known as Best Bitter, Boltmaker has won many awards over the years but most recently it was awarded the CAMRA Supreme Champion Beer of Britain in 2014 and Champion Beer of Britain – Bitter category in 2016.”

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Bold amber with full transparency. It forms a thumb of khaki head which hangs around. Nice webbed lace as we imbibe.

Aroma: Smells absolutely amazing. Malty sweet but nicely balanced by the spicy and herbal old world hops. It really is the malt show though…packed full of caramel, toffee, nuts, toast/doughy bread and sweet dark fruits i.e raisin, prunes/dates and fig. A faint hint of marmalade in there too. Top shelf stuff.

Flavour: English ale at its finest. The palate is swamped with sweet malts ranging from caramel, butterscotch, dried dark fruits and nuts but it’s kept in check by a fine hop bitterness along with orange peel, spice and earthy herbals. Beautifully balanced finish with lingering notes of wheatmeal biscuits and toast.

Mouthfeel: Nice and full yet still light on…the bitterness certainly helping there. Moderate Co2. Only 4.2% ABV so well in to session territory.

Overall: An absolute corker of a beer. The epitome of English ale – easy drinking, sweet but balanced and highly palatable. Brilliant.

Cooper’s 2020 ‘Vintage Ale’ English Strong Ale


“The 2020 release of our much-loved Vintage Ale had to be special to recognise the 20th brew of one of our most famous ales. The Coopers brewing team has revelled in the challenge of making an authentic Vintage Ale with that special twist we have become accustomed to. A special ‘Leabrook’ barley from the Adelaide Hills was chosen to create the Pale malt for this brew and, when combined with crystal and wheat malt, provides a smooth mouthfeel and a fine creamy head.”

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Kinda muddy light brown with toffee highlights. It manages a short beige head which slowly peels off. Nice wavy lace clings to the sides of the glass.

Aroma: A proper malt bomb but that’s exactly what we were expecting. The fact that it’s still pretty green means it’s displaying a fair bit of earthy and floral hop but the lovely nutty, toasty and toffee-laden malts take centre stage. The classic Cooper’s yeast in all of its estery glory plays a big part too. Solid!

Flavour: It’s definitely a bit more bitter than we expected… probably due to its freshness again but the earthy, floral and grassy hops certainly provide a heady dryness that counteracts the toasty malts. Burnt toffee, cocoa, carob and toast finish with a nice dry grassiness in the tail.

Mouthfeel: Chewy and well rounded with a defined bitterness in the swallow. Medium-full body with low-ish Co2. 7.5% ABV is slightly noticeable.

Overall: Probably not our most favoured vintage.. which works with the sort of year we’ve all had anyway, so it’s fitting right?? Not bad.

Fuller’s ‘Past Masters – 1909’ English Strong Ale


“A smooth, well balanced and fruity beer. 1909 Pale Ale is the Tenth beer in our celebrated Past Masters series, which sees long-lost recipes revived from our famous brew books. Every single afternoon since 1845, the Fuller’s brewing team has diligently written out the ingredients of the day’s brews – and the Past Masters series is a great example of why we do it.”

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Golden amber with a fluffy two finger head. Good retention and lots of spotty lace as it ebbs.

Aroma: Initially we pick up a certain tangy orange note which reminds us of Jaffa. It morphs in to marmalade and then eventually apricot/rockmelon. It has a bit of a syrupy note which we’re not totally fond of. It’s quite yeasty too, providing estery pear/apple, butterscotch and banana. Very chewy and doughy malt profile filling it out.

Flavour: The yeast esters are even more pronounced here – banana, apple/pear, tangy orange, chewy caramels and butterscotch. Again the syrupy sweetness is a little cloying. Doughy malts providing a hint of toasty-ness as it finishes a little sticky and sweet with hints of candied orange and banana.

Mouthfeel: Surprisingly light for its size. – 8.7% ABV. A little chewy and gelatinous, flat-ish Co2.

Overall: It has traits of our very own Cooper’s Vintage Ale (which personally we think is better than this). Love the acknowledgement to the history of this brewery but the actual beer itself doesn’t really float our boat.

Durham Brewery ‘Cloister’ Premium Bitter


“A simple malt grist of maris otter pale malt and a small amount of crystal malt is bittered and aromatized by a complex addition of a unique blend of hops. English, Czech and American hops mingle throughout the boil to give a heady flowery aroma, and a tantalising peachy flavour, offset by a refreshing degree of bitterness. Despite its complexity this beer is clean and thirst quenching.”

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Amber with a soft orange tint. It produced two fingers of finely beaded foam and retains nicely. Webbed lace clings to the glass as it subsides.

Aroma: So satisfyingly English. In this day and age of crazy hopped out juicy oat cream hazy IPA’s it’s very refreshing to take in such a traditional aroma profile. Super earthy, lots of orange citrus/marmalade, a touch of candied lemon, black pepper, mixed berries, mildew, basil and mild lychee or watermelon. Love it! Love a good English bitter.

Flavour: Again, the earthy-ness is the integral part. Surrounding it is the semi sweet orange citrus and berries and the subtle spicy herbs i.e basil, coriander and rocket there in the background. The classic toasty/bready malt counteracts it all beautifully. Citrus comes back in to the fold before it wraps up with a grassy/herbaceous finish which endures.

Mouthfeel: Fairly smooth and inoffensive. Slightly dry post swallow. Medium body and Co2. Only 4.5% ABV so it’s certainly in session territory.

Overall: Just a lovely English pale. Conventional and impeccably balanced yet chock full of flavour and aroma. Our first entry for this British brewery and we’re impressed.

Dieu Du Ciel! ‘Voyageur Des Brumes’ ESB


“This mahogany coloured beer has a caramel malt bouquet accompanied by the light aroma of hops. The caramel malt taste sails wonderfully into the mouth alongside a fruity taste brought about by a trio of hops.”

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Pours a lovely copper to deep amber with a short off white cap. It gradually breaks up and settles at the rim. Reasonable lace chasing it down.

Aroma: A heavenly mix of sweet caramel, buttered bread and toffee meets the olfactory’s. Really earthy hop profile with hints of marmalade and sweet orange citrus. Lots of biscuity sweetness beginning to opening up along with subtle touches of black tea, dried apricot and honey. Absolutely on point!

Flavour: Similar to the nose but with a slightly more pronounced hop bitterness. Caramels, buttery toast, toffee and honey are balanced by slightly bitter orange peel and marmalade. It hits a nice toasty note midway and continues in to a dry finish full of mild roast , toffee and earthy/spicy hops.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, kinda creamy with moderate bitterness kicking in post swallow. Medium body and Co2. 5.2% ABV is well placed.

Overall: DDC is one of the first craft breweries we ever fell in love with (going back some years now!). Their consistency and quality is their best trait. Just take this ESB as a prime example…they brew one better than the Poms! World class.

Coastal Brewing ‘Old Bar’ Best Bitter


“A straw coloured English Best Bitter brewed in the English Black Country style. Smooth and sessionable sitting at 4.0% ABV – perfect for an Autumn evening. Named after ‘Old Bar’ – a beautiful coastal town to the north of Forster where the brewery is located.”

Glassware: English Pint

Appearance: Almost 100% clear golden complexion with a short yet well retained cap on top. Healthy lacing as we go.

Aroma: Classic Euro-centric spicy and herbal hops with additions of light florals, mild lemony citrus, cut grass, earthy/woody notes and semi sweet malts. Not a whole lot else really…it’s just super crisp, almost Pilsner-esque daytime neck oil.

Flavour: Follows the nose with Noble hops for days – peppery spice, grassy herbals, florals and slightly earthy accents fuse with the subtle honeyed malts. Very delicate citrus across the mid palate leading in to an ultra clean finish which offers some grassy and spicy tones on the back end.

Mouthfeel: Again very Pilsner-esque – light, crisp and clean with super soft bitterness and fine carbonation. 4% ABV definitely has it in session territory.

Overall: Even though we’ve tried many of CBC’s beers before this is actually our first review. It’s very basic but essentially it’s true to style and bloody easy to put back. Not going to break down any doors but it’s a fairly decent drop.

Holgate Brewhouse Double ESB


67322980_1134239863426824_7070321127691649024_n“Our Double ESB is a strong and celebratory take on the classic. English crystal and roast malts give a rich and chewy malt character alongside a quintessentially English hop character (floral, spice, honey) courtesy of East Kent Golding hops.”

Glassware: English Pint.

Appearance: Deep amber complexion with a fizzy three finger head emerging on top. Retention is pretty good so we’re seeing a thick and soapy lace sticking to the glass as we go.

Aroma: It’s got those hallmark bready and caramel malt-forward scents followed by toffee apple, fresh brown bread, toast, herbal spice, raisin, marmalade and subtle orange peel. A bit of a sweet nutty accent happening as well. They’ve hidden the 7.5% AbV remarkably well…can’t even get a hint of it! They’ve absolutely nailed this aroma.

Flavour: Nice transition from the nose…again, bready/toasty and sweet caramel malts dominate the fore. Just a hint of the warming booze creeping in. Right on cue those zesty orange notes come to the party – pithy orange peel and hop bitterness drying things up nicely. Caramel, toffee and light brioche carrying in to a bitter sweet finish that goes the distance.

Mouthfeel: Nice and full, chewy and gelatinous with mild-medium co2. A slight burn from the booze but honestly it’s pretty well shackled.

Overall: Holgate’s original ESB is one of Australia’s best interpretations of the style so it comes as no surprise that this iteration is practically faultless. The AbV shows through a tad but we can’t blame them for that (it is a double ESB after all!). Kudos Holgate that’s top shelf stuff.


Wayward Brewing ‘Furious Gnome’ ESB

46505754_986744881509657_241970043615707136_n“A super smooth English Ale with a deep amber colour and aromas of biscuit, coffee and caramel. This style of beer is actually not especially bitter at all. Cool fermentation provides a clean finish which, alongside subtle hop bitterness. Perfectly balances the rich malt driven palate.”

Glassware: English pint.

Appearance: Deep amber with excellent clarity. It builds a finely beaded finger of head which persists and decorates the sides of the glass nicely.

Aroma: It offers a rich and sweet caramel malt profile which leads in to somewhat buttery and bready undertones. Really holding true to its English roots with its toasty, nutty, toffee and moreish butterscotch supported by more faint notes of gentle roast, biscuits and light florals. Certainly one of the better Aussie ESB aromas.

Flavour: Transitions nicely – really hitting that malt sweetness with perfection. It’s mostly caramel-driven but well layered with mild roasty notes, butterscotch, biscuit, nuts and a very delicate roast. Some floral hop character in there, again, staying true to its origins and playing 2nd fiddle. Finishes light, toasty and slightly dry with excellent length.

Mouthfeel: There’s a lifted co2 and AbV (5.6%) but otherwise it’s medium weight and low on bitterness (26 IBU) with a kind of creamy texture.

Overall: Really solid ESB…almost in Fuller’s territory. We recall trying this years ago at the brewery and being very impressed so we’re glad to see that hasn’t changed. This here is the real deal, without a doubt one of Australia’s best interpretations of an ESB

Young’s Special London Ale

27072558_806470756203738_9011592309726723291_n“Young’s Special London Ale is the UK’s No.1 bottle conditioned ale. It is an unpasteurised, living beer, matured in the bottle for a fuller, more complex, multi-dimensional, fresher taste. Without artificial carbonation, the only fizz is the natural effervescence created by fermentation.”

Glassware: English pint.

Appearance: Relatively clear amber colour with a healthy two finger head forming on top. It slowly retracts and dispenses a fine lace as it subsides.

Aroma: Big malty notes erupting out of the glass. Oodles of caramel, toffee, bread crusts, hay and toast. Solid hop bill as well, it almost results in an English IPA with its zesty orange citrus, floral notes and soft spicy characters. Some dried stonefruit coming through as it settles. Surprisingly good, really good actually.

Flavour: Delicious malt profile that provides sweet caramel, toast and honey. Like the aroma there is a sturdy hop presence bringing stonefruit, marmalade, apricot and earthy spice. It hits a slight dryness midway then surges in to a long, sweet and kind of spicy finish with a hint of grassy hop in the tail.

Mouth feel: Texture is drying but also smooth as silk. Moderate co2 with medium body. Very well hidden ABV (6.4%).

Overall: We are really surprised by this. Here we are thinking this would be a straight forward traditional ESB but it’s far from it, she’s crammed full of malt sweetness and spiked with a big hop profile. Teetering on the edge between an ESB and an English IPA. Impressive.

Young Henrys ‘Real Ale’ Best Bitter

18057637_681836508667164_626769631882701101_n“The Real Ale is our take on a traditional Best Bitter. In other words, where British style meets Australian tastes. We start with a 50/50 blend of English and Australian malts then add three of our favourite varieties of Aussie hops; Topaz, Galaxy and Ella. This gives a New World kick to an Old World classic. Thanks to some lingering sweet toffee and caramel flavours, the Real Ale packs loads of flavour into a 4% beer. So much so that we were invited to the UK for the 2014 International Real Ale Festival and were incredibly honoured to see this beer pick up the Gold medal, matching it with some big hitters from the home of Best Bitters.”

Served in an English pint. Slightly hazy deep amber complexion with a short head topping it off. Good retention though, allowing a wavy lace to stick to the glass as we imbibe.
Quite a simple aroma, but very effective. It obviously focusses on the sweet bready malt with caramel meeting the floral and earthy hops. Some jammy characters in here, marmalade and apricot come forward with a nice toasty note working in. Something candy-ish in here that we just can’t put our finger on. Toffee apple maybe? Either way it’s a nice touch.
Super smooth in the mouth. Creamy texture, mild Co2 and a very gentle bitterness. Just 4% ABV as well so session ability is what it seems the brewers are going for here.
The flavour backs up with a big impression of white bread, caramel, earthy hop and light florals. Somewhat of a nutty middle makes way for a super smooth finish which reveals biscuity malt, subtle herbs and dough on the back end.
We can now see how this ale picked up a gold medal in the UK real ale festival, it’s about as traditional as you can get. Wouldn’t be surprised if we saw this pouring right next to a tap of London Pride in any classic English pub.

Bad Shepherd Brewing Co ‘Brew Crew #1’ ESB

17951937_679769282207220_5147722591779435490_n“It’s an ESB (Extra Special Bitter) made by Dan (the barman) and a beer that captures the essence of the man himself. Some sweetness (from the malt), a touch fruity (from the yeast esters) but mostly dry and bitter. To be any more like Dan this ESB would need to have tattoos and stay away from social media.”

Served in an English pint. Amber in appearance with a modest finger of head that takes its time to dissipate to a ring. It laced extremely well for the lack of head.
Very interesting aroma. There’s one certain element that lifts out and smacks us in the face and that is peanuts. Almost every variation of the nut is here. Be it husk, salted or crushed. It’s very prominent. The downfall would be that it almost prevents anything else from coming through. Alas, we do pick up suggestions of toasty malt, dried apricot, white bread and spicy hops, albeit conservatively. A little unbalanced but certainly appealing.
The mouth feel is dry and somewhat frothy in texture. The body is on the fuller side of medium while the 34 IBU carves out an assertive bitterness upfront. Good Co2.
The flavour combines a mix of nutty, bready and sweet malts with a touch of tangy orange citrus initially. Hints of light floral hops jag in and transition through the mid. Quite earthy as it moves forward towards a toasty/nutty finish which offers good length.
Our first crack at this breweries range. Quite a solid offering for the most part but a little lacking in others. The aroma was nice but unbalanced and the mouth feel and flavour although enjoyable, just didn’t hit home for us. Maybe a bit of a tough review but we’ll definitely be keen on trying the rest of their range.

Bacchus Brewing Co ‘Bighook’ ESB

16996312_652110018306480_1875532199909450282_n“We have used the traditional English hop Fuggle with the addition of some European Noble hops to give this classic style a nice spicy twist. Caramel malt sweetness is beautifully balanced by the hops to create a full flavoured easy drinking ale.”

Served in an English pint. We’re met with a deep rusted amber hue with a thumb of beige head over the top. Steady reduction, eventually settling to a fine layer of loose bubble that leaves a blotchy lace as it ebbs.
We know, we have an unhealthy obsession with Bacchus right now but with aromas like this you can not blame us! This simply hits its mark…and then some. A big impression of caramel malt wafts out while earthy hops pair up with the characteristic spicy floral notes of European Noble. Subtle apricot and white bread hinge on the lightly toasted malt backing as a soft syrupy honey fills it out. Brilliant.
All the aromas you could possible want in an ESB are here.
Nice effortless progression over the tongue with a bit of weight coming in from the body. Soft, squeaky texture with a carefully lifted Co2. 35 IBU.
That superb balance between the caramel malt sweetness and floral spicy hop carries in to the flavour with a steady push from the earthy Fuggles. Lovely bitterness through the middle as it sails in to a dry finish that offers a moreish buttery toffee sweetness on the rear. Heaven.
The best thing about this drop, in our opinion, is that you wouldn’t need to be a big ESB fan to enjoy it. It’s impeccably balanced, approachable, versatile and slightly hoppier than your traditional style. It’s interpretations like this that lead us to believe that they’re better on tap rather than the hand pump. Top shelf.

Five Barrel brewing ESB

15875562_625573874293428_3457848345518577427_o“English bitters typically fall into three varieties: Mild, Bitter and Extra Special Bitter or ESB. They all share the same affinity for malt and hops, but vary in strength and flavour. We love English style beers and thought we’d better develop a beer good enough to be served from a genuine hand pump. We don’t use conventional hop varieties for our ESB, but we reckon they play an awesome part in creating a malt forward style ale with a rounded hop flavour. Marmalade, orange and spice balanced wonderfully with a sweet toffee malt base. Best served at cellar temperature (12C) to get the most out of the English yeast we use.”

Served in an English pint. She pours a deep amber complexion with a short diminishing head. It eventually collapses to a wispy overlay with minimal lace left in its wake.
The aroma offers up hallmark caramel scents, albeit conservatively, along with an initial dusty character that thankfully disappears after a few minutes. Subtle wafts of candy, jaffa, orange citrus and nutmeg not only give the aroma a slightly unique edge but really helps to fill it all out. We had grave fears for this aroma but it has somehow pulled an ace from its sleeve.
In the mouth it’s a little thin and slippery. The Co2 is moderate as is the body. The 35 IBU develops late to add much needed life to the texture. Too watery for our liking though.
The front palate does see a nice little fusion between the sweet caramel malts and the very subtle citrusy hops but it’s short lived as the mild bitterness kicks in to gear midway. There isn’t a great deal of variation to follow as the sweet caramel malts return for the mild finish.
Yeah, not really convinced here. The sweet caramel flavours aren’t supported by a big enough body. The texture is a bit thin and the aroma had us guessing for a bit there. The foundations of the beer are here it just seems to lack the intensity and depth required to be a good ESB.

Alesmith Brewing Company ‘Anvil’ ESB

15542267_615710418613107_3538361103453959175_n“Anvil ESB is our interpretation of a traditional British-style pub ale. Deep amber in color, a toasty character from British malts and a touch of kettle caramelization blend seamlessly with a mild English hop profile. Its delicate balance of flavors will keep you coming back pint after pint, making it a complex creation we’re proud to call our flagship beer.”

Served in an English pint. The appearance offers a deep amber that reveals a candy red hue when held to the light. A short pancake head is generated but it reduces to a halo with minimal lace.
The nose provides that perfect balance of caramel sweetness against the biscuity malt backing. Loads of chewy butterscotch, toffee, spice and apricot give it that firm bottom end for the light floral hops and savoury nutty characters to work off of. They’ve certainly nailed the traditional component while simultaneously handing it a bit of that American flare. Brilliant way to start off.
The mouth feel is super smooth, almost silky with a mild bitterness forming at the back end. The body is nice and plump with a moderate Co2 level. The 5.5% ABV is obviously higher than your traditional ESB but it’s well masked and again reflects the American temperament in this beer.
We get a really swift progression of flavour starting off with that gorgeous caramel sweetness that transitions in to the kind of buttery/biscuity mid palate. Flashes of herbal hops annex as the bitterness is introduced, leading to a mildly dry, nutty and somewhat earthy finish that endures well on the rear.
Excellent drop. Trust the master brewers of Alesmith to do it again. The succinct precision on show here is world class, its tough to imagine any one not loving this. Solid offering.

3 Ravens ‘USB’ ESB


14993496_593400590844090_7357690522077131957_n“A rich, layered, deep amber coloured beer dominated by hearty toffee malts, alongside raisiny dark fruit and spicy characteristics.”

Served in an English pint. A deep copper pour aroused a gushing four finger head that wants to spill out of the glass. She’s not much of a stayer though as it hastily retreats and eventually establishes a loosely held blanket which produces some spotty lace as it subsides. The nose is providing some incredible aromas. It’s like your typical ESB but on steroids. Every aspect is amplified – the chocolate malts are heady, rich and in-your-face while this almost rum or port character hands it a boozy feel that actually isn’t really there. We get additional wafts of cola, dark bready malts, toffee, pumpernickel and a complex spicy rye accent. Brilliant stuff. The beer is quite chewy and well weighted without being overly heavy on the palate. A surprisingly high Co2 actually works extremely well with the subtle warmth from the 6.1% ABV. The flavour follows on from the nose impeccably….just as we were hoping. This fusion of rich malts, caramel, rum/port and chocolate has the taste buds in a frenzy. As it progresses we get more of a dark fruit character that reveals spicy notes through the mid. A firm bitterness along with a delicate alcohol warmth preludes a dry but sweet and fruity finish with suggestions of port and toffee enduring on the rear. Wow! What an absolutely superb drop. It’s like no other ESB we’ve ever had. This has some kind of boozy potency but still holds just a 6.1% ABV. The rum/port notes are a masterstroke and we’re at odds at how the brewers have managed to incorporate it so effectively. Super stuff.