Tag Archive: ESB

Wychwood: Harper’s: Medusa (England: ESB: 5% ABV)

Visual: Dark chestnut brown to red clear body. Good sized beige to caramel tight bubbled head.

Nose: Malt chocolate. Roasted nuts.

Body: Cherry. Earthy bitterness. Malt chocolate and malt toffee. Slightly creamy. Shortbread. Slight gummed brown envelopes. Lightly sour and tart undertones.

Finish: Creamy. Earthy bitterness. Light menthol. Bitter cocoa. Pepper. Brown gummed envelopes. Dry. Tart apple. Very watered down vinegar tart touch. Soft cherries and cream,

Conclusion: This is… this, this is actually really good. I have to admit that, with it being an Auldi own brand beer kind of thing, I was expecting something fairly middle of the road. Not expecting something bad, just something average. Yes I fell into the beer snob trap, because I am really enjoying this.

Its got a solid malt chocolate base that edges into richer or more bitter cocoa notes at times, alongside that slightly sour and refreshing note that you get in a good, drinkable bitter. Similarly it calls to a bitter in that earthy hop character that comes in the traditional British take on the style. By itself that would result in a generic but satisfying beer, but this goes a step further. Cherry and cream notes make for sweeter high end notes and helping the drinkability is a lightly tart apple undertone.

It is very easy to drink, yet has this soft chocolate middle that seems out from the earthy bitterness and makes it feel soothing, welcoming and very rewarding. So, this is really a very good anytime drinking beer that mixes traditional British bitter notes with sweeter malt ESB character to make a bloody good beer.

Remind me to double check my beer snob assumptions every now and then, so I don’t make mistakes like this again. Well worth a try.

Background: First of all, this is listed as being made by “Harper’s” which is Auldi’s home brand beer. Looking online, that is just a cover name for whoever contract brewed it for them, in this case Wychwood, who are owned by Marston’s. Oh this just gets confusing. Anyway, this was part of a bunch of beers given to me by a colleague at work. Many thanks! The rest I just drank, but I decided to put this one aside to do notes on. Worth noting the Harper’s Wild Bill IPA was solid as well. Put on some Brassick (self titled album and their EP) to listen to while drinking. I’m always glad to see new punk bands still bubbling up after all these years. Solid stuff as well.


Wild Beer Co: Funky Dory (England: ESB: 5% ABV)

Visual: Pale hazy lager to lemon juice. White medium sized head.

Nose: Lychee. Soft lemon. Mango. Tart. Cider touch. Wheat dust air. Fresh cut apples.

Body: Lychee. Mild yeast funk. Brown bread. Peppery. Lightly earthy. Dry lemon. Vanilla. Dry. Light apple. Mild blueberry backing.

Finish: Peppery. Earthy bitterness. Brown bread. Funky yeast. Dried mango. Dry lemon. Mature cheese and cheese puff crisps.

Conclusion: This tastes like an earthy old school British bitter matched with a new wave fruity pale ale, then they both went home and shagged in a pool of brett. Then nine months later this happened. Or something like that.

The front of the beer is full of soft, but quite dry, fruit – tart but in a way that still feels well attenuated and drying. Like a dry lemon drink, but with more range if that helps. That dry fruit works against the lightly funky brett character creating an easy drinking yet dry beer with a lot more weight behind it than such a beer often has.

What builds from that is a really earthy, peppery character that starts low and builds up slowly over the life of the beer. By the end it is very earthy, but backed by a tart character so it calls to, but is very different from the traditional earthy British bitter style.

It isn’t as great a beer as Brett Brett IPA or Chronos, but is another beer that shows that Bretting up other beer styles is where Wild Beer co really shine. The only flaw is that it ends up a bit too earthy dominated by the end and that keeps it from the great highs of the other beers.

Previous Bretted up beers from Wild Beer have aged well, So I’m planning on ageing up one of these for fun – see if it helps it get over the rough spots at the end. As is now it is a very nice take on the British bitter. Not their best, but a lovely twist on the Brit hop style.

Background: I’ve been mixed on Wild Beer Co’s beers recently, but when I saw this is looked like something that sits perfectly in the middle of what they do right. A British hopped ale, but funked up with Brett. Their Brett Brett IPA, Evolver IPA and Chronos Lager all were brett takes on other beer styles and generally were all impressive, so had good hopes for this. It helped that the image is a David Bowie reference – very cool, so I put on his Black Star album while drinking. Some tracks still give me chills even now. I bought one for ageing, to see what the brett did and one for drinking now. Then it was boiling hot so I drank both. This is my second attempt, grabbing two and doing notes on one. It is still too warm. All were grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Cloudwater: Forest and Main: Wind Suit (England: ESB: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Murky apricot to brown. Huge caramel brown mound of head that finally settles on late re-pours. Small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Dried apricot. Gritty hop feel and solid bitterness. Dried grapefruit. Dried pineapple. High hop prickle. Tangerine.

Body: Prickly, gritty, big bitter hop character. Malt chocolate toffee. Grapefruit. Mandarin orange. Choc orange. Pineapple. Bubblegum.

Finish: Choc orange. Mandarin orange. High hop bitterness and gritty hop feel. Pineapple. Pink grapefruit. Wheatgerm. Malt choc toffee drinks. Granite. Bubblegum.

Conclusion: Ok, call me an old fashioned fuddy duddy if you will, but, in my mind ESB is a style that should have a solid malt presence. This feels hopped like an IPA, with just a darker coloured and more cloudy base behind it. Like the ESB equivalent of a Black IPA. I mean, I like hops, heck, I love hops, but not every beer style needs to be dominated by them.

Ok, that is my old man whine over, let’s see how this does as a beer in itself then. Well, mixed. I can’t deny that it has massive presence – from the pop of the cap thick fruity notes float out of the bottle – dried fruit notes, or more correctly, dry takes on fruit notes, if that makes sense.

Sipping it, it is very prickly, very fresh in its hop bitterness. Unlike a couple of other Cloudwater beers recently though it thankfully manages to not suffer from hop burn. It still has a kind of gritty, rocky, quite rough hop feel, but done on the down low as a subtle element of the beer. Not my favourite but style I will say, but while the bitterness is high, the grittiness is an element that does not intrude too much thankfully.

Below that is fresh tart fruit – using grapefruit and pineapple for the old school tart hits against pink grapefruit and a range of fresh orange notes for the new hop style influence. This is the best element of the beer – fresh feeling and making the most of the new hop trend to add really bright notes to this beer.

The malt below that is … muddled. Toffee to choc toffee or choc orange sweets. It feels gritty again, murky in taste like the dirty river cloudiness that the beer has on the eye. It is ok, but a bit rough.

So, despite the fact that yes, I am looking at this side eyed as it doesn’t match what I would expect an ESB to be, I think that I can say that, aside from that, the hop forwardness really doesn’t work to its best here. It just feels rough and out of place. The flavour is great, but the feel that comes with it always makes it feel like something is out of wack.

Now it doesn’t ruin the beer, but it definitely makes it sub optimal. It has an odd mouthfeel that doesn’t match what it is doing with the flavour, and isn’t an intriguing element by itself.

Good hops in a beer that doesn’t really reward it for that.

Background: I’ve been mixed on Cloudwater so far – some stonkers of beers, some real let downs. They have a huge rep and when they are on point they hit it, but they are a tad more variable in quality than I like. Still, I was intrigued by their last ESB, which was an unusual take on the style, so when I saw this collaborative ESB I thought I would give it a try. Don’t know much about Forest & Main by comparison, will see how that goes. Lots of unusual elements – uses JW Lee yeast – lots of hop use including Simcoe and Mosaic which I am a huge fan of. Put on Evil Scarecrow – Galactic Hunt to listen to for this – looking forwards to seeing them again later this year. This was another one grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Ska Brewing ESB Special Ale

Ska Brewing: ESB Special Ale (USA: ESB: 5.8% ABV)

Visual: Clear apricot gold. Moderate off white mounded bubbles for a head that leaves suds. Some carbonation.

Nose: Mild vinous. Sour grapes. Raisins soaked in port. Lightly wheaty. Orange peel. Shortbread, Palma violets.

Body: Glacier cherries. Chewy. Malt drinks. Fig rolls. Palma violets. Lightly earthy. Vanilla toffee. Lightly vinous. Fruitcake. Shortbread. Light chalkiness. Raspberry yogurt chunks.

Finish: Figs. Lightly earthy bitterness that soon rises. Slight soil. Malt chocolate and choc orange. Slight chalkiness. Light sour grapes. Mild tart tayberry. Pepper.

Conclusion: Looks can be deceiving. Case in point, when I poured this beer it came out a deep, dark but clear gold colour. Fair enough, but from that I was expecting, taste wise, that this would be far from the traditional dark fruitcake ESB that comes to mind when I think of this style.

Now, this does have differences from a standard ESB – the more traditional notes and more mildly delivered and it is backed by a sweet vanilla toffee base. However, at the heart of it all, the vinous notes are there, the dark fruit, fruitcake. It is all there, just not pushed as heavily.

What it does is patch those dark notes to the lighter, sweeter base, then decided to tie it closer to the British interpretation by whopping a nice earthy hop base to it. Normally overly earthy hopped beers can get easily dull, but contrasted by the sweetness it manages to avoid that fate, and the earthiness ties everything together. It does enough calls to the traditional notes that the breaks from expectations feel like experimentation, not like ignorance or failure to meet a style.

The experimentation comes not only in the sweeter base, but also the lighter notes that come with it. As well as the expected dark fruit you also get fresh orange peel and palma violets. It gives it a bit more pep, and indeed also is matched by light pepperyness.

Now, by taste it doesn’t feel like one to have more than one or two of. With light chalkiness, pepper and earth it calls to too many harsh notes, and has too many sweet notes that can get cloying on top of that. As a oner though it is pretty solid. Recognisably of the style but a tad different. Not great but solid.

Background: I am a huge fan of Ska Brewing’s Modus Hoperandi, and have consumed many a can of it. Time to branch out, thought I, so I decided to go with this – their ESB – A style that I feel does not get as much play as it should in the craft scene. Grabbed from Brewdog’s guest beer section, this was chilled and drunk on one of yet another overly hot summer night’s here in England.

Cloudwater Vermont ESB

Cloudwater: Vermont ESB (England: ESB: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Apricot to brown. Loose brown creamy head that leaves lace.

Nose: Watermelon and grapefruit. Fresh and tart. Mild gherkin. Slightly bready.

Body: Thick and viscous. Vinous notes. Smooth and creamy. Brandy cream, Mild gherkin. Raisins and Madeira. Glacier cherries. Caramel. Blood orange and tart grapes.

Finish: Light bitterness that raises quickly. Walnut oil. Malt drinks. Pineapple chunks. Kiwi. Watermelon. Light acidic drying feel. Tart grapes. Palma violets.

Conclusion: This very smooth, very smooth indeed. I think this, unlike the DIPA v3.0 is showing how the Vermont yeast works, based on the descriptions I have heard. It is smooth, creamy and really lets the hop flavours show.

Speaking of the hops flavours, for me ESBs have always been a malt led beer choice. This one on the other hand very much emphasises the tart fruity hop character. Though for that it does have a low bitterness, with the exception of the finish – it instead pushes really high on the tart fruit hop flavours.

In fact the fruit – the pineapple, blood orange and the like, feels so fresh that you can almost imagine fishing fruit pulp bits off our tongue – the texture is smooth but somehow you still have the urge to lick off psychosomatic flecks of fruit. This fruit tartness leads to an acidic dryness in the mouth, again almost akin to consuming the fruit itself.

Unfortunately due to this the traditional ESB flavours are pushed to hide as backing notes, especially early on. Though when they do come through, and are more notable late on they are done very well. Lots of spirit soaked notes, malt drinks and dark fruits, just hid much more than you would expect. The smooth texture lets the stabbing spirit notes stand out and gives the creamier, brandy cream influenced notes some play, so it really feels like the yeast could make a good malt led ESB if they wanted to lean that way.

So, yeah, it is interesting to note that the Vermont yeast used here has none of the brett style notes that were in the DIPA V3.0, which confirms my suspicion that the beer had something off with it. As for this beer itself, it is very good, but feels almost like a fruity IPA over an ESB base rather than as a firm example of the ESB style. It maybe could do with the malt side pumping up a bit.

As a beer in itself, rather than as an example of the style, it is lovely. A spirit touched tart fruit hop fest – the light use of the ESB style makes if feel like a barrel aged IPA, with a freshness of spirit character I do not feel we would see any other way.

It is a luxurious base beer with tart challenging flavours. A mix of relaxing and awakening. In the end it is a style mash up I can highly recommend. It may not be weak at 6.5% but it delivers a boom that tastes 8% or up with all the spirit notes, the thick character and the big hops. It earns every inch of the abv it uses. Very impressive.

Background: After my set of notes on Cloudwater: DIPA V3 a few people let me know that the weird Brett style flavour in it wasn’t similar to their experience, so I may have got a just slightly duff bottle. As of such I was interested to find another bottle made with Vermont yeast for comparison. Thankfully Independent Spirit had in another Cloudwater beer made with that yeast – this ESB. So, here goes my quest to get used to what this yeast does.

Firestone Walker DBA

Firestone Walker: DBA (USA: ESB: 5.0% ABV)

Visual: Chestnut brown. Thin small bubbled browned head. Low carbonation.

Nose: Fruitcake and Madeira. Shortbread. Whipped cream. Slight chalk. Gingerbread,

Body: Lightly chalky. Fruitcake and cherries. Shortbread. Dates. Lemon cakes. Cream. Sour dough.

Finish: Almonds. Fruitcake. Mild liquorice. Chalky. Slight sour cream. Bitter. Raisins and sultanas. Mild prunes.

Conclusion: Hmm, this tastes like a drier take on Fuller’s ESB – it has that full on fruitcake character but with a dry body that reminds me of the attenuation level on your average APA (Albeit that is pretty much the only similarity to an APA). That dryness comes with a slight matching chalkiness – the two elements combine to make the beer more easy drinking, but also trades that off to make the flavours feel slightly more muted. Overall not a bad thing, but just a different thing.

Flavour wise it digs a bit deeper for the notes than your average fruitcake, sultanas and cherries – there are more dates and occasional slight prune notes in the finish, against slightly muted but it works well to give a distinct character to the beer. There are also lightly creamy hints of wine and spirit notes that I am sure would come out at higher abv, but here are little teases that don’t expand out. Still interesting though.

I’d say I actually prefer the Fuller’s ESB – the more robust character leans towards my preference for the style – however this is very enjoyable, and even ever so slightly muted it is still packed with dark fruit.

Nothing really pushes it to the top leagues, there is nothing unexpected or super polished, however as a general drinking dark beer this is very well done. One for a general drinking quality beer session.

Background: Huh, looks like Firestone Walker is part of the Duvel Moorgat group now. That one had gone under my radar. Never mind, as long as the beers are good and they don’t do any horrid immoral act I’m fine with that. Anyway, had to a quick double check before doing notes on this one – it is “Double Barrel Ale” and I remember doing something with a similar name. Turns out that was Double DBA, or Double Double Barrel Ale, because that naming convention makes sense. Anyway drunk while listening to an English language cover of the “One Punch Man” theme, now I just need the anime to get a UK release.

Fox Branthill Pioneer

Fox: Branthill Pioneer (England: ESB: 5.2% ABV)

Visual: Hazy yellow gold. Off white head that leaves suds.

Nose: Shortbread. Earthy. Gingerbread.

Body: Orange juice. Malt chocolate and toffee. Soft peach. Some bitterness. Not too thick feeling. Walnuts.

Finish: Earthy. Light white pepper. Some bitterness. Cashew nuts. Milky coffee. Peach. Chocolate toffee.

Conclusion: This is a beer that is a bit more subtle and complex than I would have first given it credit for. You see, the first impressions I got was a slightly earthy but toffee backed ale. Stop me if you’ve already heard this one. So, nothing out of the ordinary.

However, in a front page headline grabbing shock, it does not end there. While normally I take a lack of robustness as a flaw in a beer, here it has a lighter mouthfeel but seems to use it to let other elements through. The most notable being an orange juice character – it even feels as if it has bits of orange flecks in the texture somehow.

You take that and combine with with soft rounding out peach notes as it warms and you find a beer that gives a lot more than I imagined it would. Now, just to clarify – the malt body of toffee and the light earthiness are centre stage; The fruit is a backing note, but it makes the beer so much more refreshing and manageable than most earthy ales usually are.

So, while not earth shattering it does manage to do its own thing and become a pleasant slow sipping ale. I can live with that.

Background: I seem to be against the trend with this one going by ratebeer – they don’t seem to like it much, then again they list it as 5% abv, so I wonder if the recipe has been tweaked recently. Anyway, yes I know I said I had put up the last of the Norfolk beers drunk with the family up north. Which was true. I just happened to bring back two more beers from the set to review back down south. Of which this is one. Completely different thing guv. Anyway, again many thanks to the family. Drunk with some calming Ulver: Blood Inside as I realise I have to go back to work soon.

Beeston On The Huh

Beeston: On The Huh (England: ESB: 5% ABV)

Visual: Deep chestnut brown – opaque in the centre. A red-brown loose bubbled head that leaves a lot of suds.

Nose: Malt chocolate and nuts. Cinnamon buns. Vanilla ice cream.

Body: Malt chocolate and caramel. Slightly bitty feel. Peanuts. Light earthy notes. Quite sweet. Vanilla. Pepper. Cinnamon.

Finish: Peppermint. Earthy. Chocolate and peanuts. Slightly bitter.

Conclusion: I think that this is the second beer of recent times that I have compared to a snickers bar. Though this one differs from the last in that it is a more real ale take on the style meaning it is less smooth, more earthy, but still with those distinct chocolate, peanuts and caramel characteristics. Maybe this is the new trend – chocolate bar beers.

The real ale style seems to give this a few more rounding notes that you would otherwise expect. The main set is those naturally more rustic notes that real ale seems to do well. Slight peppery, slight greenery – while it makes it less close to the snickers concept it gives a much less sickly beer overall, so easier to drink for more than a single pint.

So, at its heart it is still a snickers beer, but its soul is an earthy real ale with contrasting pepper and cinnamon at each end of the spice range. It doesn’t do too bad at all. More one to have as a gentle beer in front of a warm fire on a cold night – it is sweet enough for those dark days without taking it too far. While an ESB in style it has just enough call to that sour base of a good bitter to make it work.

“Huh”, so, it is actually pretty solid, not stand out or shiny, but blends two very different interpretations into one beer. Very recognisably an ESB, but with just enough of its own style. A solid experience.

Background: Another beer from the Christmas present batch from my family. Many thanks. This, a bunch of bottled ales from Norfolk. I have no idea why this is called “On The Huh”, but since I tend to use “Huh” a lot in my notes in seemed appropriate. Huh.

Thwaites Crafty Dan

Thwaites: Crafty Dan (England: ESB: 6% ABV)

Visual: Just slightly hazy yellow to peach skin coloured base with a large sud and loose bubbled ripe banana touched head. The head leaves sud rings as the beer descends.

Nose: Raspberry Pavlova. Pineapple. Crushed custard cream biscuits. Apricot. Fruit syrup.

Body: Gooseberry. Good bitterness and hops. Juicy peach. Marshmallow. Carmel malt. Passion fruit. Slight soured twist. Raspberry Pavolva. Tangerine.

Finish: Marshmallows. Good bitterness. Pineapple. Fluffy feel left over. Gooseberry. Dried passion fruit.

Conclusion: Damn. I didn’t expect a beer from Thwaites to actually be this good. This is genuinely full bodied, craft hopped in its fruitiness, everything layered on excellently over a thick malt heavy body.

It’s been long time since I last tried Oakham Asylum, but from memory I would say that this compares very well with it indeed – and that is high praise. It is a very bright beer – sharp raspberry over pavlova, gooseberry and tart orange, with understated but robust bitterness backing it up. The sweet malt seem to be a big element in keeping the hop flavours in check so you find it very slightly restrained in the main body, but after you swallow the remaining air is just so fruity and fresh now it is unopposed. You just get full fruit hop flavour lighting up your mouth.

This is remarkably good – the flavour is at a level I would normally associate with an IPA, but the bitterness is far reined back, and the malt really works the main stage with huge caramel.

It even slightly reminds me, flavour wise – not bitterness – of Arrogant Bastard Ale in the way it pushes both the malt and the real big flavours of the hops. A seriously good beer.

Background: Looking online, apparently this was brewed to celebrate the first year anniversary of Thwaites’ in house micro brewery. I didn’t even know they had an in house micro brewery. My finger is not on the pulse of the modern beer scene. I am also suspicious of non craft breweries trying to jump on the craft bandwagon. See Brains brewery for an example of how this can go badly wrong. Anyway, this was the last of the three beers given to me at Christmas by my work colleague. many thanks. Drunk while listening to some Against Me! and catching up on what was new on ERocks channel. I am finding the Black Crosses part of the White Crosses/Black Crosses double CD is by far my preferred side for Against Me!.

The Trooper

Robinsons: Trooper (England: ESB: 4.7% ABV)

Visual: Golden brown. Inch of toffee touched head.

Nose: Chestnut. Cumin. Light mild ginger. Light citrus notes. Lemon and apricot.

Body: Citrus. Apricot. Nutty back. Slightly thin up front but grows. Tart grapefruit. Lots of lemon sherbet. Some prickly hops.

Finish: Hop oils. Chestnut and lemon. Fresh feel. Lightly bitter. Peanuts hang around.

Conclusion: BEER? FROM A METAL SINGER. IF METAL MAKES BEER THEN WE SHALL MAKE BEER….METAL. Ok, ok, ill stop channelling Dethklok.

Now this beer is NICELY CITRUS, LIKE ….ok, ok, I’ll actually stop. This joke will get old fast, reading in all caps is a pain in the arse.  The beer is nicely citrus filled (like they have been plucked from the garden of eden revisited by necromantic hordes of fruit pickers) with a huge amount of fresh lemon mid body that keeps it very easy to drink, but balanced against a reigned in (blood) nutty backdrop.

Initially in the first few moments it seems slightly thin, not delivering the flavour well, but you find it builds up (as if the daemons of hell rising through a….ok, I think this joke is getting old as well, I’ll just do a normal review from now on) nicely over time. The flavours are refreshing and slightly sharp and somewhat sherbet like.

It is more a balanced beer than a big beer, the hops prickle, appropriately for a beer linked with Iron Maiden, but they aren’t the main focus and are quite mild compared to similar beers. The solid nutty back goes out way into the finish, which makes it probably the most present element.  The elements are always balanced, but never quite brings the wow factor to shine.

It is definitely and enjoyable and refreshing pint, with smooth citrus flavour, but it does not stand out, and is far from METAL!

No complaints, but no high praise either.

Background; A beer brewed in collaboration with Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden. Holy crap. I may be a bit of an Iron Maiden fan, so this instantly leapt onto beers I must try. I hadn’t realised this was out yet, until Mark gave me a heads up that it was available in Morrisons. So I headed over, grabbed a bottle, and a few other tasty treats to review at a later date.  Oddly I did not drink this while listening to Iron Maiden. Instead I drank in silence, to allow me to experience every song and live gig in my head so to transcend mere physical sound in appreciating their wonder. That bit may be a lie. I fact I left it silent as I play music on my computer and the day was so bloody hot that I wasn’t adding even a CPU core of heat to the mix. However I feel the original explanation sounds cooler.

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