By ancestry I’m English. My family came over in 1677 on a ship called Kent. My family settled in Pennsylvania and spread to Kentucky, Ohio, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, and eventually Kansas. Somehow this makes me genetically prone to liking English style beers. ESB (Extra Special Bitter, sometimes English Style Bitter) is just such a style. Bitters, ESBs, Pale Ales, and India Pale Ales are all in the same family of beers (the order listed is also how I find the IBUs to rank). If I visit a brewery or brewpub and I find out they have a bitter, it will be the first beer I order. Breckenridge Brewery created a small batch series they call 471 Small Batch. These are limited releases of full flavored beers in small amounts. Extra ESB was the first of this series that I was able to try months before this blog. When we went to Denver I managed to find a six pack at a liquor store and quickly snatched it up.
Breckenridge calls this beer Extra and it wasn’t until I looked it up that I figured out why. It’s actually a Strong Scottish Ale not an English ESB although they did use English malts. The reason it’s a Scottish Ale is the yeast they use (Scottish yeast).
The aroma was caramel with a slight alcoholness to it. The head color was white-ish and dissipated quickly. The body was a copper color. The taste was initially kind of sweet but became a florally bitter towards the end with a dry finish. This balance makes it smooth and very pleasant. If it wasn’t for the 7.8% ABV (55 IBU) I could probably drink a lot of it quickly.
Since Austin really likes ESBs and I wasn’t really in the mood to have a beer (it actually happens more often than you might think), I just took a couple of drinks to get a feel for it. Oh, and I had been drinking a Diet Dr. Pepper when Austin opened it, so there’s that too. It’s dark, but it’s a light kind of drink, as in the taste makes me think it would be lighter than it is. It had a little bit of a bread crust/wheat smell. I thought it was really good even directly following a soda. That’s a pretty good sign for a beer in my opinion.
The Extra ESB is a very well rounded beer and unique with the Strong Scottish Ale twist. If you can find some give it a try, but if you can’t try these (slightly more traditional) beers instead;
Fuller’s ESB – Fuller Smith & Turner PLC
14’er ESB – Avery Brewing Co.
Sawtooth Ale – Left Hand Brewing Co.
ESB – BridgePort Brewing Co.
Bullseye Bitter – Little Apple Brewing Co. (seasonal)
Snake Bite Bitter – Little Apple Brewing Co. (seasonal)
Extra Strong Bitter – Little Apple Brewing Co. (seasonal)
No. 46 Foreign Affair – Lb. Brewing Co. (seasonal)
Oasis – Tallgrass Brewing Co. (See review as to why it’s on this list)