3.8AROMA 8/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 8/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 14/20
UPDATED: SEP 30, 2012 One thing I enjoy as a beer critic is getting to try new beers and especially new beer styles. You’d think I’d have drunk everything by now but the ESB style has eluded me until recently. Thanks to the Saranac “12 Beers of Winter” mix pack I can now say I’ve tried an Extra Special Bitter and I quite liked it. It seems to be something of a hybrid of a lager and a pale ale, plus it was tasty and easy to drink – seems like a good beer to me.
POUR, COLOR AND AROMA
Saranac ESB poured very smoothly to a dark red/copper color that was crystal clear and without much carbonation evident. It formed a white, fizzy head that didn’t last long but never completely evaporated, either.
The aroma seemed like that of a generic mass-market lager but with a distinctive character of extra hops. I didn’t notice any citrus notes, but I was thankful for the hops instead of adjunct ingredients.
Well, they don’t call it an Extra Special Bitter for nothing. As soon as the beer hit my palate, bitter was the first flavor I noticed. It was very similar to an India Pale Ale, the difference being there was no tart or citrusy underling flavor here. In fact, it’s quite dry, but I wouldn’t call it bland. Overall, the strong bitterness made up for what would otherwise be a fairly standard beer taste.
Sometimes the tastier beers can be difficult to drink, especially if their taste is derived from bitterness. Such is the case for Saranac ESB which has quite a rough edge to it. The dry palate might make for a good taste, but it’s not proportional to the finish. Not that this is a challenge to drink, certainly not for the connoisseur, but a little smoother would have been nice.
It’s actually difficult to make an honest comment on this beer’s weight since neither its potency nor its number of calories is printed on the bottle and is not listed on the brewer’s website. Since it’s a very hoppy beer I’d estimate both statistics are quite high. I wasn’t overwhelmed by the beer, but it did feel quite heavy afterwards.
I don’t have any frame of reference to compare Saranac Extra Special Bitter against another beers of the style, so as a beer on its own I found it to be tasty, original and genuinely enjoyable. It’s not a perfect beer by any means, but it’s enjoyable and that’s what counts.