3.4AROMA 6/10 APPEARANCE 3/5 TASTE 7/10 PALATE 3/5 OVERALL 15/20
To me, the Extra Special Bitter style of beer is just India Pale Ale but without the flavor. Both have strong hop bitterness to them, but the ESB doesn’t quite have the genuine taste of the IPA. Brown’s ESB is a good example of this as it packs a punch, but doesn’t have much else going for it.
POUR, COLOR AND AROMA
This beer pours smoothly to form a huge layer of off-white, foamy head which lasts throughout the life of the beer, but does not leave much lacing (surprisingly). The body is a mostly clear shade of orange and brown with plenty of carbonation noticeable. The aroma is pungent with hops and malts, but isn’t particularly sweet or inviting. It’s almost grainy, in fact.
It’s hard to describe the taste of a beer like Brown’s ESB, because the only thing that comes to mind is “bitter” – and how! Yes, this beer certainly wallops the palate with its intense bitterness, but any genuine flavor takes a back seat. I noticed the faintest taste of caramel and some other malt sweetness, but there certainly wasn’t anything that stood out.
Still, it’s impossible to call this beer weak, and for that it deserves accolades. In fact, it’s so strong and hoppy it borders on being all-out salty.
Drinking this beer is no easy challenge. With its intense hop composition, this is a beer that doesn’t go down smooth and quietly. The mouthfeel is fairly intense and the actually finish is coarse and quite dry. The more experienced beer drinkers probably wouldn’t mind this at all, but then again, they’re probably the ones more likely to drink this in the first place.
For a beer with such a large amount of hop presence, Brown’s ESB is rather light at only 5% ABV. It won’t overwhelm or fill up the drinker and lends itself well to meals.
While it’s easy to criticize Brown’s Extra Special Bitter for being little more then pure bitterness, I have to admit there’s nothing really “wrong” with this beer. It’s got an intense palate without the bloated body and that’s respectable.