Henry joins me for another back-to-back episode and we also review another Redhook beer. Their ESB (which stands for Extra Special Bitter or English Strong Bitter or a combination of these terms depending on who you ask), is a beer I originally reviewed back in 2009. Alex Kopf, one of the head brewers of Redhook's Porstmouth, New Hampshire brewery gave me two bottles of this beer (along with several other Redhook beers) to re-review. Now that my palate has developed would my opinion of this beer change?
3AROMA 5/10 APPEARANCE 3/5 TASTE 5/10 PALATE 3/5 OVERALL 14/20
I always try to give a beer the benefit of the doubt. Apparently, I’m much more of a beer n00b than I realize. Still, if a beer doesn’t do a lot for me, how can I honestly give it high praise? I think Red Hook ESB is a good example of this. Like other beers from this brewery I found it drinkable and fairly enjoyable, even if nothing about it really wowed me.
POUR, COLOR AND AROMA
This beer pours smoothly to a copper-color, clear complexion with only trace amount of noticeable carbonation. It forms a one-finger, off-white, foamy head which never completely dissipates and leaves some lacing on the glass. The aroma is fairly standard with a strong hop character to the nose, but little else.
Upon my first taste I was impressed by the strong hoppy, bitter palate. However, after continued drinking I was wondering why it seemed so mainstream for a craft brew. I didn’t taste any distinct flavors or ingredients.
Usually, I prefer some type of unique feature in a beer, but those with a strong taste of regular old “beer” can be satisfying as well. Samuel Adams Boston Lager is a good example of this, and so is Red Hook ESB. Unlike Sam’s, this beer has a more dry taste, almost bordering on salty (but not quite). I can’t remember the last time I drank a niche foreign-style brew that was so strong-tasting. It’s enjoyable to be sure, but far from outstanding.
For a beer with such a noticeable bitterness to the palate, Red Hook ESB is surprisingly smooth. Its mouthfeel is perfectly medium which I think will appeal to the average beer drinker.
For a craft brew that is fairly reminiscent of mass market offers, this beer is seemingly big in body. At 5.8% ABV and 179 calories per bottle, Red Hook ESB is definitely in a higher weight class than Joe and Jane Six Pack might be used to. I think if it had a stronger and more delectable taste this could be forgiven. It’s not a difficult drink to consume and it seems much lighter than the statistics would suggest.
It’s hard for me to rate Red Hook ESB on anything other than what it is: a fairly tasty beer that isn’t too difficult to drink. And I mean that in a complimentary way, I just wish I had more good things to say about it.