3.7AROMA 7/10 APPEARANCE 4/5 TASTE 7/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 15/20
I’ve never been a fan of traditional English bitter, but its bigger brother - the ESB (extra special bitter) - is another story. Beers of this style have more flavor than their little brothers, but don’t sacrifice the drinkability. Fuller’s ESB is one of the better examples of how drinker-friendly the traditional pub beer can and should be.
APPEARANCE AND AROMA
I poured a 12oz bottle into an English nonic pint glass (what else?). It forms a generous, white, frothy head that leaves beautiful lacing down the glass and maintains good head retention. The color is an attractive shade of crystal-clear copper bordering on orange. There isn’t much carbonation noticeable, but this won’t affect the flavor.
The nose is an interesting combination of apple and white grape juice-like scents. There’s a slightly sweet, perfumey scent as well, but overall it’s rather subdued.
The first thing I notice about Fuller’s ESB is just how "clean" tasting it is. As soon as it hits my palate I get a pleasing sensation that my tongue is about to be rinsed. Much like the aroma, the taste is reminiscent of apple and white grape juices and is quite refreshing (hence the clean sensation). There’s a distinct bitterness across the middle of the tongue in the middle of the body, with a somewhat sharp aftertaste that lingers only momentarily before dissipating.
If drank cold, this beer is quite refreshing - surprisingly so. As it warms, more flavors begin to make themselves known. There’s a cereal maltiness that begins to complement the hop bitterness. A slight caramel sweetness also develops which gives the palate a touch of syrup flavor and a good overall balance. Eventually, the beer stops being refreshing as the hops begin to become more prominent and dry out the palate. This can be resolved easily by taking another swig.
Fuller’s ESB is exactly the kind of beer you can sip on over the course of a football (or soccer) game without it wearing on your palate. The mouthfeel is light, clean, and fairly moist (unless you let it warm to room temperature or so). It goes down so smoothly that I can’t imagine anyone having trouble drinking this beer.
At 5.9% ABV this beer is dangerously drinkable. The light body would lead you to believe it’s something much less potent. This is the kind of beer that almost demands to be paired with cheese, crackers, and other bar fare. Having actually sessioned this brew myself I can tell you it doesn’t feel as potent as is until you reach your fourth or fifth serving.
While not the best beer in the world, Fuller’s ESB is quite impressive for what it is - a beer that falls into a traditionally mild style that has genuine taste and fantastic drinkability.
NOTE: Read my 2016 re-review here: http://www.chadzbeerreviews.com/2016/10/fullers-esb-2016-re-review.html