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McNeill's Extra Special Bitter - McNeill's Brewery

McNeill's Extra Special BitterMcNeill's Extra Special Bitter

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
86
very good

113 Ratings
THE BROS
-
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 113
Reviews: 93
rAvg: 3.81
pDev: 12.34%


Brewed by:
McNeill's Brewery visit their website
Vermont, United States

Style | ABV
Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB) |  5.50% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes/Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

(Beer added by: Bierman9 on 09-03-2001)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 113 | Reviews: 93 | Show All Ratings:
Photo of scotorum
scotorum

Massachusetts

3.96/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

Poured from the 22 oz. bottle into a Samuel Smith English tulip.

a: Nearly clear dark gold, huge white head dissipated fairly quickly to surface foam and some lacing.

s: Strong pine with a curious fruit or spice undertone.

t: Pine hops forward, if I had not been told this was an ESB I would have taken it for a stronger than average American IPA. Much too hoppy for an English style ESB, likely to please hopheads. Surprisingly dry finish considering.

m: Light to moderate, good body.

o: Difficult to rate this because it's a good IPA, just not malty enough for a good ESB. Maybe this is the coming style given the popularity of IPAs: an "American ESB." Or maybe the new definition of "Strong Bitter" is "Hoppy Bitter." In any case it seems to me this beer represents a trend of more and more American craft brewers brewing out side the traditional style boxes.

Creatively speaking that may be very good, because it means an infinity of different tastes. But one consequence of that is that buyers can no longer rely on getting any particular ballpark taste from any craft beer described as in that style by the brewer unless they have already tasted it. I'm not objecting to McNeill's ESB, it's a pretty good brew. But in my style book, it's definitely not a traditional ESB.

Serving type: bottle

09-29-2013 23:47:50 | More by scotorum
Photo of Willytee3
Willytee3

New York

3.83/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pour a light amber orange with one finger of cream color head. Large bubbly carbonation that recedes quickly. Little if any lacing.

Trace of smell is clean and crisp with slight Carmel malts.

High carbonation with a little bitter bite up front. OK mouth feel. Slight malt flavor through the sip. A little fruity essence not much, finishes bitter on the tongue and lingers. A little malty sweetness is present with nice balance to the bitter.

Serving type: bottle

10-09-2012 04:17:02 | More by Willytee3
Photo of Kerin
Kerin

Vermont

2.63/5  rDev -31%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 2

This beer is not my favourite. It's labeled as an ESB, but, um, it isn't. A fair amount of hops - it's hoppier than SNPA, and in spite of being called an ESB it has predominantly American-tasting hops. I think I'm detecting a fair portion of Nugget, Cascade and (I think) Newport hops, none of which are remotely English in profile. There's no earthiness here, and the only thing bitter-ey about this is the diacetyl... which is nuts. So, uh:

Appearance: Slightly below average. It'd be fine for an amber, but it's miles away from being pale. Cloudy, there's an insane amount of sediment in the bottle (and this is coming from a homebrewer.)

Taste: Not terrible, not great. This tastes like an aggressively average American pale ale, and the only distinctive thing about it is the elevated bitterness. No malt profile to speak of save a brief, well-rounded sweet tang at the end of the sip that gives way smoothly to...

Mouthfeel: There is so much diacetyl here I feel like I'm drinking this out of a theater popcorn box. The first couple mouthfuls were novel but by the end of the glass it's getting to be a Goddamn chore. I've had several bitters with significant diacetyl where it worked, but they all had less than this - and they also had less hop bitterness, and the flavor was therefore better integrated with the beer.

Overall, this is a disappointing beer - doubly so because a good ESB is so hard to find in the USA. I'll admit that I do have a very... defined idea of what an ESB should taste like (Fuller's) but this is so far outside the style that I don't know what they were thinking. Marketed as a Pale I'd probably bump the taste and overall scores up half a point apiece, but this mosaic of attributes doesn't work no matter how they're described. Pass, and I would have to think about it if someone offered me one.

Serving type: bottle

09-16-2012 01:31:19 | More by Kerin
Photo of jsprain1
jsprain1

Minnesota

3.75/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A- Pours about the lightest color that I could still call brown. Head is thin, off white, retains well and leaves good retention.
S- The smell is pleasing but is a bit one-dimensional with sweet grapefruit.
T- The flavors are a bit more complex. Up front is a wave of grapefruity hop flavor, but some light caramel and toffee flavors fill it out. There also was a bit of lingering peach flavor.
M- Crisp, yet it finishes slightly slick.
O- A good bitter beer. It was easy drinking enough and was both interesting and balanced.

Serving type: on-tap

06-20-2012 03:18:22 | More by jsprain1
Photo of UDbeernut
UDbeernut

New York

4.05/5  rDev +6.3%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

bottle aquired in trade with shcufj, best before Feb 2012.

Hazy copper hut with strong 1" head with beyond excellent retention. bread light flower, and yeast in the nose. Taste is well balanced, just basic malt and flower hop. mouth is light to medium bodied with plenty of carbonation to help.

Serving type: bottle

02-09-2012 21:04:17 | More by UDbeernut
Photo of claspada
claspada

New Jersey

3.2/5  rDev -16%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

Pours a somewhat hazed burnt orange with a lage fluffy white head that held clinging to the glass that never really settled. Really overcarbonated to be honest, especially for an English style beer that are typically served on cask.

Aromas begin with light caramel and some toasted bread in the nose, light fruity yeast smells as well.

The tastes begin with light yeasty fruit with some caramel sweetness. It has a light, pale and crystal malt flavor; dry with a touch of caramel sweetness. The hop character is quite good. It has a refreshing floral character that compliments the simple malt bill.

Mouthfeel is affected by the over-carbonation here once again. Too bubbly and lively for the style. I would much rather have a still ESB than one this heavily carbonated.

Overall I had heard good things about this beer but the unbalanced mouthfeel and uninspired flavor profile just didn't do it for me. I like more toasted bready malts and earthy hops with gentle carbonation, where this was more cracker malty and citrus/floral hopped. Too much of an American "interpretation" for my liking.

Serving type: bottle

11-07-2011 17:02:22 | More by claspada
Photo of keanex
keanex

New Jersey

3.73/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 650ml into a tulip glass.

A: Hazy brown with a lot of carbonation bubbles and a white foamy head. Looked a lot like carbonated iced tea.

S: Fruity hoppy with a mix of malts thrown in there.

T: A bit bland, malty upfront into a very watery mid with a light hoppy finish.

M: Too watery and too much carbonation.

O: An okay beer. I wouldn't buy it again because it didn't stand out at all.

Serving type: bottle

11-06-2011 17:09:54 | More by keanex
Photo of BeerLover99
BeerLover99

Illinois

3.9/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: mild cloudy/burnt orange/mild tan body,
trace white floating head, gorgeous lacing

S: lemon grass, crisp apple, earthy malt, mild
nutty

T: lemon zest, green apple, grassy/earthy malt, mild nutty,
light slow bitter/mild oily finish

M: med/light body, hint of oily mouth

O: Nice American version of English ESB,
one of my favorite styles. I can't wait to
try more McNeill's beers.

BRILLIANT, WORTH TRYING!

Serving type: bottle

10-26-2011 16:57:25 | More by BeerLover99
Photo of Neorebel
Neorebel

New Jersey

4.15/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Deep cloudy golden brown in color. The head is extremely dense & soapy, very strong 1"+ retention. Be careful pouring this one as to not waste any! The aroma is complex with a slightly earthy malt, grapefruit, and some hops as well. The taste starts with the malty presence and then there is a quick 'zing' of strong bitter hops and alcohol. The mouthfeel leaves a pleasant bitterness and definitely makes me want another sip right away. This is the forth beer out of Vermont I've had. I'm pretty impressed with it. Not on the same level as the benchmark ESB's, but still very good.

Serving type: bottle

09-18-2011 03:45:18 | More by Neorebel
Photo of GarthDanielson
GarthDanielson

North Carolina

3.85/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a bomber into a pint glass, the beer pours a slightly hazy, darker orange-brown color, with an unfiltered feel, with a huge, chunky, light, foamy head that starts at a huge profile (about three inches), and slowly settles into a managable inch and a half. Aroma is a tangy sugar malt, with a rich spicing and a slight hopping. The flavor is well blended and balanced, but light. There are mildy sweet overtones of darker fruits (plums, grapes), with an almost wine-like feel. There is the slightest hint of citrus, with a coriander spicing and the slightest dash of dry hops. The beer clings strongly to the glass, and the beer remains a constant medium build throughout. The aftertaste is tangy and citrusy, with a dark sweet undertone and the lightest kick of hops bitterness. The finish is slick and slightly drying, with an oily feel to it, also.

Serving type: bottle

08-12-2011 01:57:16 | More by GarthDanielson
Photo of Durge
Durge

Connecticut

3.93/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A very cloudy amber color with an amazingly big, thick, near oatmeal colored head and gobs of lacing. The aroma suggests mildly tart apple and slightly caramel yeast. Fairly tame but doesn’t hurt anything. The flavor jumps out with a nice big bite of lemony hop and sweet tea, yeast and peppery rye bread. This is an interesting blend and particularly impressive as a cask. You can tell this is a tried and true brew though it’s my first meeting. It’s perfectly “carbonated” (though it’s a cask ale) with a fine tingly feel with a thinly medium body that hints at glassiness except for the liveliness within. It’s very drinkable and keeps the taste buds interested throughout with a tart apple/citrus bite that blends so nicely with the grainy nuances. This is highly recommended if you make it to McNeill’s.

Serving type: cask

06-06-2011 18:07:23 | More by Durge
Photo of Hibernator
Hibernator

Massachusetts

3.85/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

McNeill's Extra Special Bitter
22 oz brown bottle
Best before 'July' notched on the side label
Served in a hotel mini glass

After exiting a wonderful mid-afternoon beer session at McNeill's, we stopped at Indo-American Grocery across the street and I picked up a McNeill's Extra Special Bitter for the hotel.

Pours a burnt orange with a nice head on top. Very nice trails of sticky lacings.

Whiffs of sugary sweetness, malts and spicy hops.

This beer has a solid caramel malt backbone with some brown sugar sweetness. Heavy handed, in an English Ale type of way with the hop snap on the finish. A peppery and spicy hop finish completes this sweet, malty brew.

Yet another drinkable and enjoyable offering from McNeill's.

Serving type: bottle

06-04-2011 23:18:41 | More by Hibernator
Photo of Naugros
Naugros

New Jersey

3.38/5  rDev -11.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Reviewing against the style shows some flaws in this beer...or at least this batch of it which is shown on the bottle as viable until the end of July.

The head is spectacular, taking up half the pint glass with a really tight bead to it and exceptional lacing left behind in clumps. Sadly, the beer is really hazy to the point of being opaque. This is a knock against the style.

The aroma smacks of earthy hops, but their aspect is changed by the sulfuric smell, turning the overall sense vegetal...almost like Brussel sprouts. Sulfur is allowable, but not at this level and there are no discernible esters...fruity or otherwise. The malts are there and are more like treacle than caramel.

The taste is sort of similar to the smell with less sulfur (falling more in line with what is allowable), which allows the hops to be less vegetal, but still not pleasant to my palate. The malts do come through more as caramel now and do an admirable job of keeping the bitterness from becoming overwhelming.

This finishes dry and with a bit of lingering bitterness. The body is medium.

I'm really not fond of the variety or varieties of hops used here. And it's not because I'm the typical American that only enjoys the piny/citrus flavored ones. Reading some of the other reviews, a completely different hops sense was detected, so perhaps this bottle oxidized. I'm not all that fond of this style to begin with, but this is not even close to my favorite example of an ESB. I'll need to pick up more of McNeill's stuff to get a better handle on what this brewery is all about.

Serving type: bottle

05-16-2011 01:08:55 | More by Naugros
Photo of ggilman
ggilman

Maine

3.95/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Coppery, caramel color, with tight carbonation & a clean white head. I enjoyed it from a stemless red wine glass, a suitable vessel that gave me two full pours from the 22 OZ. Bomber. Not overly complex, clean & simple, lends itself to being a nice session beer. It has a strong malt backbone, but not overly done, which to me is a good thing. The relatively low 5.5% ABV was easily felt in the large format and left me wanting more. It didn't satisfy my craving for heavy hops, but the freshness was glaring. I wish this was available locally in 6-packs. It would become a house favorite. The bitterness & thirst quenching qualities lead me to believe this would pair nicely with spicy curry or hot wings, though I enjoyed it solo. Wish I had another right now! I'll make a point to visit the brewery & pub soon. Thanks Todd, I enjoyed it thoroughly!

Serving type: bottle

04-21-2011 19:15:21 | More by ggilman
Photo of metter98
metter98

New York

3.78/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: The beer is clear yellow in color and poured with a finger high white head that died down but consistently left a thin layer of bubbles covering the surface.
S: There are light aromas of citrus and pine resin hops in the nose.
T: The overall taste has a light to moderate amount of bitterness with flavors of citrus from the hops.
M: It feels medium-bodied on the palate and has a moderate to high amount of carbonation.
O: The beer is well balanced and easy to drink.

Serving type: on-tap

04-08-2011 12:21:00 | More by metter98
Photo of Flounder57
Flounder57

Massachusetts

3.53/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I finally had the chance to purchase this bomber at Atlas in Quincy. I poured the beer into an English style pint glass.

Appearance: The beer is an copper/dark amber color. The two fingerthick foamy head is formed and goes down to a small head. This will lead to a considerable amount of lacing. There is also a little bit of carbonation towards the top of the glass.

Smell: There is a sweet malty scent with some hints of citrus and toast.

Taste: Malty, citrusy, and a bit of bitterness.

Mouthfeel: There is definitely some nice carbonation that tingles throughout my whole mouthm and the beer goes down smoothly.

Drinkability: This is an easy drinking beer. I could have another, but couldn't see myself drinking a sixer of these if they were available. Very decent beer to add to my list.

Overall, I was very pleasantly suprised by this brew being that its my first from mcneils. I would buy this beer along with my other bitter IPA's. I good compliment to the mixture of beers I purchase every once in a while.

Serving type: bottle

03-12-2011 03:20:16 | More by Flounder57
Photo of rinhaak
rinhaak

Massachusetts

3.75/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Had a 22 oz bomber (purchased at Marty's in Newton, MA) served in the Sam Adam's glass.

Pours a nice rich copper color with an enormous head. You can see the carbonation as bubbles rise to the top, and there is a little murkiness. This pours with a huge head that lingers for most of the glass.

If I were blindfolded, given this to smell, and asked to identify the style, I would have guessed a Pale. The hops greet you immediately, though it doesn't smell overly hoppy. After a time, caramel malts start to come out in the nose as well.

The taste is lovely and well balanced with sour apple, banana, and bitter hops blending together. This is not overly bitter nor overly sour, though there is a sharpness to the mouth and a tang on the tongue.

The finish, though, is what makes the beer excel, for it was complex, long, and constantly evolving. The sourness disappeared and my mouth was filled with fresh hoppiness. There was a decidedly stronger hops presence in the finish than in the mouth. But this strong hops flavor does not persist, and slowly transforms into a dark roasted malt flavor that carries for at least a minute or two. They boast using three different types of malts, and though one notices the malts in both the nose and taste, it really isn't until the finish that this malty trio truly shows itself.

This is a very drinkable beer, and I easily drank the entire bomber. Recommended if you see if on the shelves, but I would not spend too much energy trying to find one otherwise.

Serving type: bottle

03-07-2011 14:00:16 | More by rinhaak
Photo of WesWes
WesWes

New York

3.7/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

The beer pours a hazy amber/orange color with a thick frothy off-white head that slowly fades to lacing. The aroma is good. It has a nice pale and crystal malt scent along with nice hop aroma that floral with some grassy notes. The taste is decent. It has a light, pale and crystal malt flavor; dry with a touch of caramel sweetness. The hop character is quite good. It has a refreshing floral character that compliments the simple malt bill. The mouthfeel is decent as well. It is a low bodied beer with adequate carbonation. This is a very drinkable ESB. It's light and refreshing with good hop character.

Serving type: bottle

01-27-2011 23:21:15 | More by WesWes
Photo of lovindahops
lovindahops

New York

4.13/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Very excited to try a mcneill's brew! Heard nothing but good things and now it's in cuse!

A- pours a hazy light brown look that is very unique. There are floaties everywhere and the of foam is massive. This is a unique looking pour

S- zesty! A theme of lemon and spice mold together with some pine. You can smell the bitterness in the brew

T- as dry and bitter as it gets. The hop flavor is consistent with citrus and a grassy note. It's really spiced and full of flavor. The bitterness at the end is epic!

M- carbonated and momumental with flavor

D- my first mcneill's brew has me craving more. Esba has a great taste that goes down with a kick!

Serving type: bottle

11-21-2010 17:50:48 | More by lovindahops
Photo of oberon
oberon

North Carolina

3.58/5  rDev -6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a imperial pint glass a somewhat hazed burnt orange with a lage fluffy white head that held clinging to the glass,and never really settled.Light caramel and some toasted bread in the nose,light fruity malt lingered.Fruity on the palate with some caramel sweetness,another ESB that is light in the hops.I like a good ESB,but I like one with a hop profile,this just doesnt have enough of one for me.

Serving type: bottle

11-20-2010 23:01:53 | More by oberon
Photo of BigPlay1824
BigPlay1824

New York

3.63/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served in a pilsner glass

A: pours a deel golden/copper color that is cloudy with plenty of floating yeast bits. Has a thick foamy head that is a nice milky white. Leave considerable amount of lacing

S: strong wheat scent with nice slight fruit citrusy notes

T: very pleasant wheat taste brew with citrus notes and what I believe may be pepper? Not sure but something slightly spicy is there

M: nice carbonation tingle and leave a nice coating on the tongue that leaves a nice aftertaste

D: nice drinking brew. Perhaps a bit too strong of a bite on the tongue but that's only if I'm looking for something to complain about

Overall, I was very pleasantly suprised by this brew being that its my first from mcneils. May have really turned my opinion of esbs towards the positive. Very nice and highly recommended

Serving type: bottle

10-30-2010 01:05:50 | More by BigPlay1824
Photo of sinstaineddemon
sinstaineddemon

Connecticut

4.08/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

this was a surprise, this bottle was a gift from the new girlfriends father BEFORE i met him, score!

A - a coppery golden brown brew with a full finger of lumpy white head

S - my nose first detects a sweet roasted caramel, this fades quickly into a citrine hop background

T - like the nose, the taste is sweet at first, a caramel and toffee variety, then the bitterness of hops hits in the back of the mouth at first, then flourishes big

M&D - easy on the palate and without too much complexity, however quite sessionable and tasty, a nice beer overall

Serving type: bottle

08-26-2010 21:20:14 | More by sinstaineddemon
Photo of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh

Massachusetts

4.13/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I read the previous review, and it said low carbonation...mine was completely opposite, it blew up on m, came pouring out of the bottle, I was able to capture most of it but lost some in the process.

I like the beer though, and I am sad I lost some because I have not seen this beer around me. It tastes very similar to a barleywine to me but more bitter, and without a frame of reference for bitters, I will have to review it as it is one, thick yeasty head, makes a nice topping for the beer, very bitter, light orange in color, fruity sticky flavor as well, very juicy.

I am a fan.

Serving type: bottle

08-19-2010 22:52:10 | More by Pittsburgh
Photo of Naugled
Naugled

New York

3.93/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Cloudy copper brown body with thin off white head. Way too much sediment in bottle.

Caramel and sweet malt notes very apparent in the nose, almost candy like.

Nice malty biscuity flavor that was slightly on the sweet side. Some plum and dark fruit notes and good yeast character but also a bit of earthiness and staleness to it.

Mouth feel is on the full side, but smooth and low carbonation. Some late bitterness comes through. Not great balance.

Drinkable, probably better when fresher.

Serving type: bottle

08-19-2010 17:02:54 | More by Naugled
Photo of tempest
tempest

Pennsylvania

2.45/5  rDev -35.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 1

Picked up a bomber at Abe's Cold Beer for $4.25 and the label tells me this beer is best by the end of October. Seeing this, I assumed I'd have a fresh and tasty beer. This was not the case.

The initial aroma reminded me of Sam Adams Boston Lager for the mix of toffee and spicy hops. Unfortunately, there's a huge, earthy plastic flavor that ruins the beer. There's still a tasty hop finish with a mix of citrus and herbal notes, but the infection, or whatever is going wrong here, has ruined the beer. Drain pour.

Serving type: bottle

08-15-2010 22:08:16 | More by tempest
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McNeill's Extra Special Bitter from McNeill's Brewery
86 out of 100 based on 113 ratings.