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McNeill's Extra Special Bitter - McNeill's Brewery

Not Rated.
McNeill's Extra Special BitterMcNeill's Extra Special Bitter

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

114 Ratings
THE BROS
-
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 114
Reviews: 93
rAvg: 3.81
pDev: 12.34%
Wants: 3
Gots: 1 | FT: 0
Brewed by:
McNeill's Brewery
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: 114 | Reviews: 93 | Display Reviews Only:
Reviews by TXHops:
Photo of TXHops
TXHops

Texas

4/5  rDev +5%

My second McNeill’s brew and now expectations are higher, since the Amber Ale was excellent! The ESB pours the color of strong iced tea with a creamy, sheeting head of foam. The same super-fruity aroma reminiscent of Juicy Fruit that I found in their Amber is in the ESB as well. I love that smell!! It’s an aroma I come across infrequently, but regularly in the craft beer world and I’m beginning to wonder if it’s a standard yeast bank yeast. It’s no Wyeast 1056—too much estery goodness…

On first sip, this ESB is the most Fullers-like of any ESB I’ve had and reminds me how annoyed I was that Redhook called the now “Amber” ESB for so many years…. The big caramelly malt flavor is readily available up front (though this offering is fresher than any transatlantic-shipped Fullers I’ve ever tried), followed a freshly-malty, bready roundness. This malt-accented (crystal, it seems) doppelganger even fades into the patented Fullers ESB bitterness—almost astringent, and then not. The best part of the beer is probably the split second between the caramel flavor and the bitterness when that fruitiness suggested in the nose briefly asserts itself before yielding to the bitterness of the hops.

Just as in the Firehouse Amber, I’m able to taste the flavor of the inside of a malted milk ball in the finish of this beer—you know, malt! Yeah, but it’s more than malt—it’s like a malted milk shake, or at least the actual malt powder used to malt up a milkshake. Actually, that’s it—it tastes like dried malt extract for a moment in the tail: very unusual, but not at all unpleasant.

Let me re-iterate: this is the most Fullers-esque ESB I’ve ever tried. Great attention to detail by the folks up in Brattleboro, Vermont. I’ll take a few possible points away for allowing the beer to be so bitter in the finish, and not that hoppy. The hops are definitely present, but the finish settles into a one-dimensional bitterness, just like McNeill’s Firehouse Amber. Personally, I’d prefer more hoppiness and less mouth-corner-lingering bitterness. Still, this was a tremendous ESB and have I mentioned that it tastes like Fullers? Just a little less caramelly…

06-03-2003 20:14:28 | More by TXHops
More User Reviews:
Photo of oberon
oberon

North Carolina

3.58/5  rDev -6%

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.

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

Maine

3.95/5  rDev +3.7%

22oz bottle poured in a pint glass. Hazy amber color, thick white head with plenty of lacing. Strong floral aroma, a little bit of caramel. Pretty hoppy taste. The little bit of caramel in the aroma disappeared, leaving just the hops bitterness. Still, not too bad a beer.

11-01-2009 12:40:23 | More by lordofthewiens
Photo of merlin48
merlin48

Kentucky

3.35/5  rDev -12.1%

Bomber pours a dirty looking golden brown body with a small beige head. Lots of suspended particles in the body and sediment in the bottom of the glass. Wispy lacing caps an appearance that is lacking for an ESB.

Aroma has floral and spicy hops, backed by bready notes of toasted caramel.

Medium body and carbonation.

Taste is nicely balanced. Spicy and floral hop bitterness all the way through. Toasty caramel and some toffee offer a solid malty balance. A bit hoppy for the style.

Decent ESB, but not one I would want again. I've tried several McNeill's bombers that have been on the shelves of Knoxville's finer beer stores but just haven't been overly impressed.

05-22-2010 22:44:29 | More by merlin48
Photo of fdrich29
fdrich29

Massachusetts

3.7/5  rDev -2.9%

This is my first review in almost a year. Amazing how little time for reviewing there is when you work three jobs and planning are planning a wedding. Well I'm down to two jobs and the wedding and honeymoon have come and gone, so here we go.

I love this head. Thick and creamy like a rootbeer float. Head doesn't seem to be going anywhere. Golden amber body wrought with floaty yeasty goodness. (stops to take off sweatshirt).

Smell is yeasty-bready with some hoppiness. Tastes much the same, with some hints of pine. After another sip it seems to be more than just a hint of the pine.

A relatively smooth beer. Goes down easy and is quite tasty. Not one of my prefered styles, but I'd love to get my hands on this from a tap. I could see myself enjoying several at a nice, small, dark pub. Definitely worth a try.

10-17-2006 23:50:04 | More by fdrich29
Photo of rastaman
rastaman

United Kingdom (England)

3.98/5  rDev +4.5%

Oooooh yeah. Really liked this. Rich and citric floral hoppyness, some caramelly malt. Bitter, citric finish, quite hoppy, i wish i'd had more of this one, really lovely soft mouthfeel aswell. I also wish i could read the last word i wrote in my notes, but i can't, sorry. (Cask -GBBF 03')

09-29-2003 01:38:00 | More by rastaman
Photo of guyforget
guyforget

Colorado

4.33/5  rDev +13.6%

22oz bottle, poured into weizen glass

appearance - cloudy copper, some sediment. thick, puffy head, takes a while to subside. lacing with each sip.

smell - citrus, pine. plenty of aroma coming from the thick head.

taste - citrus, hops, resiny. slight caramel up front gets cut by the lingering bitterness pretty quickly.

mouthfeel - fizzy, lots of carbonation as evidenced by the abundant head. slightly oily finish.

drinkability - very drinkable, not as bitter as the name would imply, at least not as bitter as i was expecting. would drink again.

12-23-2009 03:06:03 | More by guyforget
Photo of NJpadreFan
NJpadreFan

New Jersey

3.9/5  rDev +2.4%

McNeill's- ESB

A- Light copper brown/ caramel orange with a good thick billowy white head. Bottle overflowed upon opening. Nice thick sea foamy lacing.
S- Sweet dry cereal grains, Light butter and caramel note with a dry grassy hop finish.
T- Light smooth caramel malts with hints of dry cracked grains. Dry brittle grassy hops have a sweet buttery touch.
M- Smooth light maltiness with a earthy grassy dry feel and finish.

Overall- Easily enjoyable and drank the bomber without hesitation.

04-03-2010 13:10:14 | More by NJpadreFan
Photo of GratefulBeerGuy
GratefulBeerGuy

New Hampshire

3.68/5  rDev -3.4%

20 oz bomber

AP: A cloudy and thick bronze color with an all white medium size head that's bubbly and displays lasting retention.

Nose: A very aromatic sweet and leafy hop with some yeast and an olive-like sourness. clover honey, jasmine, minty hops and caramel scotch candies.

Taste: A rather bitter, flowery and leafy hop bite at first then turns to a mildly sweet and sour effect not unlike an olive taste. There is also an earthy and herbal malted flavor with dry caramel malt, the hops flavor is unique and delivers decent balance.

MF: Medium body look and feel, lively but also slick from some left over malt which turns thick and substantial on the palate.

DA: a unique and complex ESB without getting too geeky.

10-25-2006 14:41:50 | More by GratefulBeerGuy
Photo of Sammy
Sammy

Ontario (Canada)

3.58/5  rDev -6%

Pours a nice peachy golden with some head. Significant English hop aroma.It was a nice bitter, grapefruity modified by carmel, with a bit of a background edge. More bitter than balanced. FIne drinking but not the best bitter I have tried.
Picked it up in August, but did not notice it expired in September, but I do not think that would make a significant impact.

10-28-2007 00:55:27 | More by Sammy
Photo of tempest
tempest

Pennsylvania

2.45/5  rDev -35.7%

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.

08-15-2010 22:08:16 | More by tempest
Photo of UncleFrank
UncleFrank

Connecticut

3.35/5  rDev -12.1%

Serving was a 22 oz bottle from the brewery.
The look is medium dark with a thin head. The aroma is wine like. Not hoppy, not malty, just some alcohol, which should not be there. The taste took my fears away though as a caramel and hops mixed and danced around and battled with the hops being victorious. But the mouthfeel was thinner than I would have liked. I could drink more of this, and will, but not as an ESB.

I must confess I was not impressed by this beer as much as I have been with others, or as much as others who have reviewed it. An ESB will often be estery and somewhat higher in alcohol, but not hugely so. ESB is the "Special occasion beer" It's the beer you serve at your daughter's wedding rather than the one you swill at the pub on the way home from work. A great example is Old Thumper. The McNeil's though, to me, is a pub beer. A very good pub beer, but not to the levels I expected from McNeil's.

09-01-2003 04:40:12 | More by UncleFrank
Photo of bewareOFpenguin
bewareOFpenguin

Massachusetts

4/5  rDev +5%

Bitter, indeed. After I uncapped it and poured into a pint glass, the head occupied 3/4 of the glass. This presented a "waiting" problem as I had to wait for it to settle. Nice darker color, and a great burst of hops. If I didn't see the label. I would have thought I was drinking a West Coast beer. Definitely a good beer.

03-28-2003 06:52:15 | More by bewareOFpenguin
Photo of Gmann
Gmann

New York

3.5/5  rDev -8.1%

Pours a hazy honey brown color with a creamy tan head that settles into a solid cap. The aroma is of a floral hop with some honey and light caramel notes. The taste is sweet with honey and light caramel and some fruity flavors, which is followed by a floral and light citrus hop. Substantial bready malt. Quite hoppy for an ESB, almost like a dirty AIPA. Moderate to full body with tingly carbonation, not too strong. Finishes with a grassy bitterness. The ESB is good but I didn't find any particular quality great. There are no bad characteristics and this is well made but it didn't wow me.

02-27-2010 01:15:38 | More by Gmann
Photo of edchicma
edchicma

Massachusetts

4.18/5  rDev +9.7%

A bit too much sediment suspended in the pour...but smell made up for it...floral. hoppy...excellent. Taste was cirusy, hoppy and robust...left that great bitter aftertaste. Mouthfeel was dry and sharp....just what I was looking for. Easy on the drinkability side...mmmm I'm still tasting those hops!

04-02-2004 23:38:37 | More by edchicma
Photo of mydeadguy
mydeadguy

Massachusetts

4.13/5  rDev +8.4%

22 oz. bomber..

pours a hazy mix of red, orange, and brown tones. Plenty of yeast in the glass, topped with a loose frothy head that drops quickly. Aroma is floral and bitter hops and oils, followed by bready malts. The taste is all ESB, sweet malt backbone followed with a huge herbal/citric, and bitter hop flavor. Medium bodied, medium carbonation, this one is a joy to drink. patchy lacing sticks throughout..

03-25-2004 02:07:53 | More by mydeadguy
Photo of philipquarles
philipquarles

Connecticut

3.63/5  rDev -4.7%

22oz bottle. Pours cloudy dark copper with a rocky, grey-tinged head that leaves nice lacing. Really interesting aroma with plenty of bubblegum and a lot of floral character. Definite hop presence, with a faint soapy notes that I find a lot in west-coast varietals. The same thing shows up in the taste, along with a crisp bitterness. Again, quite floral, and with some light fruit here. The hops are clearly at the center of this one. Kind of disappointed that there isn't much lightly toasty malt, as I expected to find. Light body. A decent beer, but it's not a very good portrayal of a typical ESB...the "bitter" is taken a bit too literally.

10-26-2009 23:56:53 | More by philipquarles
Photo of OatmattStout
OatmattStout

Connecticut

3.88/5  rDev +1.8%

Big fluffy head which was over the top. A bit to much priming sugar in this one or maybe poor storage during its travel.

Color was cloudy yellow burnt orange.

Nose was sweet malts with a nice hint of hop

taste was good very nice malt fruit sweetness and swear there is a slight Cinnamon undertone in this one. good juicy hops that are resinous in the after taste.

Well put together brew with very rustic flavor profile.

02-17-2009 22:28:43 | More by OatmattStout
Photo of puboflyons
puboflyons

New Hampshire

3.9/5  rDev +2.4%

From the 1 pint 6. fl. oz. bottle marked best before the last day of April. Samapled on December 27, 2009. It pours a good looking amber color with excellent clarity considering it is marketed as unfiltered. A frothy, creamy head tops the glass about three-quarters of an inch thick. There is a good amount of clinging lacing on the glass. The aroma is full of floral hops and rather enticing. It is mainly a bitter brew but it is also enhanced by a nice hoppy background. It was an enjoyable brew.

12-29-2009 01:18:37 | More by puboflyons
Photo of Murph
Murph

Arizona

4.13/5  rDev +8.4%

Pours a nice dark copper with a creamy off white head that leaves huge rings all the way down the glass. Lovely sweet malt smell that is mixed with some citrusy hop aromas. Starts off with some nice rich malt sweetness. The malt flavor, however, soon gets mugged and left in the gutter by the very american hop profile of this brew. Aggressive citrusy, grapefruit hop flavors (cascade??) are strong in the finish and leave a lingering bitterness on the tongue. Creamy and crisp at the same time this brew is very drinkable. Too bitter for the style, but, style aside, this is one damn tasty bier. A hefty thanks to the Bierman for this one.

07-14-2002 22:50:16 | More by Murph
Photo of scottg
scottg

Vermont

4.13/5  rDev +8.4%

Pulled from cask into a pint glass at the brewpub.

A clear medium amber color with a one finger white head with solid retention leaving lacing all the way down the glass. Citrus hoppy aromas of grapefruit and lemon with some caramel. Up front grapefruit taste lead to chocolate malt and biscuit middle with bitter chocolate and lemon rind finish. Medium body, light carbonation there is a chalky, mouth coating feel. This is one of those beers you could drink all night.

09-16-2008 18:52:20 | More by scottg
Photo of MJR
MJR

Missouri

4.35/5  rDev +14.2%

Purchased in Boston the weekend of the AoBF...

Appearance: Pours crystal clear with a reddish-amber color with a touch of copper on the edges. It's thick tan head has the consistency of freshly whipped cream and holds like a champ. Lacing decorates the glass like cobwebs in an attic that's been neglected for years...

Smell: The aroma is well balanced between the piney, fresh hops and caramelly, sweet malt. There's a hint of a crackery, bready character that only adds to the richness.

Taste: This brew is painfully close in flavor to Fuller's ESB...now that's impressive! The flavor is rich with malty goodness that has caramel and toffee, breadiness, and a wonderful estery fruitiness. Bring it all into balance is a healthy dose of fresh English-variety hops. They're fruity and piney, with a slight hint of apricot. The finish is bitter, with a faintly minerally taste and a small swipe of alcohol.

Mouthfeel: Dry and crisp with a medium mouthfeel. The finish gets even drier with a touch of alcohol. Good stuff...

Drinkability: Damn good! While this is a very well done ESB that I could drink several of, it's amount of hops almost borders on being an English-style IPA. The alcohol on the finish makes me think it's a bit stronger than your average ESB, but it would still make a great session brew.

One random note: this brew's yeast sediment matches anything from Belgium! The yeast chunks are huge!

06-04-2003 22:18:20 | More by MJR
Photo of u2carew
u2carew

Massachusetts

3.55/5  rDev -6.8%

22oz Bomber consumed on 9/23/09.
A) Pours with a crazy active head - a bit out of control - definitely over-carbonated. The lacing creamy and sticky. Hazy. copper in color.
S) Floral. Orange. Light grapefruit.
T) Definitely bitter with a good balance of malty sweetness. Notes of orange and lemon. Earthy hop notes linger in the aftertaste.
M) Body is just shy of medium and feels a little thin. Fizzy.
D) A decent bitter but over carbonated. Waiting for the foam to settle is no fun.

09-27-2009 18:06:00 | More by u2carew
Photo of mikesgroove
mikesgroove

South Carolina

4.5/5  rDev +18.1%

I was really, really suprised by this one to say the least. I recieved it as part of a BIF and decided to open it the other night as I was in need of a little hoppy relief. Much to my suprise this turned out to be one of the better of the style I can remember. Served cold and poured into a pint glass.

Brilliant pour, rich amber in color with a good bit of clarity to it. Big head of foamy white lace comes up and over the top nearly perfectly, cratering and sticking to the sides with a wonderful amount of foam. Lively carbonation streaming to the surface all the while. Huge lemon and rich citrus aroma. Pungent and hoppy, really very well put together. Warming brings a subtle balance, but again this was a big, bitter, esb. First sip is medium bodied, clean and crisp with a wonderfully balanced amount of carbonation. Superb balance here. Fresh, crisp notes of lemon and ornage peel undercut a light, but present buttery middle. Smooth, dry and long lasting finish leaves a touch of zest on the tongue and a yearning to go back for more.

Overall, wow. I was not expecting this one to be as good as it was. Simply blown away. I would have no issue with having this one again, in fact I may be on m way to seek it out. Damn fine beer here.

09-13-2009 15:56:05 | More by mikesgroove
Photo of sammy806
sammy806

Maryland

2.75/5  rDev -27.8%

06-20-2013 04:10:16 | More by sammy806
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McNeill's Extra Special Bitter from McNeill's Brewery
86 out of 100 based on 114 ratings.