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McNeill's Extra Special Bitter - McNeill's Brewery

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

Educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

114 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 114
Reviews: 93
rAvg: 3.8
pDev: 11.84%
Wants: 3
Gots: 3 | 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:
Beer added by: Bierman9 on 09-03-2001

No notes at this time.
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 114 | Reviews: 93 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of randomdanger
4/5  rDev +5.3%

Photo of claspada
3.19/5  rDev -16.1%
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.

Photo of keanex
3.75/5  rDev -1.3%
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.

Photo of BeerLover99
3.88/5  rDev +2.1%
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

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.


Photo of Neorebel
4.17/5  rDev +9.7%
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.

Photo of GarthDanielson
3.83/5  rDev +0.8%
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.

Photo of Durge
3.91/5  rDev +2.9%
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.

Photo of Hibernator
3.83/5  rDev +0.8%
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.

Photo of Naugros
3.36/5  rDev -11.6%
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.

Photo of ggilman
3.93/5  rDev +3.4%
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!

Photo of metter98
3.75/5  rDev -1.3%
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.

Photo of Flounder57
3.53/5  rDev -7.1%
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.

Photo of rinhaak
3.75/5  rDev -1.3%
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.

Photo of WesWes
3.72/5  rDev -2.1%
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.

Photo of lovindahops
4.13/5  rDev +8.7%
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!

Photo of oberon
3.58/5  rDev -5.8%
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.

Photo of BigPlay1824
3.62/5  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

Photo of sinstaineddemon
4.07/5  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

Photo of Pittsburgh
4.08/5  rDev +7.4%
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.

Photo of Naugled
3.91/5  rDev +2.9%
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.

Photo of tempest
2.55/5  rDev -32.9%
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.

Photo of merlin48
3.34/5  rDev -12.1%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

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.

Photo of travduke
4.2/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance: Pours a hazy dark orange/red body. Generous white fluffy head and great lacing.

Aroma: Nice citrus and floral hop profile. Sweet grain malt backbone.

Taste: Hoppier than I would of thought, but that's good! Nice smooth bitterness.

Feel/Drink: Medium to full mouthfeel. I really enjoyed this and can drink a couple with pleasure.

Photo of NJpadreFan
3.88/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 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.

Photo of Gmann
3.5/5  rDev -7.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

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.

McNeill's Extra Special Bitter from McNeill's Brewery
85 out of 100 based on 114 ratings.