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Steel Wheels ESB | Blue Mountain Brewery

very good
33 Reviews
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Steel Wheels ESBSteel Wheels ESB

Brewed by:
Blue Mountain Brewery
Virginia, United States | website

Style: Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB)

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 6.50%

Availability: Fall

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by argock on 09-05-2011

User Reviews
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Reviews: 33 | Ratings: 146
Photo of bruceblizard
4.99/5  rDev +29.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Best Virginia beer. Smooth, hardy, malty entry and bitter finish. Refreshing and warming simultaneously. Nutty flavor beautiful golden brown color and lots of caramely head for a canned beer. Would buy this by the case and could have as my only beer with no problem.

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Photo of woodychandler
4.48/5  rDev +16.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Rumor has it that Blue Mountain may be backing off of their CANned offerings and that would be a shame. I have had this CAN in abeyance for a while, trying to get a pic approved. It finally required my acquisition of a tripod (!), but all is now in readiness. Nobody ever said that The CANQuest (TM) is easy!

From the CAN: "Real Virginia Beer"; "Demand Fresh Beer: Check my butt to mke sure I'm not older than I look."; "Drink the good stuff."; "The music of The Steel Wheels and the beer from Blue Mountain are both original and handcrafted with inspired Ameri[CAN]a flavors from the heart of Virginia. Our collaboration E.S.B. draws from the past with British Crystal malts and Scottish yeast, but uses Ameri[CAN] hop to put our own stamp on the creation. Take time to drink slowly and listen truly. Wherever you are, get ready to sing along, to harmonize. Maybe even get up and dance."; "Hear the Steel Wheels at www.TheSteelWheels.com, or meet them soon at a show to hear the music as they love to share it: live, kickin' and real."; "Virginia's first craft brewery in a [CAN]"; "Pack it in [,] pack it out".

I wanted to make an allusion to Stealers Wheel's "Stuck in the Middle with You" or something about a trifecta wheel combination, but when their website allowed me to listen to some of their music, I decided to go with their "Winter Is Coming" as accompaniment. Music and beer, another winning CANbination!

At long last, the Crack! occurred and thanks to yet another brimful craft CAN, I incurred a spritz of beer across my fingers. I liken it to a happy puppy eager to come out and play. The band and I celebrated with an inverted Glug that created a quick pseudo-cascade and easily two fingers of dense, light-tan head with good retention. Color was a deep-copper (SRM = > 17, < 22) with NE-quality clarity. Nose had a distinct caramel malt sweetness underlain by a grassy hoppiness. Mouthfeel was medium and the taste was unexpectedly more bitter than the nose had led me to expect. I really liked the way that the hops and malts interacted on this one, with neither overwhelming the other and making for an eminently quaffable beer. It had a dry biscuity maltiness and a grassiness that made for a very dry iteration of the style. Finish was quite dry and an unexpected bonus for me as I was expecting yet another sweet ESB. I really hope that the rumors are unfounded as I would love to have some more CANs of this one!

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Photo of Zaktcc
4.4/5  rDev +14.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a pint glass. Canned prior to summer of '14 (date not listed on can - bought single)
A - Pours a dark cedar color which is fairly transparent. ! 1/2 finger head with good retention and some lacing.

S - Very pleasant aroma. A blend of sweetness and booze. Hints of coffee, caramel and even hints of bourbon or something are present. A great blend of aromas that is fairly complex to the nose.

T - Flavors line up right on par with the scents. Caramel malts are present, vague hints of coffee, vanilla preset as well. Like the scent, the taste is fairly complex but a great blend. Very enjoyable.

F - Medium bodied, with no notes of carbonation present. Very smooth with a crisp aftertaste.

O - Was not sure what to expect from this beer but I am highly impressed. I wonder if the aging had anything to do with the complexity of the aromas and flavors but an awesome beer overall.

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Photo of Arithmeticus
4.21/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Poured chilled in ale glas chez White

A: dark amber, one-finger head (creamy), good carbonation, excellent lacing
S: malty, darker roasted malts; opens up nicely
T: like a hoppy bock; very malty, complex brown sugar, horehound candy; resinous

A very good beer, but astringent and loud

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Photo of TongoRad
4.18/5  rDev +8.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

First off, the nose is very English in nature, and absolutely gorgeous. Lots of fruit comes out right away (berries and dried apple, primarily), but it's woven so beautifully with toasty malt, caramel, nuts, and a just enough floral hops to give it a certain lightness. The mouthfeel is moderately full and smooth, while there is just enough bitterness to keep things in check and not an iota more. Mostly caramel dominates the palate, but the finish is surprisingly dry (!!!), with the toasty malt and flowers lingering on the finish. Hell, yes! They got the finish right, and drinkability is off the charts! Everything about this beer is so harmonious and well put together. This has been a genuine pleasure to drink- I look forward to getting it again, and whatever else I can find by this brewery.

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Photo of Cyrion
4.15/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Poured from a can into a common shaker pint. Has a 'best before' date of one month in the future. Better get cracking.

Appearance: Pours a dark gold (too yellow to use the words 'amber' or 'copper') that is very clear. A one inch creamy head dissipates reluctantly, leaving concentric rings in the glass.

Smell: It honestly smells like sugar cookies. Macaroons. Must be a cookie aroma with sugar and caramel. The malt is kickin', but I'm wondering what lies beneath. No hint of alcohol or hops, strangely.

Taste: Wow, a delicious drying malt taste. Bready, caramel sweetness in front, as gleaned from the aroma, followed by the hops. Wish I could elaborate more on the hops, but it's a pleasant mid-palate earthy flavor that is a reasonable reproduction of a strong bitter. Drying on the end.

Mouthfeel: Medium, with no alcohol taste. Appropriate for an ESB with an ABV of 6.5%.

Overall: I'm pretty skeptical of English reproductions, as so few American beers live up to the hype, but this is a truly delicious beer. Slightly more hoppy than an English ESB, but not nearly as bracing as other reviewers may say. Balanced and drying, leaves you thirsty for another. Best ESB I've had in a long, long time. I'm adding this to my very small stable of go-to beers.

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Photo of msquared36
4.14/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 4.25

Dark brown with a thin white head.

Aroma is fantastic. Strong floral scents.

The floral notes are very pronounced in the taste as well. Also noticed a hint of pineapple. Crisp, dry finish.

Decent carbonation. Nothing special buts works for the beer.

This is a very good beer. Refreshing and drinkable but with nice complexity and heft. Ranks right up there with the English ESB's.

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Photo of bbeane
4.14/5  rDev +7.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Poured from a 750ml caged and corked bottle dated best by June 2014

A- Poured into a tulip glass. Starts with a large white head with good retention. Beer is dark copper in color, crimson when held up to the light

S- Lots of sweet malt with a hint of hops

T- Nice caramel malty sweetness, with some hops coming through in the finish

M- Medium body with light carbonation

O- Definitely a quality beer. I'll drink this again in the future

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Photo of OldSwampy
4.1/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Color reddish copper, translucent, with a thin cream head. Nose pleasant edgy hops, hints of rock dust, over smooth malt aroma. Taste as promised by the smell: smooth, with slightly sweet, nutty malts interacting politely with the hops, all well integrated. Could be bigger, but is fine as is. Mouthfeel lean but firm with lightly creamy wrapper. All around, a nicely balanced and very enjoyable beer. I'll look forward to having another.

Can bottom stamped "BEST BY 5 / 7 / 16" poured into a glass.

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Photo of superspak
4.06/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750 ml bottle into pint glass, best before 6/2014 stamped on the cork. Pours lightly cloudy reddish copper color with a 2-3 finger dense and fluffy light khaki head with incredible retention, that reduces to a nice cap that lasts the whole glass. Dense soapy lacing clings on the glass, with a lot of streaming carbonation retaining the head. Aromas of caramel, pear, raisin, apple, toast, biscuit, brown sugar, floral, grass, light pine, and yeast earthiness. Very nice aromas with good balance and complexity of malt and fruity ester notes; with good strength. Taste of caramel, brown sugar, toast, biscuit, pear, apple, pepper, floral, pine, grass, and yeast earthiness. Light pine bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of caramel, brown sugar, toast, biscuit, light fruits, floral, pepper, light pine, and yeast earthiness on the finish for a good bit. Damn nice balance of malt, hop, and fruity ester flavors; with good robustness and zero cloying flavors after the finish. Medium-high carbonation and medium bodied; with a moderately creamy and crisp mouthfeel that is very nice. Alcohol is very well hidden with only a light warming noticed after the finish. Overall this is an excellent ESB style. All around great balance and complexity of malt, yeast, and hop flavors; and very smooth and crisp to drink. A very enjoyable offering.

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Photo of biga7346
4.04/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

A - Copper, chestnut brown, great big white coning head, lacing

N - Black licorice, rye, spices like cardomom or cinnamon, smoke, lots of breadiness, touch of fresh tangerine, strawberries, grassy hopping; really nuanced, balanced and enticing.

T/M - Rye bread, spices, white peppercorn, more of smoke, molasses, old fruit, bakers chocolate in the finish, slick and thin, drying.

D - Great beer, good to go for all night sessionable at 6.5%. It's nice to discover a fresh, creative look at an old world style. The sad part is that something like this will probably get ignored for the most part.

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Photo of GarthDanielson
4.03/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Poured from a can into a shaker pint, the beer is a deep, ruby-tinted caramel coloring with a foamy, low profile, dense, off-white head. Aromas of roasted caramel, toffee, sweet cream, hints of char, and a subtle hops bitterness. Very balanced and aromatic. Flavors are roasted and smooth forward, with notes of toffee, caramel, and subtle smoke, with cream highlights, and an undertone of hops bitterness. Very balanced and dynamic. The body is light and smooth, with good lacing on the glass, and an underlying dry edge. Roasted sweet, sugary caramel aftertaste, into a smooth, slow, slightly cloying finish. This is a great ESB.

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Photo of DaveBlack
4/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Light, reddish brown colored beer. The carbonation looks more like a soda than a beer, with large bubbles rising to the top and immediately dispersing so that there's almost no head at all, and what there is has a very short retention.

S: Sweet caramel and molasses notes. Smells sweet and toasted, with a slight biscuity aroma as well. There are also some hops, which bring a slight piney-ness to the beer as well.

T: The first flavor is the caramel sweetness from the malts, but the yeast adds an earthy, spicy, and slightly floral element. There is sort of a leather flavor thrown in there as well. The hops are woody and piney, and finish the beer well. My first thought was that it needed more hops to finish, but after a few sips the bitterness sticks around and balances the beer nicely.

M: Moderate body, heavy on the carbonation.

O: An interesting and surprising beer. The more of it I drink the better I like it. There's is a lot going on, and it's not all apparent at first, but the flavors build and others come out as I drink more and it warms. Quite a tasty beer.

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Photo of ThisWangsChung
3.97/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz can into a teku.

Appearance: Pours a murky dark red color. The head is three fingers high, and light khaki in shade. While its duration isn't the longest, it manages to leave behind a consistent amount of lacing on the glass. (3.5)

Smell: The Scottish yeast really brings out some nice malt definition alongside the esters - not only do subtle stone fruits come out, I also pick up plenty of caramel and brown sugar sweetness. Let it warm up, and some of the hops come through with a decent floral quality. Wow, Blue Mountain really nailed a good balance between hops, malts, and esters. Everything appears vividly yet harmoniously - one of the better ESBs I've come across, at least aromatically. (4)

Taste: It starts off with some caramel malts, before the esters appear in full force. The estery notes are typical for an ESB; slightly atypical is the pleasantly hoppy finish. Hell, I even get hints of vanilla. Some toast and more caramel gently pops up on the aftertaste. This is quite complex: not in the complicated "a billion notes smushed together" way, but in a cohesive and refined manner that shows off each aspect very well while staying in balance. Delicious! (4)

Mouthfeel: The palate features an initial stickiness from crystal malts, yet it finishes surprisingly dry and light. Plenty of fruit flavors (rather than the malts) linger on the palate nicely. Carbonation is restrained in all the right ways, doing enough to cleanse the taste buds without seeming overly lively. (4)

Overall: Yesterday, I had an ESB that was quite good - keep in mind this isn't my favorite style by any stretch. And this makes two good ESBs in a row. No wait, this is a GREAT ESB. This works so well because all three aspects (malts, hops, esters) are easy to pick out yet balanced to near perfection. It's also officially beaten Fuller's ESB as the best example of the style I've had. (4)

3.97/5: Oh crap, I'm becoming a fan of ESBs!

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Photo of oberon
3.96/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured into an imperial nonic a rich full bronze with a creamy half finger white head atop that settles very slowly into froth.Caramel/biscuit malt and some spicy hops in the nose,they don't jump out at ya but are pronounced.Fresh tasting with a nice bready maltiness on the palate,lightly sweet caramel provides more layered maltiness,a decent shot of spicy hops in a lingering finish.A full almost creamy feel to the makes it easy going down and a pleasure to drink.I would love to try this on the hand pump,a bigger ESB with a dose of American hops,a very solid offering.

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Photo of argock
3.96/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Served on-tap at the brewery in a Shaker pint glass.

A: Attractive russet-reddish brown with 1/2 finger of light beige head. A few spittles of lacing trail off from the head.

S: Caramel malt dominate but overall everything is in balance with hops providing a spicy counterpoint to the caramel malt backbone.

T: The flavor is very caramel-toffee malty with bready notes to complement the soft herbal, spiced hoppiness. Easy to drink and firmly on target for the style with the balance of sweet and bready maltiness with the earthy hoppiness. I wish there was a unique note I could point to.

M: Softly carbonated with a layering feel with medium body.

O: Blue Mountain has another very nice beer to add to their lineup. I wish this beer was 5.5% ABV with more hop character overall. I would definitely drink this again, but more sessionability would be welcome.

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Photo of Craigory
3.93/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

64oz growler fill from Green's Piney Grove, poured into a Blue Mountain snifter.

A: Pours a clear, reddish-brown body with an inch of off-white head. This quickly dissipates, leaving little lacing.

S: Sweet grain, biscuit-y malt, a hint of dark fruit, and herbal hops.

T: A great biscuit character throughout, buoyed by just a bit of dark fruit and a clean hop finish.

M: This boasts a much better mouthfeel than most ESB's, as it manages to really fill the mouth and make its presence known. It's crisp, but not too carbonated.

O: This is a nice "Americanized" ESB. It hits all the standard notes, but the increased ABV boosts flavor and mouthfeel. While remaining drinkable, this is a comparatively hefty example of the style.

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Photo of smakawhat
3.91/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Poured from the bottle into a nonic pint glass.

A real aggressive looking ESB. Nicely foamy and soapy four to five finger controlled head with nice even pinhead bubbles althroughout. Big retention and some speckled soapy lacing. Body color is a deep super crystal clear, but dark copper red, with dark brown hues on the edges. Very big and impressive looking.

Nose is fruity estery large. Hints of caramel and lots of sweet cinnamon alover with some little bit of berried red fruit. A little bit of heat comes off in the background, with some mineral like touches. Some herbal sensing hops but the malt and yeast fruity character seems to be the star. Solid.

Light bodied feel with lots of cinnamon and herbal tea flavors on first sip. Malt action has subdued caramel on the swallow and a hint of faint brown sugars. Sharp. A good hop lingering herbal tea bitterness on the swallow that fits nicely with the cinnamon angles of the malt profile.

Overall, just a solid esb and a good looking one as well.

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Photo of dbrauneis
3.91/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Served in a can at City Beverage in Winston-Salem, NC

A: Pours a clear bronze-ish amber in color with light to moderate amounts of active visible carbonation slowly rising from the bottom of the glass and some golden yellow + brassy highlights. The beer has a half finger tall foamy light beige head that reduces to a medium sized patch of thin film and a thin ring at the edges of the glass. Light amounts of lacing are observed.

S: Moderate aromas of biscuit and caramel malts with a light amount of spicy and earthy hops.

T: Upfront there is a moderate flavor of bready and biscuity malts with a light to moderate amount of caramel sweetness. That is followed by light to moderate flavors of earthy and spicy hops which contribute a light amount of bitterness which fades pretty quickly.

M: Medium bodied with moderate amounts of carbonation. Slightly creamy.

O: An enjoyable offering, sort of an Americanized version of the ESB with a slightly more aggressive hoppiness than is expected for the style. Definitely easy to drink and one I will pick up again. Alcohol is well hidden.

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Photo of obywan59
3.88/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750 ml bottle corked and wired. British malts, Scottish yeast, and
American hops.
The label shows the band "Steel Wheels" based in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia near Harrisonburg, and known for their "soulful mountain music".

Pours nearly crystal clear with a light tan 3 finger head that leaves impressive sticky lacing. Coppery in color.

Fruit and spice and toasty malt on the nose combine to give an impression that approaches mustiness.

The taste is sweet and fruity with light spice and a nice smooth long=lasting bitterness.

Medium-full in body with light prickle on the tongue. Very drying to the point of being almost numbing. Warming in the throat.

Unique in my experience Well balanced and easy drinking. I would definitely try this brew again. This is my second sampling of brews from Blue Mountain Barrel House, (Mandolin being the first) and at this early date BMBH (a sister brewery to Blue Mountain Breswery) appears to me to be the best brewery in Virginia.

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Photo of Act25
3.87/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Can in a Whole Foods craft pack.

A: Pours clear bronze amber with golden highlights, an offwhite thick head with a fast fade to a ring but lots of lasting lace.

S: Smell is almost a 4. Caramel malts dominate, with biscuit, spice and earthy, barnyard hops.

T: Follows smell but gets bigger. Upfront caramel sweetness with biscuit character followed by earthy, spicy hops which contribute to a long bitter finish.

M: Medium bodied with moderate carbonation. Good weight, slightly creamy.

O: More caramel and more hops than expected. A nice beer with a big finish and feel.

I let this warm to room temp. It went flat. Much preferred Carton's ESB - Dont panic.

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Photo of RblWthACoz
3.84/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

A nice esb. Smooth character and flavor profile. Nice mildly sweet malt thing going on. Very small amount of aged fruits on the backend. I like how deep the flavor profile is on this one. It's nice and easy to drink. Some people might not like how it's thicker, but I can dig it. Another nice brew from Blue Mountain.

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Photo of barczar
3.82/5  rDev -0.8%

Best by date of April, so... Aroma is fairly rich and malty, with toasted notes, caramel, and fruity specialty malt. There's a metallic note. Flavor reveals much more specialty malt fruitiness, accompanied by herbal hops, and spicy hop character. Bitterness is fairly subdued, which pleases my palate. Fruity character definitely dominates, but it's quite acceptable.

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Photo of Clydesdale
3.77/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A: Pours a deep, clear copper-red color. The tall, copper-tinted head is moderately dense and frothy. Retention is good, and a respectable amount of splotchy lacing sticks to the glass as the head recedes.

S: Toasty, caramel aromas are prominent. Some nice depth here, with estery notes of fruit (orchard and dried) and light spiciness. Hop aromas are mostly leafy and herbal, with some added fruitiness.

T: Firmly malty up front, with equal parts sugar cookie maltiness, caramel sweetness, and toasted flavor. Hop bitterness is moderate and appropriate for the style. Some leafy and herbal hop flavor is noticeable. This is not a particularly clean beer, though not in a bad way; there are prominent yeasty esters of fruit (think golden apples and raisins) as well as some residual sweetness towards the finish.

M: Rather full-bodied. Carbonation is medium. This has a fairly big malty feel, especially for the style. There is a fair dose of hoppiness to balance things out towards the finish, but this drinks more like a brown ale than a pale ale.

O: This is a good ESB from Blue Mountain. It's a little fuzzy around the edges, but it doesn't detract from the enjoyability. Steel Wheels has a little of everything: maltiness, hoppiness, and estery character.

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Photo of Samp01
3.75/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

12oz can. Pours a deep clear red amber with a medium long lasting thick beige head. Toasted caramel malt, grains, yeast and bready notes fill the nose, with some fruity notes and mild hops bitterness. A medium body with moderate carbonation, and mild sticky mouth feel on the palate. The finish is a combination of sweet toasted caramel malt, yeast fruity notes and mild bitterness on the end for balance. A very well made, balanced and tasty brew. drink some.

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Steel Wheels ESB from Blue Mountain Brewery
86 out of 100 based on 33 ratings.