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Steel Wheels ESB - Blue Mountain Brewery

Not Rated.
Steel Wheels ESBSteel Wheels ESB

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BA SCORE
87
very good

31 Reviews
THE BROS
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no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 31
Hads: 137
rAvg: 3.91
pDev: 9.72%
Wants: 2
Gots: 9 | FT: 0
Brewed by:
Blue Mountain Brewery visit their website
Virginia, United States

Style | ABV
Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB) |  6.50% ABV

Availability: Fall

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: argock on 09-05-2011

No notes at this time.
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 31 | Hads: 137
Photo of GarthDanielson
4.03/5  rDev +3.1%
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. (631 characters)

Photo of Zaktcc
4.4/5  rDev +12.5%
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. (896 characters)

Photo of ThisWangsChung
3.97/5  rDev +1.5%
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! (1,941 characters)

Photo of TongoRad
4.18/5  rDev +6.9%
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. (801 characters)

Photo of barczar
3.82/5  rDev -2.3%

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. (367 characters)

Photo of Samp01
3.75/5  rDev -4.1%
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. (460 characters)

Photo of Act25
3.87/5  rDev -1%
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. (666 characters)

Photo of woodychandler
4.48/5  rDev +14.6%
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! (2,445 characters)

Photo of msquared36
4.14/5  rDev +5.9%
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. (384 characters)

Photo of Drk93TT
3.34/5  rDev -14.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

22oz corked bomber.. into a pint glass

A : Pours a reddish brown color with a 2 finger head that partly sticks around throughout the experience. Bubbly and active in the glass... Yet leaves minimal lacing.

S: Light carmel and apple spice scent. Some malty-bready tones too.. but barely there.

T: Crisp and carbonated.. almost a bitter granny smith-like apple taste that lasts throughout. The apple flavor fades as the beer warms. But its still very much there.

M: Thin and crisp here, not as thick as I had hoped for.. not very chewy at all. Aftertaste is very faint.

A pretty decent ESB here, but I beleive itd be much much better with more body and maltiness going on in the mouthfeel. The apple flavor is too much for me.. it dominates the palate. Still glad i gave this a go, only beer ever had from Blue Mountain so far.. Not bad. Try it for sure. (859 characters)

Photo of Clydesdale
3.77/5  rDev -3.6%
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. (1,266 characters)

Photo of Craigory
3.93/5  rDev +0.5%
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. (733 characters)

Photo of Cyrion
4.15/5  rDev +6.1%
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. (1,265 characters)

Photo of bruceblizard
4.99/5  rDev +27.6%
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. (266 characters)

Photo of dbrauneis
3.91/5  rDev 0%
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. (1,089 characters)

Photo of tone77
3.55/5  rDev -9.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Another can courtesy of the legendary woodychandler. Poured from a 12 oz. can. Has a pretty amber color with a 1/2 inch head. Smell is of caramel malts, some hops. Taste is well balanced hops and malts, a light bitterness, smooth and easy drinking. Feels medium bodied in the mouth and overall is a solid beer. (310 characters)

Photo of delta490
3.16/5  rDev -19.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

A- poured a clear copper-tinted amber with a short lasting fizzier white head. No retention at all (true to style)

S- minimal at best with slight hints of raisins and some nondescript hops. Sometimes it was non-existent.

T- again, very little in the taste. There are some mild notes of dark fruit and some subtle hops. But all in all, this comes up short to other ESBs I've had, especially those made in England.

M- A little thinner but definitely not watery.

O- I wanted this to be better. It's not bad, per se, but it falls short as an ESB. (546 characters)

Photo of Arithmeticus
4.21/5  rDev +7.7%
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 (286 characters)

Photo of russwaddell
3.31/5  rDev -15.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

I have often been disappointed by ESBs, but this is good beer.

Pours totally clear with a small head. Decent lacing but not a ton. A layer of bubbles sticks around for quite awhile. Copper to brown color.

Smells like an amber or red ale but with some really subdued hop notes too. I associate this style with the English, and I associate the smell with the smell of an English pub. That could be good or bad, I suppose.

Taste is a little more floral than I expected. It's sort of metallic but in a good way rather than a malt liquor way. Long but not terribly bitter finish.

Thicker on the tongue than I was expecting. Quite sweet, but still easy drinking. Not even slightly boozy, which seems consistent with the style.

I come away very pleased with this beer, maybe because I did not expect to enjoy the style. It sort of reminds me of a really good, clean, balanced German lager...but more English?

You know, on second thought I have no idea why I insist on bringing nationality into this review. (1,006 characters)

Photo of JayQue
3.75/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A nice ESB.. Pours a clear, dark amber color with a medium size white head and some lacing. The aroma is malty - caramel and bready malt with some spices (mostly pepper) and a little toffee.

Flavor is just about the same with a touch of finishing bitterness thrown in. Good flavor.

Mouthfeel is rich enough and crisp

Overall a good ESB...and in a can too, for portability. (375 characters)

Photo of RblWthACoz
3.84/5  rDev -1.8%
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. (317 characters)

Photo of Huhzubendah
3.03/5  rDev -22.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

The beer is copper hued and teeming with bubbles. Thin tan head that dissipates quickly. The aroma is weak, offering some fruity malt and grain. Sweet malt with caramel malt and fruity toffee. A bit syrupy on the palate. Alcohol presence is too much for the style. Too sweet and lacking that pleasant bitterness to help balance everything out. Mediocre. (353 characters)

Photo of superspak
4.06/5  rDev +3.8%
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. (1,350 characters)

Photo of smakawhat
3.91/5  rDev 0%
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. (1,006 characters)

Photo of Rifugium
3.57/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

First had: on tap at Blue Mountain, Afton, VA

Coppery-amber pour, clear, with a foamy white head that dissipated almost completely, leaving some trails of lace behind. Caramel malts in the nose, toasted cereal, light spicy/herbal hops. A nicely balanced ESB, caramel malt sweetness, toasted cereal grains, light peppery spice, herbal hops for an mellow but lasting bitterness. Light-medium body, easy drinkability, goes well with about any food, or just on its own. (466 characters)

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Steel Wheels ESB from Blue Mountain Brewery
87 out of 100 based on 31 ratings.