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HSB (Horndean Special Bitter) - George Gale & Company Ltd

Not Rated.
HSB (Horndean Special Bitter)HSB (Horndean Special Bitter)

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
88
very good

52 Ratings
THE BROS
96
world-class

(view ratings)
Ratings: 52
Reviews: 37
rAvg: 3.99
pDev: 11.03%
Wants: 18
Gots: 0 | FT: 0
Brewed by:
George Gale & Company Ltd visit their website
United Kingdom (England)

Style | ABV
English Bitter |  4.80% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes/Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

(Beer added by: pezoids on 03-27-2002)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Usefulness | Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of HSB (Horndean Special Bitter) Alström Bros
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Ratings: 52 | Reviews: 37 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of NeroFiddled
4.4/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

A slightly hazy chestnut body with deep reddish-copper highlights is topped by a good-sized head of rocky "vanilla" foam. The head holds quite well, and it leaves some very nice rings of lace throughout the pint. The nose displays an earthy/mineral (but not quite metallic) and leafy character that seems to come from a combination of both malt and hops; over a decidedly caramelish malt. The medium body is accentuated by a very fine and delicate carbonation that leaves it creamy, soft and smooth in the mouth. There's just enough carbonation to give it a little mouthfeel and bring out the flavors without becoming gassy. Very nice, and perfect for a session beer. The flavor reveals basically what the aroma indicates with a maltiness that's just as equally earthy and dusty as it is caramelish with a touch of mineral, some leafy hops, and a mild woodiness. More complexities arise, however, with a bit more investigation. There's an underlying touch of yeasty, berry-like fruitiness; and a toasty, chocolate side to the malt that becomes quite apparent in the finish. It's very well-balanced with a bitterness seems to hide itself in the shadows but continually keeps things dry without ever building on the palate. Again, it's perfectly balanced and makes for an excellent session ale. There's enough character to keep it interesting throughout an evening; a brilliant balance that makes it workable; and a low enough alcohol that you can do it at a session pace. Brilliant!

NeroFiddled, Aug 17, 2003
Photo of jwc215
4.6/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Pours deep copper with ruby hue and a nice ivory head. Lacing sticks.

The smell is of toffee/caramel - complex maltiness with lemony citrus, apricot and a bit of wood.

The taste is of nice caramelish/toffeeish maltiness with a leafy, citric hop bitterness in the finish.

It has a creamy smooth body that is full-bodied for the style. Coating. Mild carbonation. Silky.

Incredible how they replicated the cask-feel so well in a bottle, adding to the drinkability factor. Very well-balanced and delicious. Complex in a soft and subtle way. This is an exceptional bitter!

jwc215, Apr 30, 2009
Photo of BlackHaddock
4.25/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Drank at a pub based beer festival in Shropshire 14th Sept 2007.

Great dark colour, ruby red and clear, firm biege head that stayed the distance.

Fruity, hoppy and interesting aroma.

The fruitiness within the fullbodied taste gives this beer a wonderful flavour.

The taste clings to your palat, this is a good beer. Glad I re-introduced myself to it, I won't wait so long between visits again.

BlackHaddock, Sep 15, 2007
Photo of wl0307
3.8/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Tasted by a pint at Sir Charles Napier, Brighton. This is the first time that I’ve tried the now Chiswick-brewed HSB.
4 A: clear, dark russet brown in colour, coming with an off-white creamy head that leaves tight lacing behind, on top of rather low carbonation.
3.5 S: rich caramel, pear-drops and sour-sweet plums fill the nostrils, added with a touch of palm sugar, but lacking a more assertive hoppy input as before.
4 T: the initial entry of brown malts and caramelised sugar is ensued by the slow manifestation of hops that mix in the flavour very well, leaving a semi-dryish, faintly earthy, and tea-ish aftertaste… a light tinge of sour-sweet ripe plums seems to linger and blends well with the tea-leafy hoppiness. Very pleasant in the finish.
4 M&3.5 D: fresh on the texture, full of micro-scopic fizziness, but the body is lighter than what I can remember from my last pint of Hordean-brewed HSB from three years ago. Although this is still a lovely pint, at the price of 2.95 pounds a pint, I wouldn’t rush to try a second pint at this pub again…

* Review of 14/08/2005:
Another favourite cask ale of mine when living in Sussex. Happy to see it on draught at the Cross Keys, a Wetherspoon's pub in City, London.
3.5 A: seemingly fresh, it comes in a brownish hue, with a thin, white head and leaving uneven lacing. Looking o.k.
4 S: the aroma is dominated by a sweetish raisiny, dark-malt note, a port wine-like deeply aromatic texture is also present. Overall it's very juicy and mouthwatering.
4.5 T: rich nutty malt flavour dominates the palate with sightly tart, raw-nut flavour; gradually a profoundly dryish yet fruity and vertically-structured bitterness takes over and lingers well towards the finish. The flavour in the aftertaste, a bit like the taste upfront, is reminiscent of peanuts, dark fruits e.g. black prunes... while a soft bed of hops sustains at the back as a balancer with the otherwise fruity and rich malty palate.
4.5 M&4 D: very rounded mouthfeel throughout, good depth of dark malts and refreshingly bitter texture are the winners for this beer. Very very nice bitter indeed, extremely drinkable for me, especially in Autumn.

wl0307, Dec 10, 2007
Photo of bark
4.38/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

The liquid is clear; the colour is red-copper. The finger thick head is pale beige and very compact and smooth.

The light smell is a bit bitter with flavours of fresh bread, wort and ripe grain.

The taste is fresh with a fine hoppy first flavour. Lots of malt and delicate flowery (buttercups) notes. Some sweet wort in the aftertaste, that also brings notes of tree sap and rowanberries. A delicate bitterness in the finish.

The carbonation is medium strong, the small bubbles are soft. The liquid is smooth.

A solid best bitter.

bark, Nov 23, 2009
Photo of tbeckett
3.25/5  rDev -18.5%

tbeckett, Jan 18, 2013
Photo of cokes
4.68/5  rDev +17.3%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

So often I automatically skip over the "can" section of my local stores. What a mistake that has been. I've seen this one before, but never given it a second glace. Until today.
Thought it was nitrogenated. It's not, but it pours like it is. Huge rocky tan suds on top of a blurry bronze fluid.
Enormously fragrant. Rusty iron, bitter herbs, weathered barn doors, biscuits, apples, buttery dough, toffee, grapes, flowers.
Enters the mouth toasty and nutty. Roasted walnuts. Plenty biscuity too. Buttered English Muffins topped with dry toffee. Apple pie arrives next. Crisp and crusty, glazed with caramel. Migrates to a fuller fruity sensation, but this time of pear. Amazingly enough, there are even traces of vinousness, white and grapey and bright. Dough exists through it all, coupled with wood splinters. Bitterness builds gradually. Begins a bit rusty, turning to florals, then to a grassier sense. UK hopping (Fuggles and EK Goldings?) done exactly right.
Nearly full bodied initially, but it wanes over time. Never weak in stature.
This might be the best thing that's ever happened to a can.

cokes, Jun 22, 2004
Photo of woosterbill
3.6/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Handpump half-pint at the Thornbury Castle. The bartender insisted on pouring me a sample first, in case the beer was too strong for me to handle. Oooh, 4.8%, I'm scared!

A: Clear deep amber body; thin tan head with ok retention and nice lace. Solid, but not memorable.

S: Fairly assertive aroma of earthy hops + caramel malt. Not much complexity, but it smells nice enough.

T: Follows the nose - earthy + floral hops up front, with solidly sweet caramel malt following close behind. Long, bittersweet finish. Enjoyable, but nothing special.

M: Fairly hefty bitter, with good body and moderate, fine carbonation. Very nice.

O: This one was above average, but far from great. I was surprised to see it's A- overall rating on here, as it struck me as being a fairly pedestrian bitter: there was nothing wrong with it, but it didn't have any real subtlety or individuality.

Cheers!

woosterbill, Jun 17, 2011
Photo of ADZA
3.85/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a clear ruby hue which leaves a two finger head and sporadic lacing,the smell is sweet caramelized malts,herbal hops,a touch of dried fruits and also some sweet dark port,the mouthfeel is just over light bodied and has tastes of dark ripe fruits,sweet caramel,marzipan,sticky toffee and finished with a earthy hop bittersweetness and overall its alright and different but not my favourite example of the style.

ADZA, Sep 12, 2011
Photo of dcmchew
4.25/5  rDev +6.5%

dcmchew, Nov 04, 2013
Photo of cdwil
4.5/5  rDev +12.8%

cdwil, Dec 29, 2011
Photo of DrinkSlurm
3.9/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a nonic pint glass at a pub in Salisbury, England. Pours a deep red with a good head retention. Sweet malt aromas, some slight fuggle style hop aromas as well.
Taste is really nice, great sweet malty flavors and maybe some toffe, but is well balanced with a good amount of hops. Easy drinker but heavy. Im usually not a fan of bitters, but this is one of the best bitters ive had to date.

DrinkSlurm, Aug 07, 2012
Photo of beerguy101
3.9/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Medium brown color, large head. Aroma is nutty and malty.Toasted malt flavor, nicely hopped. Good balance. Nice flavor, large body. Mouthfeel is full and round. Smooth taste, somewhat dry. Finish is clean and crisp. Aftertaste is malty and full, very slight bitterness.

beerguy101, Aug 17, 2003
Photo of rarbring
3.73/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

The beer is clear brown with hints of read, an off-white lively head that leaves lacing.

The smell is rather light, some bread and lemon marmalade.

Upfront tasting sweet and malty, a fresh loaf of bread, citric, lemon and orange, nice bitterness, fresh grass and nettles.

Small carbonation, soft and smooth, a medium body and dry finish.

Well balanced and well done.

rarbring, Dec 05, 2010
Photo of CRJMellor
4.5/5  rDev +12.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

(ed. note - My mom's maiden name is Gale and I'm directly descended from psst Gale's so my review as the potential for bias)

Pours mahogany/teak color with a thin tan head that still manages to deposit enormous sheets of lace to the Imperial pint glass.

Aroma of roasted malts, some caramel and dark fruits and oats.
Distinctive wheat bread note in the background.

Flavor of sweet, gummy caramel with some chocolate, oats and roasted notes and floral yet heavily spicy and zesty bitterness.

Mouthfeel - Sweetness pervades the front but i cut by a full grain middle and an ever increasing bitterness which is truly scrumptious.

Drinkability is very high. Could sit in the garden all day and drink this beauty. A 2nd prop goes to the cellarman at The Castle in Cambridge for this well-kept beauty.

CRJMellor, Jul 08, 2004
Photo of FLima
3.2/5  rDev -19.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Dark Amber color. It made just one finger head.
Faint malty aroma.
Taste is quite malty with earthy hops, with a dry finish. I could not get much more than that.
Light body with light carbonation and small bubbles.
It is a straight forward bitter ale, no thrills.

FLima, Dec 23, 2012
Photo of Todd
4.33/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Presentation: Sturdy 500ml English style bottle-conditioned ale bottle. Freshness date scored on the back label.

Appearance: A solid dark woody/brown beer with a patchy white large bubbled foam head. It fades into a foamy lace, but is still pleasant. Contains very little dregs in the bottle.

Smell: Clean, light aroma of leaf, earth, faint bubble-gum.

Taste: Smooth, extremely mellow with a water-like mouth-feel/consistency. Malts are very light with hints of earth, bark, toasted malts, faint chocolate and a very tame mild malt sweetness. Just a touch of fruity flavours lingers about, and there's a barely detectable note of medicinal in the back. Hops bring a gentle raw, leafy bitterness to the palate that both balances and intrigues. Dry, leafy and earthy in the finish.

Notes: Naturally bottle-conditioned. I highly recommend that you stand the bottle to let the yeast settle and server at ~55F. With a careful pour, leave the dregs in the bottle.

Quite possibly one of the most drinkable beers on the palate, where nothing overwhelms and all is in harmony. A top-notch session beer, to say the least, and much like a cask ale in the bottle. We need more real English-style bitters in the US. I'll have to write Congress.

Todd, Apr 11, 2002
Photo of rastaman
3.45/5  rDev -13.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Very nive english bitter, had it on cask and enjoyed it a lot, a good example of the style, lots of zesty hops, with a decent maltiness.

rastaman, Apr 14, 2002
Photo of jrenihan
4/5  rDev +0.3%

jrenihan, Mar 24, 2014
Photo of BigBry
4/5  rDev +0.3%

BigBry, May 19, 2013
Photo of UnionMade
4.95/5  rDev +24.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

The beer pours an orangey earthy brown, topped with a tight beige head. The foam settles into a thick, even mist after a few minutes, keeping a thick collar all the way through. Somewhat chill hazed, with a deep, rich color that suggests considerable depth. Loads of sticky belgian lace forms rings all the way down the glass.
The aroma is just outstanding. Biscuity maltiness is supported by a soft, yet present goldings hoppiness. Excellent estery fruit, just enough, with a light woodsy nuttiness and a slight earthiness to the hopping. A touch of grassy fuggles. Hints of apple and pear, adding to the brew's complexity. A bit of caramel aroma to the malt, adding a touch of sweetness.
The flavor starts out with strong maltiness. Very biscuity, with a distinct maris otter flavor. Toastiness paves the way for soft floral esters, conveying a distinct pear taste, along with some red apple. The malt takes on some caramel sweetness into the finish, where it meets with a gorgeously balanced goldings hop flavor. Earthy, leafy and floral, with a slight fuggles grassiness, like a newly mown lawn, I'm thanking the fact that this is canned and impenetrable to light. Some nuttiness is present in the finish, reminiscent of walnut and hazelnut. A touch of yeasty breadiness, which carries into the aftertaste along with biscuity caramel malt and goldings goodness. The aftertaste lingers forever, allowing me to languish in the heavenly flavor. Pleasant hop burps. Rather full bodied, the smooth silkiness supported by soft, minute carbonation. I am so glad this beer is available in the US, and I feel pangs of jealousy for those that enjoy this on a regular basis.
Canned or not, this will be a staple in my fridge. A most enjoyable pint, easily one of the best bitters I've had, if not the best. I actually feel a little sad when I take a sip, as I want the glass to last forever. This is exactly what I want in a bitter, and I'm determined to track down a cask. Perhaps this is my holy grail? The only thing keeping this beer from a straight 5 review is the fact that I know it's got to be even more amazing cask conditioned. My only complaints are that I'm having a difficult time allowing it to warm, and the only place i know of that sells it is a small store in north jersey. I can't get enough. A case or two is coming home with me next time I see it.

UnionMade, Feb 08, 2004
Photo of spointon
4/5  rDev +0.3%

spointon, Jul 31, 2014
Photo of CAMRAhardliner
3.25/5  rDev -18.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

I had high expectations for HSB so I tried this on cask in a Pub in Bornemouth England as well as in London and again in a conditioned bottle.

Its a Dark copper color with a short lasting head and no lace. The aroma is of raisins, raw husky grains and alcohol solvency, virtually no hops in the nose. The flavor is dominated by a bland maltiness. There is very little hoppiness even for an English Bitter. Its a very one dimensional taste. The least hoppy of all the cask bitters I tried. Some sort of burnt quality (burnt grains?) is noticeable in the finish. Not very impressive.

CAMRAhardliner, Aug 17, 2004
Photo of EmperorBevis
3.5/5  rDev -12.3%

EmperorBevis, Nov 01, 2013
Photo of pin
3/5  rDev -24.8%

pin, Mar 30, 2014
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HSB (Horndean Special Bitter) from George Gale & Company Ltd
88 out of 100 based on 52 ratings.