Redhook ESB - Redhook Ale Brewery

Not Rated.
Redhook ESBRedhook ESB

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1,924 Ratings

(view ratings)
Ratings: 1,924
Reviews: 849
rAvg: 3.41
pDev: 14.37%
Wants: 24
Gots: 209 | FT: 1
Brewed by:
Redhook Ale Brewery visit their website
New Hampshire, United States

Style | ABV
Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB) |  5.80% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 07-30-2001

Brewed in the style of a traditional British ESB (Extra Special Bitter), we’ve been making ESB continuously since 1987, and it’s now the benchmark for the Amber beer category. Despite having “bitter” in its name, Redhook ESB is really not that bitter at all. This brew is all about the balance of caramel malt sweetness completed by spicy, citrusy hops.

28 IBU
View: Beers (43) | Events
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,924 | Reviews: 849
Reviews by ChrisCage:
Photo of ChrisCage
3.68/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A- Pours an amber color that is clouded with suspended yeast but not so opaque as to not be able to see through. I like the head on this starts out about a finger thick and settles to a creamy foam that covers the entirety of the liquid. The lacing is simply excellent, being thick and sticks to the side of my glass like a sparse few can!

S- Sweet and yet slightly roasted malt dominate the aroma profile. There is an underlying ripe banana fruit smell and a buttered bread aroma as well. The finish contains a mellow bitterness that is quite smooth.

T- I wouldn't liken this as much to a true English ESB but rather an Americanized version of it. It definitely has the biscuit like flavors and the sweetness of the toffee/caramel malt, and perhaps even some hints of vanilla, but it doesn't quite enough of the bittering balance that I personally love in this style, but it's nothing that makes this offensive...just a little more malt than there should be.

M- This is a medium-full bodied brew and overall the carbonation is smooth and fulfilling. I feel like I'm enjoying some sort of toffee dessert rather than a beer....the sweetness is just that good, but not in an overwhelming manner.

O- I think this is a good attempt at an English ESB but it just falls a little short of being truly great. I don't really have any qualms with this beer, but wish it was just a little more balanced. The alcohol is hidden well and it's easy to drink and yeah, I'd buy this again. I just couldn't handle too much in a sitting as it does fill you up rather well, but oh well!

More User Reviews:
Photo of DoctorEvil
5/5  rDev +46.6%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A revelation when I first tasted this in college in the 80's. And to think the brewery (then) was a few blocks from my grandmother's house in Ballard area was so cool....especially compared to the other local choices in town (Rainier, Oly, Lucky, Henry's, Killian's) at the time. This has been my standard baseline taste profile by which other IPA/DIPA/ESB's are judged in my experience. Really not too bitter for regular IPA drinkers (maybe for lager-hounds), but I believe it is perfectly balanced... really close in profile to Sierra Nevada and Schubros 680... oh...and Go Cougs!

Photo of oberon
3.18/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours a deep golden/amber color with a light somewhat fizzy head,aroma is lightly sweet but not much there.Taste is malty and a little nutty with some caramel tones,the best part of this beer is the taste.I have had this beer many times hoping it would be better but it never is.At one time I guess this was top-notch.

Photo of RoyalT
3.41/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance – Thin and orange in the body but with a monster head that foamed up easily, lingered for a while, pitted like volcanic lava, and covered the inside of my glass as it went down.

Smell – Grassy hops fill the nose of this ESB. I can pick up some faint sweetness, like cheap sucrose or something, but otherwise things are pretty bland.

Taste – The hidden (at least, hidden to me) malt comes out substantially in the taste along with some decent, light fruiting. The citrus hops supply some bitterness, but nothing to write home about.

Mouthfeel – Very refreshing and thirst quenching. The ale is definitely medium-bodied and somewhat smooth.

Drinkability – This is the beer’s strong point, IMHO. I don’t know if I’d call it a “strong” bitter, but the presence of bitter hops along with a decent malt backbone and a non-offensive fruity sweetness makes this well balanced and an easy drinker.

Photo of ExtraStout
3/5  rDev -12%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Aroma: Smells like fresh bread, with some mild hops mixed in.
Appearance: Golden amber, make that orange, with some chill haze. Active head died down to a moderate white thin cover.
Flavor: Balance is on the hops (it IS an ESB) but some of the sweet malt peeks through. Guessing they went heavy on bittering hops, light on aroma hops. Overall taste is clean, but I noted a slight metallic twang deep in the first aftertaste, but was hard to find a second time. Hops don’t overpower the taste, but linger in the aftertaste deeply.
Mouthfeel: Light, with a carbonation prickle.
Overall Impression: A moderately good beer. No major flaws, but just not very lively. Drinkability isn’t bad, doesn’t slow you down, doesn’t invite you back for another.

Photo of SIRIUS2
3.65/5  rDev +7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

At first pour, I wasn't sure what to think as the aroma, though complex, wasn't very aggressive at all. The first taste wasn't incredibly aggressive either. I took a long pull and mulled it and found what makes this ale special. For a "bitter" this is an exceptionally smooth and balanced ale. It's smooth drinking and I appreciated the depth of flavors more and more with each swig.

Photo of Dmann
3.35/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

An average interpretation of the style. The beer poured a dark brown color with a medium sized head that stayed around awhile as a thin layer of foam on top. The smell has hints of hoppiness but is mostly made up of sweet malt scents. The flavor is very smoothe and non-intrusive. The malt flavors overpower the hops quite a bit but there is still a touch of hops in there. I give this one high marks for drinkability since is tastes like a good session beer but not one I will be buying on a regular basis.

Photo of lordofthewiens
2.48/5  rDev -27.3%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

This beer was a pretty copper color, with a very small head. It had a subtle sweet odor to it, but really didn't have much of a smell. There was a vague sweet taste, with a little hoppiness. The hops tended to linger, so the beer tasted bitter to me. It was mildly carbonated. Altogether, an uninspiring ESB.

Photo of Todd
2.87/5  rDev -15.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Presentation: Stumpy 12oz brown bottle with a stamped freshness date.

Appearance: Bright, clear golden/amber in colour with a creamy white head that reduces to a thin cream lace.

Smell: Fruity aroma with loads of hop aromatics (raw and citrusy). Light buttery-caramel (diacetyl) also lingers in the nose.

Taste: Ultra creamy and smooth on the palate. Malt sweetness peaks first with a nice fruity flavours and medium- to full-bodied texture. An assertive hop bitterness, with grapefruit, rind and salt flavours overwhelms the palate with a sharp bite, then settles with raw and earth flavours. Hop oils also coat the palate along with diacetyl/buttery-caramel, especially as the beer warms. Finishes dry, with lots of grain tannins.

Notes: The diacetyl in this beer is more than what you might expect, and can sometimes become too powerful for the style. The aftertaste is also a bit harsh on the palate.

Photo of muffguy4beer
3.3/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Clear dark amber in color with decent white head.

Smell: Malt right off the go then come a little hops. Nothing too potent but pleasant none the less.

Taste: A fairly balanced ESB. Starts off a little sweet then a nice mild bitterness fills the back of the tongue.

Mouthfeel: Medium body, creamy and smooth.

Drinkability: Not the best ESB I have sampled but a nice attempt. I would definitely order this one in a bar/restaurant and occasionally pick up a sixer from the package store. A good entry beer into the style but it is a fairly easy style to enjoy with a short learning curve so don't dwell on this offering too long. If you are going to dwell on an ESB I suggest fuller's.

Photo of Guden
2.47/5  rDev -27.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

A- A peach colored copper with consistent carbonation bubbles and a one finger white head. Minimal lacing and a slight haziness are the only off points.

S- Lots going on with fruit (papaya and berries), hops (citrus) and sweet caramel taking the front with pine and bread also coming in.

T- Blech! Now I remember why I didn't like this beer. Up front is an off putting odd dough mixed with butter like quality mixed with pine and a strong sweetness which doesn't balance, this is met in the middle with stale malty bread and the finish rounds out with aspirin bitterness and a lingering bad dough taste on the tongue.

M- Moderately light in body and carbonation this one goes past the tongue fairly easy but not enough to escape the taste from hitting it. Seems right for the style but doesn't help the taste profile.

D- Not very drinkable, will not have again. There seems to be quite a bit going on here for an ESB but it just does not blend well and leads to a disjointed mess of a drink. There also seems to be some diacetyl that really ruins the flavor throughout.

Photo of Jason
3.52/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

This one ends up in my fridge once in a while, then I remember that it is good to have a “decent” brew around to keep things in perspective. The great clarity comes from the ultra filtering they do to increase the shelf-life, unfortunately it takes a bit of flavor out of the brew. Simple balance of malt and hops with an aleish like quality, clean a refresing. Not a bad brew at all, just not something that I go crazy for.

Photo of merlin48
3.63/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I had never seen this in my area until yesterday, at a local Virginia, grocery. "Bottled on" date was only a month ago, and it was obviously a new arrival, not even chilled down in the store's cooler. Poured into a Redhook pint glass, it's a clear, shiny copper amber with a two finger offwhite head that retains well, and leaves islands of lace. Aroma is subdued, with caramel malt and a hint of fruity hops. Mouthfeel has medium to high carbonation, is a bit creamy and coating, and has a bitter hops bite. Taste is biscuity malt and bitter English style hops. Not very complex, and missing the nuttiness of a good ESB. This is closer to an amber ale in character, but not at all bad, and very drinkable. I had this on tap about 3 weeks ago, at Pazzo's in Lexington, Ky., and my notes from the draft tasting are virtually identical to this fresh bottle.

Photo of Billolick
3.33/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Nothing special here, a decent middle of the road brew. Not as hoppy as the style would suggest. Faint hop nose, English malt and semi hoppy in the middle, and a dud of a finish. This one really didnt do much for me. This brewery is a mystery to me, I think there beers have gone to the middle of the beer road lately..

Photo of tigg924
3.36/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: dark gold in color, 1/3 inch head, clear, high carbonation

Smell: toasted malt, toffee, woodsy

Taste: meadow, grain, toffee, light lemon and citrus hops

Mouthfeel: medium bodied, high carbonation, nice combo of bitter and sweet

Overall: Nice, complex, and malty with enough hops to add some balance. A solid, if not spectacular beer that is better than most of the rest of what I have had from Redhook. I could do a couple on a hot day but am in no rush to get it again.

Photo of jakester
3.85/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This is from a sampler case I bought at The Beer Mart in Reading, Pa. I drank it in a pilsner glass. Expiry date clearly marked on the case, and bottled on date clearly marked on the label. YAY!

Pours a clear light amber with a one finger head of off-white foam. The head drops to islands and a ring, with splotches of lacing.

Aroma is faint crystal malt, lightly bready, and very faint floral hops. The aroma improves as it warms.

The first flavor is sweet bready malt, on the faint side, gentle hop bitterness, and a decent floral hop flavor. The aftertaste is sweet and lightly hoppy.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied with soft carbonation. Finish is long and sweet.

This is a damn poundable beer. Malty, lightly hopped, and very clean. Yes, it's 25% owned by AB, I don't care. Objectively, it's a good beer, and I'll gladly have another.

Photo of Cavanaghty
3.65/5  rDev +7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Served on tap while on the brewery tour at the Portsmouth location.

Appearance: Amber light copper color with good amount of white head.

Smell: Hops, maybe some sugars.

Mouthfeel/Taste: Light to medium bodied and smooth. Mild bittersweet gives way to a slight kick of just bitter at the end.

Overall: Drinkable brew, good for a year round beer that goes well with many foods. I always enjoy this one, but have had better.

Photo of bsp77
3.33/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Serving glass: Poured from bottle into tall glass.

Appearance: Clear amber-orange with thin head that leaves some light lacing.

Smell: Smell is faint but detected caramel, biscuit, fruit, light hops.

Taste: Clean malty taste, with a mixture of bread, fruit and slightly sweet caramel balanced by a light hop bitterness, that somewhat carries over to the aftertaste.

Feel: Moderate to high carbonation (a true ESB would be lower), medium body, slightly dry finish.

Drinkability: Easy to kick back with this one. Nothing special, but it has become a trailblazer for the craft beer movement and you have to respect it for that.

Photo of magictrokini
3.45/5  rDev +1.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Enjoyable beer. Pours clear copper with a short off-white head. Caramel and crystal malt in the nose, with a little grapefruit. Actually tastes a little like a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, but somehow smoother. Good blend of hops and malt flavors, less of the caramel and more of the crystal and citrus hops.

Photo of Oberson58
4/5  rDev +17.3%

Newcastle lite made by west coast hipsters. Still pretty good though.

Photo of sammy44
3.94/5  rDev +15.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Not my favorite ESB but a good one to have around.

Pours a light brownish color that is perfectly transparent. Has a fairly dense half inch head that fades and laces the glass on the way down. No carbonation bubbles (which holds to the style).

Smells great with lots of toastiness to the malts. Not a coffee roast smell, more like the roasted smell you get when toasting rice for a pilaf.

Taste has some toasty sweet elements with some good hops on the back end. Hops are more of the piney type than the citrusy type. Good balance. A little metallic wang aftertaste.

Feels a little heavy in the mouth. Would be a good session beer but for the metallic taste.

Photo of mattffrost
3.63/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Poured into glass.

A - Light, transparent copper, head is white. Head goes down to 1/4 inch and the last 1/4 inch stay for a few minutes.

S - Spicey with a little fruit. Not much smell going on for me.

T - Carmel, a very light taste. Little carbonation. A bit of bitterness but not a whole lot.

M - A bit of bitternes on the finish but again not much.

D - Its a light beer that is very drinkable if you like the taste.

Photo of Thrasher
3.53/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I suppose I am spoiled in that I find this beer only slightly better than average. There are so many wonderful beers at my disposal that, through no fault of its own, this beer falls by the wayside. I went into a new packie tonight, to see how the stock was, and was dismayed to find only Bud Miller Heineken. (O wait, this IS Bud!) Redhook was the only drinkable alternative other than Sam's & St Pauli. (I'm tired of Sam's, and brown bottles always win over green, class.) I'm surprised to discover it as satisying as I am right now. Super-clear with decent head and lace, a citrus-y, buttery, thirst-quenching brew; certainly one of Redhook's better beers (too bad that the Rye is no longer available - now that's one beer that didn't often fall by the wayside!). Lots of lemon flavors, bolstered by diacetyl (butter), quite sweet from malts and some tartness at finish which becomes obliterated by lingering caramel sweetness. Mouthfeel smooth and persuasive, perhaps the high point of the brew. Drinkability good too; now that I think about it, I remember this is my go-to beer at Mustang Harry's whenever I'm in the neighborhood of Madison Square Garden for a game or a concert (although I really should try to squeeze in a visit to the Gingerman if I'm in that area). I'd suggest bringing this to a gathering where obscure microbeers have a low penetration ratio - Redhook beers are very "user friendly." This beer now comes in longnecks! (all the better for that "lets get hammered" scenario when your favored pint glass is unavailable)

Photo of far333
3.93/5  rDev +15.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Honey color with a creamy beige head. Excellent lacing around the glass as I drink. Aroma is strong hop, with floral and pine notes. Flavor is strong hop, not bitter, with pine and mild citrus. Very nice lingering hop aftertaste. Malt flavor seems to broaden and creep up on my tongue as I make my way through the glass. Mouthfeel is crisp and smooth. Not overly complex, but a very enjoyable and very drinkable beer.

Photo of sarahspat
2.5/5  rDev -26.7%
look: 4 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours cloudy pale orange with about an inch and a half of thick bone white head. I see a few bubbles sitting on the bottom of the glass that drift up occasionally. A decent amount of lacing appears as you drink.

It smells a tiny bit floral, but mostly musty and kinda soapy and not much else. Not a very pleasant nose at all.

Thankfully, it tastes better than it smells. Starts off lightly caramelly and floral; a bit of citrus and an ever-so-slight glimpse of candied pineapple in the middle. Well-balanced, but pretty bland. It tastes alright, (but not too strong) while it's in your mouth, at least. Definitely not what I would call bitter.

I'm kind of confused by this beer, because I've enjoyed it in the past I'm trying to figure out the source of the discrepancy between my past experiences and my present one. Maybe my palate has changed. Or maybe I just wasn't scrutinizing it this closely before.

The mouthfeel is on the light side with moderate carbonation.

I kind of wanted to give Redhook the benefit of the doubt and believe that this was just an off bottle, but now that I look at the other reviews, I see my judgment is in pretty closely line with quite a few others. I probably won't be getting this again any time soon, but it's not completely undrinkable. I've had worse.

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Redhook ESB from Redhook Ale Brewery
78 out of 100 based on 1,924 ratings.