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Redhook ESB | Redhook Ale Brewery

855 Reviews
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Redhook ESBRedhook ESB

Brewed by:
Redhook Ale Brewery
New Hampshire, United States | website

Style: Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB)

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.80%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
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

Added by BeerAdvocate on 07-30-2001

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Reviews: 855 | Ratings: 2,042
Photo of PorterLambic
3.53/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

A pint glass full of hazy orange brew with a short-lived white head.
Smell is decidedly sweeter than expected and with a noticeable orange scent to it. Malt and bread notes follow. Somewhat medicinal on the back nose.
Taste is as the nose promises, orange sweetness, malt, breadiness with a touch of hops to balance the whole shebang.
Smooth, medium plus body, lighter effervescence. An easily quaffable brew, very sessionable, too.

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Photo of ricke49
3.67/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Was glad to see this in 22 oz. at a budget price. In that classic hop/malt balance, which make me love ESB's, this offering is a bit light in the hop element. As a 'malty' ESB it would be near ideal, if that was your desire. I note that many reviews observe a small, quickly dissapating head. The bottle I poured into a Becker pint glass was fairly robust in that department. Doesn't match some of my favorite ESB's (i.e. those served at Brewers Union Local 180 in Oakridge Oregon) - but at the price, I'm fine with it.

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Photo of rodbeermunch
3.24/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

Pours an amber color, nice warm feel to it. Off white head 1/2" Aroma of earthy hops, forest like notes.

Toffee, caramel balance out about 35 ibus of bitterness. Much toasting. Guessing cascade hopped. Really enjoyed a lot of these back in the 90s, haven't been crushing them the same lately, the occasional baseball game, but with palate shifts and corporate ownership, something has pushed maltier the last 20 years.

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Photo of KatyBeerGuy
3.11/5  rDev -9.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Poured hard into Tulip. Lots of initial head, disappeared in 60 seconds. Fairly non-descript taste and smell. Good beer for after you've drank 3 or 4 other actually tasty and worthwhile beers and just want to continue your buzz. This used tI be a favorite of mine, it held mythical status and I used to search it out. Not so much anymore. But hey, it's better than bud and till contains alcohol! Eh!

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Photo of Alpha309
3.21/5  rDev -6.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3.25

Poured from a 12 oz bottle into a nonic glass.

Pours a copper in color with a small layer of lacey head. Head quickly dissipates to a thin film on the top.

Sweet molasses nose. Slight grassy or earthy undertones. Maybe a little oak.

Molasses taste is dominant. Earthy notes underneath. Not very bitter for an esb.

Syrupy sticky body. Lingers on the tongue.

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Photo of RobertDBrase
3.79/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a orange copper color, slightly hazy, with streaming bubbles and a soapy off white head.

Smell nothing really grabs a person. Barley and malts with some sweet notes some hops playing around in the background.

Taste is lightly sweet caramel taste with some hop notes just towards the finish.

Mouth feel is light and watery with a simple finish.

Overall this is a nice beer that makes for a great alternative to the macro lagers. Where I am at the price point and the ABV really helps sell this one for me.

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Photo of TheNightlyPint
3.19/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

ESBs are among my favorite styles. Simple, approachable beers when complexity is not what you desire. A 12oz bottle poured into a shaker pint reveals a hazy amber brew with an eggshell head that quickly recedes to nothing. Pleasant malt aroma, with some mild citrus on the periphery. The flavor profile presents some caramel malt notes, with just a kiss of hops at the end. Medium mouthfeel with a finish that borders on a touch dry. Overall, a pleasant way to introduce your macro-drinking friends to craft, although certainly unremarkable for the style.

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Photo of stcules
3.37/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Light amber, very clean. Not bad foam.
Light smell, malt, english hop, earthly and peppery. Some tea notes.
A bit more full taste: good maltiness, decent bitterness, again, earthly.
Decent bitter aftertaste, too, light body, bu not too light.
Aftert all, pleasant beer.

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Photo of MNAle
3.17/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3

Slightly hazy amber with solid carbonation and a white head that recedes quickly. Bready aroma. Nice mouth feel, sweet malt taste transitions to a very mild bittering. This is a refreshing beer, but it is lacking the depth and complexity of flavors expected of an ESB. It has no glaring faults; it just doesn't stand up to the competition.

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Photo of tekstr1der
3.8/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

This stuff takes a beating in the ratings, but I find it pleasant. Pours a clear copper with thin white head. Aroma is biscuit and caramel. Flavor is similar with nice maltiness. It is a bit thin, and nothing like the wonder of Fullers, but it's drinkable and nothing glaringly bad sicks out at me.

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Photo of DrMullet
3.5/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This ESB poura a Golden/copper color.
Sweet caramel malt aroma. Taste is a malty sweetness
followed by a fruity, almost apricot flavor at the finish.

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Photo of predikit
3.16/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3

Pours a light golden copper color, left a white head that fizzled away immediately.

Smells fairly nice and toasty. Malts come through with a nice aroma.

Taste falls short quite a bit, definitely getting an adjunct taste with some mineral qualities and not much else. No bitterness to be had, aftertaste is nonexistent.

Thin, watery, leaves clean but wouldn't call it crisp.

Not really a beer I'd want to try again.

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Photo of wilsnphd
2.3/5  rDev -32.7%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 1.5

There was a time when this was my favorite beer. I was willing to stay overnight at the Seattle airport if it meant I could have a few of these. When Budweiser bought them out I was hopeful, Budweiser is my favorite mass produced lager. But the beer we're evaluating today isn't even close to the special brew that was produced by Red Hook before Budweiser bought them. I gave up on Red Hook for many years, but just bought their newest sampler 12 pack. Every beer in the sampling is the same; a watered down version of what might have been a good idea.

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Photo of mdfb79
3.02/5  rDev -11.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3

From 11/26/15 notes. 12 oz. bottle into a pint glass.

Pours a transparent orange-amber color with one inch of white head and moderate carbonation evident. Bready malts, sweet corn, citrus, grapefruit, bitter hops, dough, and wheat. Medium body and low carbonation.

Overall not a very good beer.

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Photo of Tone
3.26/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

Pours a clear, copper color. Slight retention and slight lacing. Smells of cream, sweet malt, hint of pale malt, hint of hops, and a hint of caramel malt. Fits the style of an Extra Special / Strong Bitter. Mouth feel is sharp and crisp, with an average carbonation level. Tastes of cream, sweet malt, hint of pale malt, hint of hops, and a hint of caramel malt. Overall, overly sweet, lacks complexity, and not the right combination of flavors for a good ESB.

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Photo of elNopalero
3.27/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Lightly hopped esb. The malt is what shines though. Caramel notes and a hint of hop. Found this at a decent price and considering what I paid for it I can’t complain.

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Photo of superspak
3.58/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

12 ounce bottle into pint glass, bottled on 6/11/2015. Pours slightly hazy deep golden amber color with a 2 finger dense off white head with good retention, that reduces to a small cap that lingers. Nice spotty soapy lacing cling down the glass, with a moderate amount of streaming carbonation retaining the cap. Aromas of honey, light caramel, toasted biscuit, nuttiness, herbal, grass, light pepper, light pear/apple, and herbal/toasted earthiness. Nice and pleasant aromas with good balance and complexity of dark/bready malt, earthy hops, and light fruity yeast notes; with solid strength. Taste of honey, light caramel, toasted biscuit, nuttiness, herbal, grass, light pepper, light pear/apple, and herbal/toasted earthiness. Light-moderate herbal/spicy bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of honey, toasted biscuit, nuttiness, herbal, grass, light pepper, and toasted earthiness on the finish for a good bit. Good robustness, complexity, and balance of dark/bready malt, earthy hops, and light fruity yeast flavors; with a good malt/bitterness balance and zero cloying flavors after the finish. Fair amount of dryness after the finish as well. Medium carbonation and body; with a very smooth, lightly creamy/bready, and slightly sticky mouthfeel that is nice. Alcohol is very well hidden with zero warming present after the finish. Overall this is a good ESB style. All around good robustness, complexity, and balance of dark/bready malt, earthy hops, and light fruity yeast flavors; and very smooth, clean, and easy to drink. This was a lot cleaner than I expected from the yeast character; but was still a nicely enjoyable offering, and fit the style well.

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Photo of Urk1127
3.05/5  rDev -10.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

-Reddish brown
-toffee, bread, cracker, brown sugar
-grains, toffee, tiny bit of coffee, hops
-Good bitterness, light side

-First ESB. Wont be the last.

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Photo of fscottkey
3.54/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

A: [3.75] Pours out a cloudy apricot color. The beer forms a 1/4 finger of white head. The bottle lists the born on date really clearly (04/13/15). It also clearly shows the ABV (5.8%)

S: [3.50] Graham cracker. Like a sweet cracker scent.

T: [3.50] Follows the nose. It is a sweet crackery taste to the beer. I am not getting many additional flavor notes.

M: [3.75] Decent body and carbonation.

O: [3.75] This is a decent beer. It doesn't vary on the nose or the palate. I get one scent and flavor across the board. Fortunately that one note is pleasant enough to enjoy. I can't say I will seek this out - but I woudn't turn it away either.

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Photo of katybee
3.67/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.75

Despite the name, it's not that 'bitter' at all...not pungent or citrusy in the sense of Hop Czar, the hopping is balanced by malt without that "smell"...yet not breadiness, just clean crisp carbonated flavor.... Reminiscent of Hop Rod Rye, or an altbairisch dunkel... or an herbal tripel... dry, flavorful, light-medium bodied and refreshing... much better than a Guinness. An "extra special beer".

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Photo of bsonk
3.5/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.25

Red Hook ESB- 5.8% abv.

A: darkish Amber

S: not great, the yeast has a weird banana like aspect for me, also it sort of smells like Parmesan unless I am totally going crazy.

T: sweet Amber malt, light hops just enough to make it have a different mouthfeel because they are largely overwhelmed by the malt sweetness. It’s a little biscuity.

M: thin like a session beer, grainy, leaves a lot of sugar on the tongue. Better from the bottle than a glass IMO.

O: not the best. Not the worst. I don’t expect much from Red Hook, Pyramid, Widmer or Portland Brewing Co because they are all established “crafts” that have investment from the big guys and have been around a while and only brew the same stable of boring beers. I would call them and Boston Beer and Sierra Nevada and Ninkasi the “macro craft” breweries. Red Hook is a Seattle brewery but contract brews in Portland so it’s very local. This is a solidly OK cheap brew. Not great but way more interesting than a Budweiser.

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Photo of draheim
3.71/5  rDev +8.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

This is one of the beers I first started drinking regularly when I moved to Seattle in the early '90s. Drank it for years, then basically dropped it when I discovered saisons, imperial stouts etc. Time to revisit this one.

16oz can into a pint glass. Pours a crystal clear amber w/ a nice fluffy off-white head that leaves behind sticky lacing. Good carbonation rises from the bottom.

Aroma is sweet, slightly fruity, toasty, biscuity. Clean caramel malt.

Taste follows nose. Nice and sweet, fruity. Crackery. Toasty clean caramel and crystal malt flavor. A gentle bitter finish.

Mouthfeel is slick, medium bodied.

Overall this is just how I remember it. Nothing amazing here, no notes of vanilla or bourbon; but this is a perfectly fine everyday beer for a session at the pub on a cold October night, or for watching a Sonics game at the Key. Great with a cheeseburger.

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Photo of pat61
3.77/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Aroma: nice delicate malt aroma, fruit aroma quickly dissipates, caramel to honey malts, caramel, low hop aromas, Appearance: creamy head hangs around, brilliant gold with a little copper, Flavor: caramel sweet finish, a lot of curious sweet action and a little fruit way in the background, medium hops that do not dominate, moderate to low esters, finish a little sweet. Mouthfeel: medium body, medium carbonation. WSomewhat dull overall.

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Photo of Carlson8tor
2.4/5  rDev -29.8%
look: 4 | smell: 2.75 | taste: 2 | feel: 1 | overall: 3

Better than a Coors or a bad lager. Malty to the nose and malty up front with a little bitterness at the finish and very dry finish. Seems to be too watery for the beer in my opinion.

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Photo of Beric
3.42/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Serving: Sampler, on tap, on the brewpub tour in Woodinville, WA
Served: 4 July 2015

Appearance: Brownish red, but definitely more on the brown side. Dirty, off white head that looks pretty creamy at first but quickly dwindles down to just about nothing.

Smell: Caramel notes and standard 'beer' aroma.

Taste: A slight assertion of toasted bread, caramel, or light brown corn syrup but otherwise pretty nondescript. Tastes a lot like an amber ale.

Mouthfeel: Medium body with high carbonation. Very drinkable, but still feels a bit thin.

Overall: Not a bad beer, but one that's very pedestrian. Would drink if handed to me, but wouldn't buy on my own.

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Redhook ESB from Redhook Ale Brewery
78 out of 100 based on 855 ratings.