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Redhook ESB - Redhook Ale Brewery

Not Rated.
Redhook ESBRedhook ESB

Educational use only; do not reuse.

1,872 Ratings

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Ratings: 1,872
Reviews: 834
rAvg: 3.41
pDev: 14.37%
Wants: 22
Gots: 180 | 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
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Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,872 | Reviews: 834
Photo of msubulldog25
3.61/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

On-tap pour, pint glass, Pizza Schmizza.

A: A beautiful amber/copper with contant little carbonation gently rising to the top. A huge frothy 1.5 finger white head, which the server apologized for, but that I was more than willing to accept. One of nicest looking lacing patterns I've seen in a while.

S: Surprisingly sweet caramel malt presence. Very subtle bitter citrus hops - good balance.

T: Mellow, amber-like maltiness with moderate level of bittering hops. Decent flavors, definitely seem tame by comparison with better "ESB"-style beers. Taste is very good though simple.

M: I guess the body is medium, but the mouthfeel is pretty light. No lingering aftertaste, no big bitter bite. Smooth but a little weak/watery.

D: Nothing to say "wow" about, however a pleasing beer. Flavors and aromas seem subdued for the style, but the result is style a good tasting a drinkable beer. Have had it both from the bottle and on-tap and recommend the on-tap version.

Photo of Romulus141
3.63/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a pilsner glass. At a slightly chilled temperature.

Appearance: Pours a rather nice amber color, and in the pilsner glass, the color changed in hue slightly from bottom to top. There was a nice fluffy head in the initial pour, and that disappated a little after it sat, leaving a little froth on the surface of the beer. The lacing strongly remained on the edges. Quite nice to look at overall.

Smell: Sweet malts are the predominant scent here. I also detect a very faint citrus smell blended in amongst the malts. Overall, an enjoyable smell.

Taste: Starts off sweet and malty, and is finished off with the promised bitterness. I enjoy this bitterness as it balances out the sweetness implied by the smell of the beer. There is a slight aftertaste that is slightly metallic. All in all, I enjoyed this though.

Mouthfeel: A good amount of carbonation impinges on the tongue on the initial taste. The body isn't thick, but it isn't water-thin either. The viscosity is nice and medium. I would have liked the carbonation to not be as intrusive as it is however.

Drinkability: Given its medium body and crisp taste, I could drink several of these no problem. This would make a nice session beer, and would also be paired well with a spicy food. I may think about picking this up again.

Photo of mrasskicktastic
3.47/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

A - It has a small head that quickly fades to some white webbing on the surface of hazy amber brew. There is even a decent sized ring of lacing. The webbing lasts for a long time.

S - Caramel malt and very powerful pine hops with a lighter floral (lillies) hop aroma. Very simple, but very nice.

T - Rather bitter, even right away. The flavor is of light pine with a faint maltiness. The bitterness is slightly pine-esque in character, but the bulk is just bitter without any other character. The after taste is only slightly bitter, oddly enough.

M - Thin, pretty refreshing, moderately smooth.

D - Good. I enjoyed this. It is far from great, but it is pleasant. Its bitter taste makes it excellent for countless food pairings. Easy to session as well. I've had it before and I will probably have it again (largely due to availability).

Photo of BEERchitect
3.48/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Second sampling: As a brew there is really nothing to criticize, but as an ESB it reaks of blandness. Just use the proper ingredients and exercise proper brewing techniques for classic ESB's and the beer will turn out fine. It happens in homebrewing, so why do we accept less in commercial brewing. This ESB just lacks the differitiators than would make it a classic example. Show me some richness with breadiness and yeastiness. Show me a caramelly, toffee-ey maltiness. Show me a hop spiciness with English hops. Show me a clean ale finish. I'll be happy then, I promise.

First sampling 7-17-05

Photo of teg8612
3.21/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A-Deep-copper/amber almost red. Head is almost non-existent.

S-Not very strong. Sweat malt with only a little hop spice. Very low considering the style.

T-Very malty with sweet carmel notes. Very balanced with a little hops. Not very complex.

M-Low carbonation light to medium bodied.

D-On the edge of being too sweet but a very good beer. Can drink these all night. A good session beer if you can get someone to drive you home with the higher than average alcohol content. The recipe has been dumbed down alittle but still good.

Photo of MusicmanSD
3.36/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 2.5

Redhook ESB tastes a lot like a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale; I'm wonder if they get the same batch of hops, because it is amazingly similar in bitterness and taste. Pours an Amber red color with an awesome surging head that is among the thickest I've seen. That element left me very impressed to say the least! Smell is bitter, hence the style...The taste is very edgy, must be noble hops? I'll say it again, A LOT like a SNPA. Mouthfeel is thick like an ale should be. The drinkability is rated low because of the bitterness to it. I can’t see myself ever having more than two of these in one sitting. But it gets its point across, and it kicks your ass!

Photo of leedorham
3.73/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

Pours a deep amber with a thick head that lingers with good lacing.

Not as much hop aroma as I would expect but a good overall body with fruity sweetness.

Taste is not complex but can't find anything truly wrong with it. This is just what I want out of a meat and potato beer. The grains and sweetness are right up front. Just the right amount of warmth and taste going down to make for a healthy drink that won't overpower the meal.

Photo of lackenhauser
3.43/5  rDev +0.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Nice amber to reddish hue. Low aroma-sort of hoppy metallic. A notch above average flavor. Somewhat bitter but the metallic flavor is a detractor. Slight trace of maltiness. Good body-quite full mouthfeel wise. Rather average beer. I can go either way on this one. Perhaps fresher or on draft it might work better.

Photo of RBorsato
3.43/5  rDev +0.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Tasted on-tap at the Dead River Pub in The Inn at Somerset Hills in Basking Ridge, NJ on 06/13/06.

Copper-amber in color with a low but decent off-white head. Primarily a caramel malt aroma and flavor with a touch of spiciness (mlat, hops ? not sure). Almost an all malt balanced beer here with hops in the background and finish. A bit sweet and nothing to set the world on fire but decent enough ... Medium-light bodied.

Better than I remember recently but certainly not nearly as good as years ago before it was dumbed-down. At one time the original ESB recipe was pulled out to make the Winterhook .. Yummy!

Per RAB website:
Malts: 2 Row Klages, Caramel 60
Hops: Willamette, Tettnang
Color: 13.2 SRM
IBU: 28
ABV: 5.77%
OG: 1.05454

Photo of jpkoch1962
3.51/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured at cellar temp into a pint glass. Medium Amber/Red color with light brown head. Head composed of tiny bubbles was long lasting. Neutral aroma- couldn't detect any esters or phenols, maybe some floral hints.

Front end of this ale was dominated by a solid hop bitterness. Bitterness wasn't so strong as to prevent a decent malt base to get through. A nice combination of floral bittereness and toasted, grainy malts made up the middle. This ale finished with a nice dry bitter finish that wasn't lingering. ESB is actually very well balanced.

Red Hook ESB's only major drawback was the neutral aroma. Otherwise, it is a pretty good ale. I'm not a big Bitter fan, so I subtracted on drinkability. Hop Heads may think the bitterness is TOO subdued for an ESB.

Photo of kkipple
3.8/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A: A deep gold brew with a small amount of white foam atop.

S: Basic malt smell, with hops coming in after and a vague sweetness in the nose.

T: A nice fusion of amber malts with enough bittering hops to make it quite drinkable. Nice toasted barley profile. Get a bit of a salty metallic flavor near the end. Full-bodied and nicely balanced, in my opinion. Not very complex, but doesn’t pretend to be. Quite tasty, really.

M: Smooth, creamy carbonation, leaves a dry bitterness behind.

Exceedingly drinkable. This is the kind of beer you gulp down on a hot summer’s afternoon. Recommended.

And I can’t let the review go without stating that Red Hook has one of the best microbrew websites that I’ve seen. Cheesy? Sure, but take a look at the details of their beers and you can find out all kinds of good stuff, from what malts and hops they use to original gravity, IBUs, carbs, and even calories per 12oz serving. Most unusual, but kudos to Red Hook for not hiding the facts.

Photo of HoustonTX
3.6/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

12oz. bottle poured into Chimay Goblet.

A - Golden-Amber hue, with slight head, and small traces of lacing line the glass.

S - Smell is of earthy malt and grain. Maybe some slight adjuncts in there?

T - Taste upfront has a nutty malty earthy tone. Which eventually sweeps to a crisp bitter hop aftertaste.

M - Creamy, and slighty dry. The dryness seems to take a while after the sip to achieve though.

D - Drinkability is good, nice taste, decent abv, easy to lay back.

Redhook ESB, is overall an average representation of the style. It's a pretty damn good brew, and worth a try.

Photo of kimcgolf
2.5/5  rDev -26.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

I thought I might enjoy this more, but not much to say about this one. An average beer, with not much aroma or appearance. Its flavor and price are such that I could see having several at a party or at the lake, but not really decent enough to enjoy sipping and truly savoring.

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

I've had to go through several bottles of this to realize it's actually pretty good. My first taste I wasn't impressed, but there's definitely something good happening here that revealed itself only after several samplings.

Inch-thick head diminishes too quickly, but underneath that the orange-copper color looks real appetizing. Looks like an IPA, actually. Good bubble action.

Aroma puts the mellow malts up front, along with a grassy, earthy element. Faint layer of hops in the background.

The flavor features a round, even buttery maltiness. Hops are too laidback, and overall this isn't a very bitter Extra Special Bitter, but it still quenches and satisfies. It's okay, but I've had some great ESBs, and this ain't one of them.

Probably best looked at as a gateway ESB for people just starting to discover the style.

Photo of deuschbag
4.2/5  rDev +23.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

12 oz bottle pored into a pint glass. pores a nice light amber color with a white fluffy head that leaves no lacing.

smell is very well blended. malty, floral hopy and grainy.

the taste is also well balanced. wheaty, lightly malted and bitter hop character. gets maltier as it warms up. leaves a nice bitter aftertaste.

mouthfeel is specatular. medium to full bodied. so damn chewy and smooth. everything i look for on the palate.

very easy to drink. not filling at all. perfect for this summer heat. i'm glad i came back to this one after about a year of not having it.

Photo of mithrascruor
3.48/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle poured into a mug.

Appearance: Pours a nice dark gold/orange/amber color. Very clear. Head is a bit lacking, though -- small and dissipates before I can take a sip.

Smell: Light smell, mostly malts, but with a bit of bitter hops and some more sweet floral hints. An interesting juxtaposition of aromas.

Taste: Basically like the smell! It has a light flavor of malts, hops, some citrus and sweet florals. Fairly well balanced, but not very bitter (except a tad bit more in the aftertaste).

Mouthfeel: A bit odd at first, but not bad -- it feels light- to medium-bodied, but at the same time it has a rather viscous feel. Smooth with very little carbonation.

Drinkability: Fairly high ABV for such a popular beer, but I find it to be just right. The smoothness of it makes it quite drinkable.

Overall it's an okay beer, but not very compelling. Has some interesting elements to it which make it worth trying. Not particularly my style in general, but I wouldn't be averse to having this again, especially with friends.

Photo of vtfan77
3.08/5  rDev -9.7%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Picked up a sixer of this at the grocery store just for kicks. It was cheaper than Sam Adams, so I figured I'd give it a try.

A- Clear amber with minimal head. A touch of lacing on the glass as well.

S- Tough to pick up anything. A bit of fruitiness in the nose, grapelike, with some toasted malt in the background.

T- A little caramel malt with an earthy hop flavor. A touch of bitterness on the finish.

M- Pretty thin with moderate carbonation. Nothing outstanding.

D- Pretty good. I could easily put down a few of these in an evening. ABV isn't too bad, not much more than your average macro so you shouldn't get yourself in too much trouble drinking these.

Not bad, but not great either. I definitely prefer this over any macro. Good to wash down pizza or what have you. Recommended for mindless quaffing, but don't expect too much.

Photo of Rootdog316
3.18/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Overall this is a pretty good beer. The hops are almost more of a spice, an accent, though, not the only featured, predominant flavor. The body is medium to full, with an oily/buttery slipperyness, smoothness, that makes it drink faster than it should with its bitterness level. There is yet more buttery diacetyl flavor in the aftertaste, and it lingers almost as long as the heavy curtain of lace on the sides of the glass.All in all, this is a clean, crisp and well-brewed beer

Photo of pibbxtrasucks
2.8/5  rDev -17.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

beer is a very clear, light amber color. has a weak, white head that doesn't last very long. has a malty smell (the kind of malty smell you get from a shake) slight hint of citrus... very little hop aroma. Tastes thicker than I expected it to. Very malty with a bitter after taste. a BIT over carbonated I think. overall its a decent beer. not too impressed, but its my first ESB, so I have nothing to compare it to. I think after a another one or two it may start growing on me, as it is very easy to drink.

Photo of silver0rlead
3.31/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a nice amber color with a thick biege head that retains well. The aroma has some hints of caramel, but is mostly floral hops and a touch of breadiness. The flavor is also initially sweet with caramel malt flavors, followed by a floral and mineraly hops flavor, some toasted bread and some fruity esters. The mouthfeel is smooth and creamy and drinkability is good. A descent ESB, pales in comparisson to Fuller's but like half the price.

Photo of MiScusi
3.34/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Seemed a bit similar to their IPA. Not great, not horrible. The Willamette & Tettnang hops gave it an interesting bittering character, although i'm not sure I liked it that much. You do get some malt up from but the hop bitterness really overshadowed any malt character.

Photo of BDTyre
3.06/5  rDev -10.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Ehhh...not one of the best bitters I've had. Starts off promising, but quickly falls apart. Rather boring amber colour with a decent head on it. Smells malty, fruity almost like sweet bread. Not much hops in there. It comes off almost as a cream or blonde, definitely not an ESB.

The taste doesn't help much. It tastes like a blonde. Light malts, very little hops. Fruity, yeasty taste. No aftertaste.

On the plus side, this doesn't have a harsh feel on the tongue; in fact it is rather gentle and pleasing. Drinkable, but why bother? At least it was cheap.

Photo of Westsidethreat
2.63/5  rDev -22.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2

A: Golden color with an orange hue...copper. Off white head curls around the edges of the glass. Healthy layer covers the top of the body.

S: Malty and sweet like strawberries. Bready. Stale caramel.

T: This is not the same beer I group up with. Tastes like tap water with flavoring. Dull strawberry maltiness with old adjunct grains. Flows to a dry hop flavor around the middle of the tongue then finishes with a somewhat artificially nutrasweet flavor that stays in the mouth for a while

M: Decent and unobtrusive.

D: Where is the buttery flavor that this beer once had? What a shame.

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

12oz bottle poured into a chalice. Thin, off-white lacing atop a cloudy, dull copper body.

To the nose, half-hearted fruits and bread like sweetness. The expected floralness is absent.

In the mouth, buttery sweet - with just a hint of hop backbone. The fruityness is apparent - but can't overcome the candylike nature.

The feel is smooth and creamy - but thin. A nice carbonation keeps its tight and drinkable, but there is no substance to speak of. It finishes semi-dry, but with the same caramel undertones that are up front.

Musings: Bought this stuff dirt cheap at Costco. It's not a total failure - but has major misgivings and some might be downright scared by the taste.

Photo of mynie
3.75/5  rDev +10%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This is the new style bottle, as is pictured on the Redhook ESB from New Hampshire, but it says right on the bottle that it was bottled in Washington State.

Solid ESB pour, bright brass amber--like a freshly polished doorknob--with a surprisingly retentive white head.

Smells of dull caramel and surprisingly potent dry cascade hops. The hops are rather plain--no fruit or spice complexities--but for a bitter they are quite strong.

The dull, sweet caramel is present in the start, followed by a rush of the surprisingly strong, dry hops, and then ending sadly on an adjunct grassiness and a bittersweet rice flavor that's similar to that of Bud or original Coors.

The poor finish is hardly enough to ruin the flavor, but it doesn't help it. I really don't know what to expect from a good ESB since the majority of the "authentic" ones imported here from the UK taste either stale or pasteurized by the time I get to drinking them, and since the majority of the ones made in the USA are usually just bland APAs. Reedhook seems to capture what I've been led to believe is a solid ESB: flavorful with a definite hop character, but not so bitter as to inhibit pounding.

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Redhook ESB from Redhook Ale Brewery
78 out of 100 based on 1,872 ratings.