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Propeller Extra Special Bitter (ESB) - Propeller Brewery

Not Rated.
Propeller Extra Special Bitter (ESB)Propeller Extra Special Bitter (ESB)

Educational use only; do not reuse.
very good

91 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 91
Hads: 143
Avg: 3.89
pDev: 12.08%
Wants: 10
Gots: 10 | FT: 1
Brewed by:
Propeller Brewery
Nova Scotia, Canada | website

Style | ABV
Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB) | 5.00% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 07-30-2002

Bitter was originally a draught ale served very fresh under no pressure (gravity or hand pump dispensing only) at cellar temperatures. Lucky for you today its available everywhere!

Our ESB is a rich, full-bodied English-style bitter, brewed with carefully selected malts and hops. This copper coloured, English styled ale is our best seller. Smooth, Full bodied and All Natural, like all our beers.

Our most popular brew is not really a bitter beer, it's a better Bitter!

30 IBU
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 91 | Hads: 143
Photo of VelvetExtract
3.31/5  rDev -14.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

Bottle. Poured a clear copper color. Aroma does not really remind me of most ESBs. It just smells less British than you'd expect. Not much Brit hoppiness; maybe that's why. It's mostly caramel malt. The flavor is also a ghost of the style. It sorta tastes like it but not exactly right. It tastes like caramel with hints of red apple. Light bodied. Not an impressive take on this style.

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Photo of PorterPro125
3.76/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Serving Type: 341 mL Bottle

A- Pours a nice copper colour topped by a 2 1/2 finger white head that lasts throughout the brew.

S- Malty with hints of caramel. Mild hop notes.

T- Initially quite bitter but softens out with sweet malt notes. Slight metallic notes but not off putting. Taste improves as it warms.

M- Low carbonation but quite light!

O- Not as silky as other bitters I've had but I quite like this interpretation of the style.

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Photo of thedannypink
4.1/5  rDev +5.4%

Purchased in 650ml bottle at local liquor store.
Produces a healthy, long-lasting head when poured. Head very creamy on top with a tan-light brown color. Scents of caramel, and very slightly hoppy. Beer is reddish-brown, more red than brown when held to a light.
Taste: At first bitter, then sweetens. Hints of fruit, and caramel as noted in the smell. Very lightly coats the mouth and leaves a medium bitter taste lingering on the tongue. Flavorful but light-bodied. Refreshing. Carbonation is about average. Very very slightly metallic (but not unpleasant) aftertaste when chilled, but this becomes less apparent as the beer warms. Flavor sweetens after being out of the fridge for 10-15 minutes. Would recommend leaving out before opening as the flavors grow more mellow as it warms.
Pleasant flavors for a 5% ale. Very nice.

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Photo of DaveBar
4/5  rDev +2.8%

Got on a trade with Curtis. Served at 4deg C in a draught glass

A- 4.25- Opens well and pours a ton of head that lasts forever. DARK brown.

S- 3.75- Caramel and malt.

T- 4.0- Very good. Bit bitter aftertaste. Nice. Caramel and malty

M- 4.0- Very light for a bitter. Nice and refreshing

O- 4.10- This is what I would give this beer. Nice bitter. Good break beer

Food Pairing

This wonderful little bitter went well with...... BBQ steak with blue cheese.


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Photo of CalgaryFMC
3.81/5  rDev -2.1%

Single bottle poured into a shaker pint glass. A clear but dark mahogany brown with a finger or so of frothy off-white foam. Aroma does deliver a nice ESB or brown ale character: Raisins, hazelnut spread, brown sugar, grape, and a topcoat of earthy, citrus rind evoking hops. Ample malt complexity and fruity esters on the palate, although there are more than enough hops to dry things out and keep this anchored in bitter territory. Some interesting flavors emerging, dusty toasted cinnamon, orange, treacle, bruised brown apples ... Fruit and spice in equal measure. Diacetyl asserting itself. This is a tasty brew ... On the malty side but not cloyingly sweet, fairly thick for the style but finishing rather dry. Would repeat.

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Photo of Nightwing
4.1/5  rDev +5.4%

Poured from bottle. Aroma is a nice mixture of caramel, chocolate, and coffee. Appearance is a clear amber with slightly off-white head. Taste is a medium bitter. Body is somewhere between medium and full. Creamy texture, with average carbonation, and a bitter finish. A very drinkable ESB with just the right amount of bitterness.

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Photo of johnnnniee
4/5  rDev +2.8%

Bottle from the Brewery store.
Pours a solid dark brown with a decent sized off white head. Toffee, caramel, and dark fruits with just a hint of earthiness. Medium body moderate carbonation. One of the better ESB's that I've had.

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Photo of 1sophrosyne1
4.14/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.25

Enjoyed on tap in its hometown with great local fish.

The pour is mahogany and clear, with nice snowy white head that falls away almost completely, but leaves streams and sheets of lacing.
There's clean malt-hop balance in the nose, just a bit dank, fitting with where it's brewed. A little raisin and caramel are wrapped up in the wheaty elements.
In the flavor, there's a good bitter center after a malt-sweet start (fitting with its style), but more thorough hopping and ample, bright carbonation make for a nice variation. Pine, grapefruit...later almond. There's a spiciness with pepper to the ending that lingers, and a fruity hint of Shiraz and smoke as well.
The medium body, washes out of the mouth rather quickly--just a touch more length and heft might be an improvement.
Very nice, overall. Much more flavor and complexity than I'd expect it to carry...especially at just 5% abv.

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Photo of lstokes
4.01/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Splitting a large bottle with my partner right now. There's a substantial head and hearty lacing with a perfect amber color, hold it up to the light and you can see right through it.

Smell and taste both have a lot of caramel, some raisin, and a little bit of herbal hop. Finishes bitter with a piney hop. Bitter and dry, with a really bright carbonation--we both really liked it, it didn't wear down the palate easily. I don't think it's as creamy as other ESBs, but I kind of like this lighter version of the style.

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Photo of Mora2000
4/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The beer pours a murky brown color with an off-white head. The aroma is full of toffee with a hint of grass thrown in. Definitely a malty beer. The flavor is similar. I get some toffee and biscuit malt, with a bit of grass and earth mixed in. Low bitterness. Medium mouthfeel and medium carbonation. A nice ESB.

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Photo of Groulxsome
4.27/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bottle poured into a tulip glass.

Appearance: A deep-red copper with a low, pale off-white head. The head sticks nicely to the sides of the glass. Really good clarity.

Smell: The first thing I notice is the malt, it's really sweet and grainy at first but then I get some more caramel aspects. It has a lot of English hops smells going on, so its dry and earthy. A little fruity-ness too, faintly like ripe Bananas.

Flavour: Really syrupy sweet at first with a lot of malt flavour. Like in the smell, the sweetness is mostly caramel driven. The hops are here, mostly earthy and slightly metallic, like copper, but the hops are an accent to the rich maltiness. There is a nice, balanced bitter which provides a dry finish.

Mouthfeel: Fairly high carbonation with a fully body.

Overall: A really nicely balanced beer between sweet malt and bitter, coppery hops. I really nice beer to drink. I've been saving this bottle for a while to review because I ended up drinking the rest of the six-pack over a week. It was just the kind of beer I wanted after a day of working. It's got a nice sweetness without being too sweet to drink and a nice bitter without being offensive to people who might mind bitterness in beer. It's really a great example of the ESB style and a really great Canadian beer.

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Photo of DaftCaskBC
4.35/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: 1/8" tan head over mahagony coloured liquid.

S: Sweet toffee malt and some citrus hops.

T: Sweet toffee malt as well as citrusy and grassy hops.

M: Medium viscosity and medium carbonation.

O: One of the better ESBs from North America. Extremely drinkable, I would have this one again.

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Photo of NForr
3.72/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Had this one a few times as its the only beer available by Propeller that's found in Ontario - sorry not in Quebec at all.

Chocolate brown color, clear, little head. On the nose I get Caramel, floral hops, sweet cereal, lots of roasted aromas.

Slight roasted taste followed by a relatively nice bitterness from the hops. A bit soapy.

Super easy drinkability, good session beer. Not as good as I remember, but it could be because I kept this one too long.

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Photo of
4.12/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Appearance - dark copper with a thin head that leaves very nice lacing as it recedes.

Smell - Dark fruits, caramel, and light earthy hops.

Taste - a touch of hops upfront followed by rich caramel malt, dark fruit, nut, and biscuit.

Overall, this is a very well-balanced and tasty ESB.

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Photo of Noxious26
3.23/5  rDev -17%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

341ml brown bottle poured in a point glass.

Cream coloured head is only 1/4 inch with a fairly aggressive pour. Quickly receds to a thin ring around the edge. Clear, dark red to reddish brown in colour.

Mostly malty aroma. Malt, toffee and light hints of herbal hops.

Pretty well balanced. Malty up front blends smoothly into a balanced middle with malt and herbal/piney hops. Finish is moderately bitter piney/herbal hops with a touch of citrus.

Medium bodied with tiny pin pricks of carbonation. A little syrupy.

A solid offering. Nothing to really write home about, but a nice drink none the less.

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Photo of Stocean1
3.8/5  rDev -2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A - poured a one finger head on an aggresive pour - very nice lacing spackling the side of the glass - mahogany - deep brown in colour - quickly down to a thin off white collar

S - lots of malt, chocolate, floral hops

T - malt up front with floral hops, chocolate note, dark fruit, slightly sweet ( a little like a light stout)

M - medium body with decent carbonation - not overly bitter and dry

O - a decent ESB although I would like it a little hoppier

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Photo of Digimaika2
4/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A: Deep mahogany copper colour with a creamy greyish foam head. Quite good lacing down the glass and a decent retention.

S: Caramel-like malt, candied dark fruits, toffee, banana, and some floral hop notes. Quite sweet and pleasing to the nose with a slight woody earth presence.

T: Bitter floral hops upfront that lead into a mellow malt backbone that doesn't overtake the taste in this but rather compliments the hops very nicely. Candied dark fruit tastes coming through along with some tropical fruits (pineapple and banana). A slight smoky taste lingers near the end.

M: Light and slightly oily body with a moderate amount of carbonation that gives this a bit of fiz in your mouth. Bitter and dry. Very nice mouthfeel.

D: Will be picking this up again every once in a while as it's a very nice and sessionable ESB. Would like to try this on-tap, but I guess will have to wait until a trip out east.

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Photo of tbeckett
3.93/5  rDev +1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Bomber from Halifax from my boss. Bottled Week 1 of July. Had this before but never reviewed. Don't remember liking it.

A - Pours with a full two finger cream coloured head. Creamy head. Bright. Good carbonation. Deep copper or light amber. Great lacing with good rings, one finger of creamy head retention.

S - Big aroma initially. Good fruitiness. Hard to nail down but it's like a boozy fruitcake with bread and earth. Opens up with caramel, bread, citrus, great earth, and some strong dark fruit.

T - A fair amount of hop presence. Dark bread, caramel, earthy and a little floral with less fruit, but the plummy/boozy fruitcake thing is still there. Bready/caramelly/earthy notes mostly grab hold of the taste.

M - Fairly bitter/dry finish. Light to medium body. Good carbonation.

O/D - Not bad. Probably to style, but not close to Fuller's. The fruity notes in the aroma don't carry through to the taste. A good one, but not close to the benchmark. Gets a little heavy the more you drink. Overall, enjoyed it.

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Photo of eat
3.85/5  rDev -1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

From notes taken at the Emmet Ray in Toronto; a great music venue with a quite decent bottle selection. Translucent ruby-amber coloured body with lots of visible carbonation. A thin cover of cream white head leaves some decent lacing.

Smells mostly of sweet caramel malt and light earthy hops. Seems like a sort of American-UK cross.

The flavour is simple but well-balanced, with earthy hops and a nice mineral character. Bitterness wins out over the slightly-sweet malt, as it should. I don't find most examples of this style to be particularly balanced but this one is right on.

The carbonation is fairly high but it works here. Decent medium body.

This isn't usually one of my favourite styles but I could see myself buying a six pack now and then. A well-made, very drinkable bitter.

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Photo of GodOfBeer
3.83/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a dark reddish-brown with a thine white head, lots of thick lacing.

Smells slightly citrusy, with caramel and some nuttiness thrown in the mix. Nothing special to arouse my nasal glands.

Tastes nice and malty upfront, rich toasted grains, some caramel and nuttiness. Has a very nice hop profile and finishes nice and bitter, as it should.

Not the best ESB I've had, but definitely a great representation of the style! Looking forward to try more of their beers.

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Photo of liamt07
3.63/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Bottle from mmurphy525, 341ml into a pint glass. Thanks Matt.

Pours a dark brown, with some ruby highlights. Creamy and chunky offwhite head. Moderate retention and lace. Nose is malty, nutty with some nice caramel notes. Straightforward and plain. Taste has some light hopping, some malt that offers some earthy notes. Nutty, a slight roastiness which is weird for the stlye and dark bread. Higher carbonation than I'd like in the mouthfeel, that has a medium-light weight to it. Moderate bitterness stays around for a bit. Pleasant and simple, needs more hop character if anything.

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Photo of biboergosum
3.53/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

341ml bottle. Good old-school RAF-friendly label on this one, unsurprisingly.

This beer pours a clear, dark brassy amber hue, with two fingers of puffy, tightly foamy, and perhaps a bit fizzy off-white head, which does not stick around for long, leaving some mesa-esque lace in its short wake.

It smells of bready, biscuity caramel malt, hard toffee, strange dry chocolate notes, and a subtle tart raisin and overripe banana fruit essence. The taste is more bready caramel malt, zippy and bitter berry fruit - cranberry now, or maybe even rhubarb, given how my side palate is trembling - and earthy, leafy, and well, zingy hops.

The carbonation is moderate, and mostly unobtrusive in its heady frothiness, the body a decent medium weight, and a bit airy in its quotidian smoothness. It finishes with a somewhat waning sweetness, and waxing fruity hoppiness.

Maybe my bottle is just a wee bit old, but I'm a little nonplussed by the hop character in this ESB - the bitterness is there, but manifests more in the fruit character from the (also not all that biscuity) malt, rather than from the hops. Wait a sec - is that what it's supposed to do? Maybe. Still, a decent enough, worldview-bending tipple, but yet not an eye-opener. Meh, so sad to, um 'say'.

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Photo of kwjd
4/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a copper-amber colour with thick white head. Nice head retention as it lasts all the way down the glass. Some mild lacing around the glass. Smells quite bready, with lots of caramel and mild earthy hops. Nice sweetness level, with bitterness in the aftertaste. Smooth mouhtfeel. A very sessionable ESB.

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Photo of bryehn
3.85/5  rDev -1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I came across this in my local LCBO and thought I was sold expired beer with the best before label blacked out. Date on the side is a production date, not a best before. The brewery said that new, more clearly-labeled boxes are coming in April 2011.

Anyways, pours a lovely ruby-amber colour with a generous soapy head. Leaves a nice amount of lace before settling as a collar.

Has a chocolaty, bready malt aroma with a cranberry tone. Very rich given its ABV.

The taste is also fairly hearty; malt forward with a nice hoppy bite. Roasted tones are complimented by a strong citrus flavour before another wave of bittering hops finishes on the back of your tongue.

Has a citrus and spice bite on the tongue. A bit more watery/less creamy than other ESBs, but again surprisingly satisfying for a relatively light take on the style.

Maybe a bit heavy on the tongue and stomach as a session beer, but highly enjoyable and something I'll be sure to get more of.

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Photo of fostachild
3.33/5  rDev -14.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

poured a clear red/brown amber colour. lots of head that lasted until the end.

smell was mostly just malts. an earthy aroma was also present.

malts also noticeable in the taste and had a smoky kind of feel to it. slightly bitter, medium carb, good drinkability.

have had this many times but wasn't really feeling this bottle, will review again sometime.

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Propeller Extra Special Bitter (ESB) from Propeller Brewery
87 out of 100 based on 91 ratings.