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Propeller Extra Special Bitter (ESB) - Propeller Brewery

Propeller Extra Special Bitter (ESB)Propeller Extra Special Bitter (ESB)

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

123 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 123
Reviews: 84
rAvg: 3.9
pDev: 9.74%

Brewed by:
Propeller Brewery visit their website
Nova Scotia, Canada

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

Availability: Year-round

Notes/Commercial Description:
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 added by: BeerAdvocate on 07-30-2002)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 123 | Reviews: 84 | Show All Ratings:
Photo of 1sophrosyne1


4.18/5  rDev +7.2%
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.

Serving type: on-tap

10-25-2013 15:08:59 | More by 1sophrosyne1
Photo of lstokes


4/5  rDev +2.6%
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.

Serving type: bottle

06-30-2013 22:14:15 | More by lstokes
Photo of Mora2000


4/5  rDev +2.6%
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.

Serving type: bottle

11-25-2012 23:46:50 | More by Mora2000
Photo of Groulxsome

Ontario (Canada)

4.28/5  rDev +9.7%
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.

Serving type: bottle

04-19-2012 23:51:02 | More by Groulxsome
Photo of DaftCaskBC

British Columbia (Canada)

4.38/5  rDev +12.3%
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.

Serving type: bottle

02-29-2012 01:34:01 | More by DaftCaskBC
Photo of NForr

Quebec (Canada)

3.7/5  rDev -5.1%
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.

Serving type: bottle

02-19-2012 22:06:46 | More by NForr
Photo of

4.15/5  rDev +6.4%
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.

Serving type: bottle

11-23-2011 22:56:01 | More by
Photo of Noxious26

Saskatchewan (Canada)

3.25/5  rDev -16.7%
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.

Serving type: bottle

10-23-2011 02:11:46 | More by Noxious26
Photo of Stocean1

Ontario (Canada)

3.78/5  rDev -3.1%
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

Serving type: bottle

10-01-2011 00:58:51 | More by Stocean1
Photo of Digimaika2

Ontario (Canada)

4/5  rDev +2.6%
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.

Serving type: bottle

09-14-2011 19:41:37 | More by Digimaika2
Photo of tbeckett

Ontario (Canada)

3.93/5  rDev +0.8%
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.

Serving type: bottle

08-12-2011 22:34:30 | More by tbeckett
Photo of eat

Quebec (Canada)

3.88/5  rDev -0.5%
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.

Serving type: bottle

07-18-2011 21:49:10 | More by eat
Photo of GodOfBeer

Ontario (Canada)

3.85/5  rDev -1.3%
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.

Serving type: bottle

06-18-2011 22:00:09 | More by GodOfBeer
Photo of liamt07

Ontario (Canada)

3.63/5  rDev -6.9%
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.

Serving type: bottle

06-16-2011 18:47:02 | More by liamt07
Photo of biboergosum

Alberta (Canada)

3.53/5  rDev -9.5%
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'.

Serving type: bottle

05-27-2011 01:17:50 | More by biboergosum
Photo of kwjd

Ontario (Canada)

4/5  rDev +2.6%
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.

Serving type: bottle

04-27-2011 23:35:25 | More by kwjd
Photo of bryehn

Ontario (Canada)

3.85/5  rDev -1.3%
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.

Serving type: bottle

03-14-2011 20:03:37 | More by bryehn
Photo of fostachild

Ontario (Canada)

3.35/5  rDev -14.1%
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.

Serving type: bottle

02-15-2011 03:18:01 | More by fostachild
Photo of andrenaline

Ontario (Canada)

3.95/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Yet another delicious ale courtesy of my fellow BA, joemcgarth27.

A - Pours a nice dark copper colour with a thumb of beige head, solid retention and sticky big bubbled lacing.

S - Wheat grass and citrus hops, touch of molasses and sour cranberries.

T - Some light grassy hops off the top with bready caramel alt that lingers. The slightly sour cranberries are again noticeable, making for a unique flavour.

M - A tad watery and could be more carbonated, but it goes down smooth and finishes nice and wet.

D - Overall a very tasty offering from Propeller. This stuff is easily drinkable and is super flavourful. Highly recommended to any fan of ESB's.

Serving type: bottle

12-18-2010 19:48:31 | More by andrenaline
Photo of joemcgrath27

Alberta (Canada)

4.13/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

341ml bottle from a 6er purchase
A - clear deep copper with a tall tan head, dissipated slowly with plenty of sticky lacing up the sides
S - very earthy with pine and cedar, roasted nuts with a light smokiness and sweet caramel
T - nutty and sweet molasses malt, definite earthy and piney hops, slight smoky or mustiness, just a hint of lemon zest to finish, very strong in flavour
M - lower carbonation, smooth fullness, slightly bitter spicy finish
D - very full flavours but with a great malt-hop balance, very easy and pleasurable to consume again and again

Serving type: bottle

12-10-2010 01:43:26 | More by joemcgrath27
Photo of NightINgale

Russian Federation

3.93/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Got this in a trade. 650ml bottle poured into a nonic pint glass...

A - Looks as good as ESB's get. Deep copper-coloured body (bordering on brown), with some bubbles and a nice pillowy beige head.

S - Earthy hops, plums, apples, bread, and very solid caramel hints in the aroma. The smell is intense and inviting. Smells like an English Strong ale as much as an ESB.

T - Starts out with a mild English-style floral hop bite. Some fruitiness opens up as the beer warms up, producing a plum, apple, and grapefruit-like taste. Some mild sweetness is reinforced with a caramel malty breadiness. High in bittering hops. The after-taste is comprised of caramel notes, roastiness, and bitterness coming hand in hand.

M - Medium body to it. A little hefty, but very pleasant on the palate. The carbonation level is quite high at first, but then it comes down to a very comfortable level. Not very dry, no hints of alcohol.

D - Quite drinkable for an ESB. Goes down fairly smoothly, yet may become a bit too filling.

Overall, Propeller has really accomplished the goal of making a true English-style ESB.

Serving type: bottle

12-04-2010 03:17:35 | More by NightINgale
Photo of papat444

Quebec (Canada)

4.1/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Thanks to SlovakSniper (ratebeer) for this one. Had it last night with my supper, pogos.

Poured from a 341ml. bottle.

Appearance: Ample foam, between 2 & 3 fingers. The bottom part of the body was clearer while the top part was more thick with a reddish brown hue. Very good retention.

Smell: Citrus hops, mild bitterness, some cereal and bready malt.

Taste: Sustained bitterness that is pleasant and last well after the gulp. Nice malt support with a grapefruit flavor and maybe toffee? Very nice flavor overall.

Mouthfeel: Active bubbles with a light feel. A little dry though it manages to be balanced with some nice fruit overtones. Could be more filling but still good.

Drinkability: I like this one. An easy to drink ale that i'd want to try again.

Overall: Nothing complex here, just a nice, balanced and bitter pud ale. Worth trying.

Serving type: bottle

11-15-2010 14:41:22 | More by papat444
Photo of spinrsx

Ontario (Canada)

3.53/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz Bottle

Appearance - The beer pours clear red/brown colour with a fair size fizzy and frothy beige head. I can't make out much carbonation due to the darkness of the beer. There is some faint lacing on the sides of the glass. The head stuck around for only a few minutes before it was gone.

Smell - malts, roasted nuts, caramel/toffee, a grassiness

Taste & Mouth - there is actually quite a bit of carbonation here, lots of bubbles all over the tongue. The most noticeable flavours are malts and hops, also lots of roasted/toasted grain notes. There is a brown sugar sweetness and the beer finishes with a bitter roasted flavour that lingers for a while.

Drink - A nice ESB that I'm happy I had the chance to try. Definitely worth seeking out and I'd drink it again anytime.

Serving type: bottle

11-07-2010 23:04:28 | More by spinrsx
Photo of socon67

New York

3.63/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Tried a bottle at St. John Ale House in NB.

Pours amber to red. Mild carbonation swirls around my pint glass. The smell is extremely mild. Maybe I couldn't get a fix but about all I could smell was a mild flowery scent.

Taste is that of a traditional ESB. Bitter, with a malty feel. A very good representative of the style. Not a heavy beer, and quite drinkable. I would have this again.

Serving type: bottle

09-11-2010 19:33:12 | More by socon67
Photo of blackie


3.98/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

a: low cap of off-white carbonation settles to a just a smattering, the beer itself is a medium brown color with hints of garnet

s: lots of nutty toffee, brown sugar, estery with a touch of diacetyl - ringwood?, mild earthy hops, like it

m: moderately carbonated, medium body

t: moderately sweet, nutty toffee, dark sugars, somewhat metallic hop flavor - moderate in strength with a mild bitterness, pretty estery with a mild diacetyl that's more present as a feel than a flavor, very traditional (or what I assume to be traditional)

d: drinks well, lots of flavor and low in alcohol enough to put down a bomber with ease

bomber from the NSLC store in Wolfville, Nova Scotia on our way around the bay

Serving type: bottle

08-12-2010 02:27:22 | More by blackie
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Propeller Extra Special Bitter (ESB) from Propeller Brewery
87 out of 100 based on 123 ratings.