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

140 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 140
Reviews: 91
rAvg: 3.88
pDev: 9.79%
Wants: 10
Gots: 8 | FT: 1
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:
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: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 140 | Reviews: 91
Reviews by cbnz:
More User Reviews:
Photo of merlin48
3.56/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This one is definitely a different brew than the Propeller ESB that I reviewed last year, even though "extra special" is in small letters on the label, above the larger "BITTER".
This 22 oz bottle pours a clear, mahogany body with a stunning, four finger, rocky, beige head. The head lasts for several minutes, and leaves some gorgeous, sheet lacing all over the glass.

Aroma is restrained, and is primarily of chocolate malt with a mild hops background.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied with moderate carbonation.

The taste is a dramatic departure from the brewery's ESB, that I raved so much about last year. This one is more of an English, brown ale than a Bitter. Chocolate malt is the major player here, with the hops playing a minor role. A hint of butternut is detected, but this is, simply, a brown ale, my least favorite style.

This is a well crafted ale, certainly, but not what I was expecting. If you like English style, brown ales, this one is for you. As a Bitter, or ESB, this does not succeed. I plan to contact the brewery with some queries about the change of styles in the past year.

Photo of Mora2000
4/5  rDev +3.1%
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.

Photo of JohnnyBarman
4.23/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Been meaning to try this brew for a while, after rave reviews from Halifax friends.

Poured a dark amber hue, orange when held to the light. Superb retention for a 6 pack pour: thin white head survived throughout, with generous, patchy lacing. Looks great.

The nose is earthy, with bread, light caramel, malts and juicy, herbal hops. Taste is much the same; earthy and hoppy, with a bitter, slightly astringent finish.

Mouthfeel is spot on: good carbonation, highly quaffable.

Very happy with this brew - glad I have the rest of the 6 pack to get through. I'll be back for this brew again! I can definitely see myself drinking this ESB for an entire evening.

Photo of biboergosum
3.53/5  rDev -9%
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'.

Photo of Sammy
3.88/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bitter all right. Your session ale. Medium mouthfeel, not a top English ESB, but quite nice balanced with flavourful food. Nice dark colour, nice carbonation. Drinkable for its style, easy mouthfeel. Bit of raspberry, liquorish. Make note of the refrigeration clause. Recommended.

Photo of socon67
3.58/5  rDev -7.7%
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.

Photo of joemcgrath27
4.13/5  rDev +6.4%
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

Photo of Orrshow
4.25/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Thanks goes out to elricorico for handing over this bottle. Cheers!

Appearance – This beer is deep amber with a small amount of white frothy head. Plenty of nice lacing is left on my glass as it is consumed.

Smell – My first impression from this beer is a nice slightly fruity hop. I detect some toffee and caramel with hints of bread malt as well. Quite alluring.

Taste – Although I did not detect it in the smell, coffee is clearly a decent part of this beers taste. This compliments the crisp fruity hops and toffee flavors nicely. The tasty bread flavor doesn’t hurt either.

Mouthfeel – This beer has some good body to it being nice and creamy. The carbonation is toned nicely to make this feel great while going down.

Drinkability – Quaffable as any great beer I’ve tasted. This is easily savored but could be used in a session as well. What a session that would be!

Photo of jbonapar
4.52/5  rDev +16.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

One of the most Underrated Beers available in Nova Scotia or Canada for that matter. Propeller brews some of the best British Style Beers in North America. (Quebec has the best Belgian/German styles). Moving on..

Appearance - Typical Dark Bitter, but less head. I think this is the weakest aspect of the beer. Very minimal head and you cant get this in Bottle or cask conditioned versions. I would love to see this in a Bottle Conditioned version.

Smell - Fantastic, you can smell the malts jump out in this. Tricks you into thinking its going to be sweet.

Taste - My favorite Best Bitter, maltier than a ESB but with just enough hops to satisfy an english bitter fan. I think the strongest aspect of this beer is the balance between malt and bitter, the malt is a bit more up-front but just delicious smoothness.

Mouthfeel - again, its matlier than expected and has a nice coating on the tongue. Just love enjoying this beer.

Drinkability - You can easily drink 6 of these and not even know...

Overall, fantastic. I recommend everyone coming for a visit to Halifax, Nova Scotia for some excellent beer and Maritime Hospitality. this is Nova Scotia's REAL beer.

Photo of Mandrake
4.3/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Arrives deep red and with a thick and frothy off-white head that lasts well and leaves good lacing, very similar to the bottled version. Smell is fruity, with plenty of hoppiness and some nice caramel in the mix too. Taste is quite hoppy (Cascade?) with fruity notes of strawberry and plum, butter and caramel rounding it out. Quite a departure from the bottled version that I've gotten to know quite well. Mouthfeel is rich and rewarding, and drinkability is excellent. This has become my go-to beer in the bars around my home for the summer on the south shore of Nova Scotia. I was astonished by how different from the bottle this is, but in a good way. I plan to taste them side by side to make sure I'm not imagining or exaggerating the differences, as it's been quite a while since I formally reviewed the bottle.

Edit: I'm not. It's really quite different. Recognizable as being the same beer only if you're trying to find the similarities.

Photo of eat
3.85/5  rDev -0.8%
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.

Photo of elricorico
4.47/5  rDev +15.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Brought up from BC by my folks, I was surprised to see it on the BC Liquor web site. Unfortunately my hometown liquor store frequently has old product. This one was best before Oct 30, putting it about 7 weeks past. I had one yesterday though, and found it to be in good shape.

A deep copper colour with a thin cream coloured head. Not a thick head, but lacing is left all around.

Sweet toffee and english hop aroma. A bit of coffee bean and herbal tea. Pleasant smelling.

In the mouth this beer is fantastic. Creamy body carries a semi sweet toasty toffee flavour through the front of the tongue and into an herbal hop finish. The balance is perfect and the taste is very good. Mild carbonation suits the beer just right. I would say the mouthfeel sets the bar for this style.

I can't keep this beer in the glass, it seems to beg another sip before you can even put it down. I have no doubt that I could down a six pack of this in one sitting, and still be pleased by the taste.

Photo of Goldorak
3.25/5  rDev -16.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Very dark red, slightly translucent, with good head of tiny bubbles that gave way to creamy ring.

Smell: Grainy and sweet at first, then a more pronounced hop character, with traces of pepper.

Taste: Caramel malt, not as bitter as I thought it would be. In fact, the finish was rather sweet, and with it's low carbonation, it almost made me think of an Alt. Or maybe it's just me craving an Alt! Pretty good Beer altogether, but I expected a bit more punch, and maybe a bit more biscuit.

Photo of DaveBar
4/5  rDev +3.1%

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.


Photo of Stocean1
3.8/5  rDev -2.1%
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

Photo of Phyl21ca
3.22/5  rDev -17%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Bottle: Poured a clear copper color beer with a medium bubbly white head with average retention. Aroma of sweet and fruity malt. Taste is enjoyable without being overly complex with a nice mix of fruity/floral malt and medium hops distinguishable at the end. Lack a bit of character but enjoyable nonetheless.

Photo of Nightwing
4.1/5  rDev +5.7%

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.

Photo of ZorPrime
3.95/5  rDev +1.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to Moniker for sending me this beer.

Color is caramel, very clear with little foam for the head. The aroma is earthy + matly. On the taste, I get the bitterness from earthy flavor, very typical for ESB. Dry in the mouth. This beer is an excellent bitter, very sessionnable. Lets get back to the taste, I get some biscuit... with caramel too.

Nice beer.

Photo of irishkyle21
3.65/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I was glade to see this at the L.C.B.O. This ESB pours a reddish brown color. Has a small tanned head and not much retention or lacing.

Smells of fruits (raisins are noticeable), hops are light but there and has a nice toasted malt aroma (kind of bready).

Tastes of mild/medium hop bitterness, malts and a bit of fruits. Well balanced and a good drinkable beer.

Photo of blackie
3.97/5  rDev +2.3%
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

Photo of IronDjinn
3.72/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Propeller is finally on the shelves here in Alberta, and I was lucky to snag the first 6 of their Extra Special Bitter here in Edmonton, which was more by luck than premeditated timing.

Pours out a deep transluscent nut brown in appearance, a bubbly sandy-hued head that settles at a steady rate.

The aroma is gorgeous! Rich bready toffee malts, some chocolate wafer, very faint meadowy hops.

The flavour is a more watery version of the aroma, but with more hops present. Starts out with dry, musty malt, wafer-ish, while grassy/herbal hops start to build in the middle and take over on the finish. Nicely balanced, with a lingering dry cocoa and mild dandelion in the aftertaste.

Mouthfeel is a bit watery, mild carbonation.

A decent offering, and mild enough to stay true to the original style. A fuller mouthfeel would manage to turn it up a notch, but it still makes a decent session beer as it presently is. Plus it gets hipster points for being in the Trailer Park Boys movie, as was previously mentioned.

Photo of papat444
4.06/5  rDev +4.6%
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.

Photo of baiser
3.6/5  rDev -7.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 650ml bottle. Pours a clear, dark orange/copper colour, with a wispy white head. A huge malt aroma, very pleasant. Taste of caramel, candy and is very sweet. Finishes quite clean, not much lingering after taste. Has an element of dark fruit to it. Not too bitter and very drinkable. Quite a nice beer from Propeller.

Photo of spinrsx
3.53/5  rDev -9%
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.

Photo of liamt07
3.63/5  rDev -6.4%
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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Propeller Extra Special Bitter (ESB) from Propeller Brewery
87 out of 100 based on 140 ratings.