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Belk's ESB - Anderson Valley Brewing Company

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Belk's ESB
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very good

354 Reviews
very good

(Read More)
Reviews: 354
Hads: 540
Avg: 3.78
pDev: 14.81%
Wants: 19
Gots: 12 | FT: 0
Brewed by:
Anderson Valley Brewing Company visit their website
California, United States

Style | ABV
Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB) |  6.80% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 04-25-2001

Inspired by the classic “Bitters” from Great Britain, our Belk’s ESB is an innovative take on the style. With a deep, golden hue and big malty foundation, the spicy, herbal hop aromas and crisp, bitter bite give a West Coast flair to this classic recipe.

Formerly Boont ESB.
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Reviews: 354 | Hads: 540
Photo of Sammy
3.8/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Amazing orangey head in my anti-gravity glass. Aroma C-hop, amarillo hop? Blind tasting English style ESB, orangey taste, drying and satisfying sweetish aftertaste. Great, an IPA addict's take on an ESB. Good carbonation and medium smooth mouthfeel.

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.5/5  rDev -7.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a slightly hazy honey orange with a 1 inch foamy off-white head that settles to a film on top of the beer. A thick curtain of lace forms on the glass during the drink down. Smell is of malt and herbal and citrus zest hop aromas. Taste is of malt and herbal and floral hops. There is an almost medicinal bitterness that lingers on the palate after each sip. This beer has a crisp level of carbonation with a prickly mouthfeel. Overall, this is a pretty good beer but not something I would probably get again.

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Photo of Thorpe429
3.8/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

On tap at Anderson Valley in August 2009. Reviewed from notes.

Pours a caramel color with a nice off white head. Nose brings forward some bread, caramel, fresh biscuits, and some herbal and pine hops. Taste brings a good deal of lighter malt flavors forward and is backed by a good amount of bitterness, but isn't as pleasurable as the nose. The mouthfeel is good, although a bit heavy for the style. Drinks really well and is one of their better standard offerings.

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Photo of brentk56
3.41/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Appearance: Pours a clear dark golden color with a fluffy head that leaves shards of lace

Smell: Not much of an aroma but what there is, is not particularly enticing; more of a chemical smell

Taste: Starts with a modest toffee flavor that is joined, after the swallow by a harsh, grainy flavor; some residual sweetness at the tip of the tongue at the very end; the finish is very harsh, however

Mouthfeel: Medium body with moderate carbonation but a prickly mouthfeel from the harshness

Drinkability: Not particularly well-balanced for an ESB; rather disappointing, in fact; I like many of Anderson Valley's beers - this one and the Belgians are not at the top, however

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Photo of Knapp85
3.88/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

vThis beer poured out as a brownish amber color with a light tan head on top. The lacing was scattered on the glass. The smell of the beer has a nice sweet malt character to it, with a bit of floral hops on the nose as well. The taste of the beer reminded me a bit more of an IPA than an ESB in my opinion. The flavors were a little sweet upfront with a touch of caramel that faded into a strong bitter finish. The mouthfeel I found to be pretty good with a nice easy going drinkability to it. Overall I like the beer, I would drink it again for sure. I wouldn't run out to buy a case though.

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Photo of BEERchitect
3.62/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A little more agressive that the average ESB. Look is fine, just a little lighter rust color than most. Low carbonation, dainty head, fair lacing. Smells malty sweet and biscuity. Light caramel tones. Good hop spiciness and bittering. Tastes lightly malty, caramelly, and a little toasty. Good dosage of spicy and bitter hops against light grain bill lends to agressive hopping for style, maybe American hop varieties...I like it. Warming alcohol rides from sip to swallow. Finishes crisply bitter, lightly sweet and alcoholic, and slick like buttered popcorn. A little less dry than expected. Alochol becomes a little medicinal in the aftertaste.

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Photo of Phyl21ca
3.88/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bottle courtesy of Plucier: Poured a deep brown color ale with a big nice foamy head with good retention. Aroma of PNW hops is well balance with caramel malt. Taste is a well balance mix between some caramel malt with light toffee and some great hops presence with provide mild bitterness and a great floral aspect to this beer. Great carbonation with a full body which really fit the style. I really like and enjoy the balance in the beers from this brewery.

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Photo of biboergosum
4.03/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

12oz bottle. Now (for how long, I have no idea) called "Belk's ESB", at least as far as the label for this one is concerned, whose antlered-up brown bear depiction might seem more amusing after a few more of these, I'm sure.

This beer pours a clear medium copper amber colour, with two fingers of puffy, bubbly ecru head, which leaves a few swaths of upwardly mobile spectral lace around the glass as it slowly sinks away.

It smells of semi-sweet biscuity, bready malt, a mild drupe fruitiness, spicy, bitter, leafy hops, and a wisp of warming alcohol. The taste is sharply biscuity, grainy caramel malt, earthy yeast, bitter, zingy citrus and pine esters, a late-arriving bready pastry essence, and further spicy herbal hops.

The bubbles are a tad sassy, but agreeably par for the course, the body a decent medium weight, and mostly smooth - all that there biscuit and hop meddling does indeed take its toll. It finishes off-dry, the sweet bready caramel maintaining the chutzpah to deal with the still active old and new world hop phalanx.

A rather enjoyable little experiment, this forcing a West Coast idealism down a traditional English bitter's trusting throat. Anyways, the extra oomph here ensures that this particular ESB doesn't fall prey to the corner cutting prevalent in such offerings of late, from both sides of the Atlantic. Session worthy? Errrr, maybe, but by the third round or so, one might come to disagree, even if the robust flavour seems to indicate otherwise.

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
3.88/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Brassy orange-gold capped by a rich, cream-colored head. The foam is nicely firm, reasonably persistent and stops deflating once it reaches the thick, chunky disk stage. Decent lace display in the form of thin, broken rings. Fruity-earthy hops are more prominent in the nose than is malt, but given the style, I'm a little disappointed that they aren't even more up front.

There's plenty of toasted malt on the palate, met on more or less equal terms by snappily bitter hops. Mild grapefruit zest and apple peel are the dominant flavors. This is a fairly well-balanced, 'hoppy enough' ESB that is a cinch to drink. The body is solidly medium with a quality mouthfeel.

I like Boont ESB quite a bit. I don't have a whole lot of experience with the style, but this one is solid across the board and is better than most. I could see it in my regular rotation if it was available locally.

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Photo of zeff80
4.07/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

A - Poured out a cloudy, orange color with a one-finger, tan, long-lasting head. It left sticky rings of lace.

S - It smelled of citrus, orange peel, and roasted malt.

T - It tasted of sweet caramel, chocolate malt and nutty flavors. It had a floral/fruitiness, too.

M - It was crisp and sharp with a dry mouthfeel. A light to medium bodied brew.

D - This is a very good ESB. Yet another good one from Anderson Valley.

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Photo of oberon
4/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I had tried this on tap over a year ago and wasnt really all that impressed with it but I have to say I like it alot better out of the bottle.Poures a burnt orange color with a nice almost creamy-like head head that leaves a nice sheet of lace behind as it settles,some citrus and piney hop really come thru in the nose with some light caramel as well.Taste seems to be more well balanced out of the bottle there is still a big west coast hop profile pine and grapefruit but thereis a nice big firm slighty sweet maltiness to it that makes it a very solid well rounded ale.Glad to not only try the bottled version but to find it here in Greensboro.

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Photo of nickfl
3.77/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A - One finger of off-white head on a slightly hazy, golden brown body. The foam settles at a moderate pace and leaves decent lace.

S - Sweet caramel malt with light toffee. The malt is balanced by light, earthy english hops with a hint of pine.

T - Sweet malt with musty, green hop flavor up front. Some slightly fruity english yeast in the middle with a bit of caramel that fades to pine and lemon hops flavor in the finish with surprisingly strong bitterness.

M - Medium body, moderate carbonation, and a somewhat sweet finish.

D - The malt character in the aroma is very nice, but the flavor does not quite live up to the promise. The flavor lacks complexity and though the sweetness is not excessive, it is a bit medicinal for some reason. Not bad, but for some reason it doesn't really come together in the end.

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Photo of TMoney2591
3.78/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Served in a Lagunitas mason jar.

One of these days, I'm gonna suggest to one of my linguistics contacts that a paper on Boontling is a good idea... Anyway, this stuff pours a clear golden-amber topped by a finger of cream foam. The nose comprises mild orange zest, buttery caramel, and soft grass (think the lush hills of rolling verdance in the general Northumberland area...yeah...). The taste brings in more of the same, though the grass now clearly overshadows the even-milder-than-before citrus character. The body is a light medium, with a light moderate carbonation and a dry finish. Overall, a solid ESB, one of the better ones coming from the States.

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Photo of NeroFiddled
3.8/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Anderson Valley's ESB is quite unique in their line-up. It lacks the rich caramel maltiness that the pale, amber, and IPA have; it's more bitter; the alcohol shows at just 6.8%; and it's drier than most. There's a harshness to it that I can't quite put my finger on. It's heavy handed with bitterness, but lacks hop flavor and aroma; and it's not nearly as balanced as their other beers. That said, it's still pretty decent, just not up to their normally spectacular level.

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Photo of TheManiacalOne
3.97/5  rDev +5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12oz bottle into a US tumbler pint glass.

A: The beer is a deep gold color, with a large off-white head that fades slowly and leaves a thick but spotty lace on the glass.

S: The aroma contains caramelized malts, nuts, a good amount of hops and a touch of citrus.

T: The taste starts out with a touch of caramel and citrus sweetness that quickly fades behind the incoming strength of a grassy hops presence. The malt character is hearty but not too heavy and brings a good balance. The after-taste is slightly bready and slightly hoppy.

M: Smooth and crisp, medium body, medium carbonation, finish is slightly sticky.

O: Tasty, goes down very easily, not too filling, decent kick, good representation of style, this is a solid beer worth pounding for a long time.

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Photo of Jason
3.91/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Presentation: 12 oz brown long-neck bottle with no freshness date. Blurb about the beer on the back label.

Appearance: Gold with a deep orange hue, dense fluffy white lace does a great job of leaving rings all the way down the glass.

Smell: Clean to the nose with a mix of a little raw hop and biscuity grain.

Taste: Medium to full in body, big malty palate with a creamy and slick mouth feel. Lots of malt with a huge sweet grain presence. Alcohol and hops come hand and hand to leave a cutting spicy and bitter character. Hops are more or less a quick in and out bitterness with a leafy finish. Alcohol is fruity, warming, estery and quite boisterous. Vague hop leaf and lots of grain in the finish.

Notes: Big beefy American Style ESB these guys have dished out. Close to a strong ale in my opinion, alcohol is very noticeable. Certainly one of the biggest ESBs I have ever had the pleasure to try.

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Photo of russpowell
3.29/5  rDev -13%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours amber/caramel with humungous white head that held a 1" head throughout. Lacing was very good

Smell: Some fruittiness and hops, but very subtle for style

Taste: Intense hops bitterness followed by some malt fruitiness. A butterscotch tast that detracts is also present then a very bitter finish

MF: Way out of balance, more malt should come through, slightly undercarbonated

If you ignore the style this is a somewhat drinkable IPA, but out of whack for an ESB IMHO

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Photo of WVbeergeek
4.03/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Not as caramelly as most ESBs, this one leads more toward the hop end of the spectrum. Appears a slightly hazed copper amber tone with an off white lucious two fingered head leaving lace as it settles a magnificant looking brew. Aroma consists of floral hops combined with a decent amount of balancing malt. Taste is piney with hop resin yet a contrasting bitterness balances out the brew almost perfectly, not completely characteristic of an ESB, but I love this beer a great counterpart to most any food the hops complement so much. The mouthfeel is medium bodied fluffy with some oily resins sliding on the tongue this beer is seductive. The drinkability for me well if I found it on tap at the right place this could be dangerous for me, but either way this is a great beer.

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Photo of smcolw
3.56/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A beautiful pour: great head with excelent lace, cloudy orange-amber in color.

Slightly sweet malty smell. Enough hop to provide balance. A little bit "bready".

This is a very "round" beer, much like the English ales I've had. Malt is the key ingredient, but the hop shows up nicely in the aftertaste. The body is as I would expect.

Overall, a nice entry into this style. I like the balance. And the appearance is superior.

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Photo of feloniousmonk
3.15/5  rDev -16.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Fine ambery color, white head. Aroma? not much, really... a touch of citrus, and not much more. Taste is good, however, nice and smooth, and sweet and highly drinkable. We get some hoppy notes on the palate, some touches of grapefruit and ...it drinks well. Sorry, ESB is far from my favorite style, does very little for me, but for those who do like them, here it is...

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Photo of jwc215
3.53/5  rDev -6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

No freshness date:

Pours hazy amber with a thick head that descends to a lasting cover, leaving broken rings of lacing on the glass.

The smell is of sweet grain and slight husk. Bready with slight caramel, there is a subtle, distant pine/citrus undertone.

The taste is malty - sweet grain with caramel/toffee. There is an underlying citric/piney tone that is rather restrained. Metallic tinges interfere. Finishes with a grainy sweetness.

Medium-bodied - unfortunate mettalic tinges cling to palate.

Interesting interpretation here - an American twist to a classic English style. Malty with a touch of Pacific NW hops. The metallic tinges do not help it. Overall - it's okay but doesn't stand up to others of the style, or other offerings I've had from this brewery.

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Photo of WesWes
4/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The beer pours a nice golden color with a thick frothy white head that slowly fades to lacing. The aroma is good. It has a very pleasant malty scent that boasts of pale and light crystal or carapils malts. It is sweet with a bit of hops as well. The taste is good. It has a very bitter hop flavor layed over a complex malt arrangement. It seems a bit citrusy, but goes down easy. The mouthfeel is good. It is a medium bodied beer with good carbonation. This is a good ESB. It drinks well although I prefer more malts and less hops for this particular style.

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Photo of GClarkage
3.47/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

02/09/06- Purchased at Ledger's Liquors in Berkeley, CA.

Presentation- 12oz bottle with no freshness info listed on the bottle. Poured into my Eye of the Hawk pint glass.

Appearance- Darker golden pour. Plus inch white head upon pour. A good 1/4 inch remains throughout...nice! Excellent sticky lace streaks and chunks dried onto my glass.

Smell- Large caramel malt scent backed up by a bit too much alcoholic scent. Bready and what seems like a grainy malt scent. Detracts from the decent but pungent bitter hop aroma.

Taste- First taste is the darker toasted caramel malt, but that quickly fades with the pretty bitter grapefruit and pine flavored hops. Hangs around a while in the aftertaste.

Mouthfeel- Mid range carbonation level.

Drinkability- Seems balanced at first, but a bit too much on the hop side of things. Tastes OK and drinks fairly well, just wouldn't be my top choice or top ten for thius style for that matter.

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Photo of Gavage
3.74/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a hazy gold color with a 1 inch head. Little lacing developed during the drink. The aroma was sweet and floral. The flavor was a nice balance of malt and hops. Caramel and a fruity sweetness rounded out the flavor.

The mouthfeel was very tingling as the carbonation level seemed high. Bitterness lasts long into the finish. I felt the bitterness got stronger after the swallow than during the initial taste. The is on the lighter side of a medium bodied beer. Nicely drinkable for flavor, but the mouthfeel was not as smooth as others in the ESB category.

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Photo of Gueuzedude
3.12/5  rDev -17.5%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A nice deep copper color, pours with a cream colored head. There is a slight amount of chill haze present. Smells malty with a bit of sourness to it, maybe some sort of musty character as well. There is lots of caramel malt character in this beer. It ends with nice amount of bitterness, and there is a sharp bitterness at the beginning to. There is not too much hop flavor or aroma in this beer. Though as it warms up a definite hop flavor starts to assert itself. This is a nice solid beer, but it could use a few more dimension to it. I expected a bit more hop flavor from this brewery. There is a bit of grassy - hoppy notes to it though. Some biscuity flavors to this beer as well.

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Belk's ESB from Anderson Valley Brewing Company
85 out of 100 based on 354 ratings.