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Belk's ESB - Anderson Valley Brewing Company

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Belk's ESB
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very good

526 Ratings
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 526
Reviews: 357
rAvg: 3.79
pDev: 12.14%
Wants: 19
Gots: 7 | 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:
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.

(Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 04-25-2001)
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Ratings: 526 | Reviews: 357 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of Floydster
3.2/5  rDev -15.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

22 ounce bottle/bomber purchased from Cooke's Family Market in El Segundo

Poured into a pint glass with a medium brown color and a thick white head, almost an inch

Smell was very piney and had a very small amount of citrus

Taste was overcome by bitterness, wow this is a strong ESB

Could not drink too many of these, maybe another bottle max

Photo of jwc215
3.53/5  rDev -6.9%
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.

Photo of LeftyBWS
3.45/5  rDev -9%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Poured from a 12 oz. brown bottle into a pint glass. No indication of freshness on the label, but it does include the ideal temperature (45-52 degrees F) and possible pairings (fine cheese, a well seasoned meal). A nice move by the brewers, I’d say, to put this right on the label.
A: A glowing deep orange color, with a thick layer of creamy light tan head. Some carbonation visible clinging to the sides and rising slowly along the sides, too. The head leaves a ring of bubbly lacing down the glass.
S: The prevailing scent is some kind of spiciness that I can’t quite identify. There’s a sweet scent underneath, as well. Definitely hoppy, mostly a piney and floral mix.
T: A very smooth, clean blend of mildly spicy hops. Somewhat malty in the finish, giving it a little sugary flavor.
M: Crisp at first and a little drier in the finish. Fills the mouth, but leaves it a little dry.
D: Alright. I would enjoy this with a zesty cheese, but not as much by itself.
Overall, an interesting zesty-flavored hoppy beer that would certainly fit nicely with some spicy food or hors d’oeuvres. By itself, though, the aftertaste is too dry and cottony to have more than one.

Photo of OWSLEY069
3.48/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours a clean orange-ish copper color with a white head. Aroma of a mild grapefruit hop. Taste of bitterness, dry end, and a small hint of fruit. Clean and a dry end, but not overly bitter. A very nice bitter, easy drinking, with a nice hop presence. I think it might be good for newbies that what to try hops.

Photo of mjc410
3.33/5  rDev -12.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

The pour into my Murphy's glass raises a thin cap of off-white lace that doesn't do much. There's some thick but very slick lacing, too. Below, the beer is a very hazy golden-brown.

The nose is a touch tart, with citrusy hops and a mild malt character. Pretty sweet smelling, too. Lemony, perhaps.

Tastewise: a good balance between citrusy hop bitterness and bready malt. This hits hard with hops to start, but very quickly becomes slightly sweet and malty. There's a nice caramel quality, too.

The mouth is just right, with fine carbonation and a medium body.

Not an ESB I'll be revisiting, but an alright beer.

Photo of cswhitehorse
3.43/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

A clear orange hue was the first to make its appearance. Clear with a sudsy head. The smell was not all that great. The taste was okay but a little flat which seems to be a characteristic for esb's at least for me. Mouthfeel was good and it lasted quite a while. I will try again to compare.

Photo of Halcyondays
3.9/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz. bottle,

A: Medium amber-brown with a white head which sticks around for a long time.

S: Roasty toasty malts, with some piney hops, hard to find though, overall a good smell.

T: Toasted caramel malts upfront, with piney hops, really no citrus in this one, a fair bit of alcohol, bordering on a strong ale. Tastes a bit like the American version of Adnams Broadside.

M: Smooth, quite robust for a bitter, definitely some alcohol character, but overall I thought it was very well done.

D: Good drinkability for its heft, another winner from Anderson Valley.

Photo of Nipitato
3.83/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Picked up a bottle at Julio's Liquors in Westborough, MA.

A: Medium copper hue. White tight head with good stand. Good clarity.

S: A very interesting aroma. Malty sweet with a pretty big dose of - I'm guessing fruity esters that smell like overripe strawberries. Hop aroma is low and kind of grassy/grapefruit.

T: Malty caramel flavor with typical west coast grapefruit hop flavor. Good stuff. Fruity ester highlights evident in taste but not as prominent as in the nose. Faint woody taste character.

MF: Medium body. Alcohol warming. Light carbonation. Nice hoppy bitter finish.

D: An enjoyable well balanced beer. The alcohol in this is pretty well masked so be careful if you are planning on drinking a load of these.

Photo of tonistruth
4.47/5  rDev +17.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

A- golden straw, 3 finger frothy head with freakin amazing retent, clingy soapy lace

S- honey, spicy, citric hop, fruity, malty, herbal

T- spicy hop character at finish lingers into after, sweet and bready malt up front, soft citrus, butterscotch

M- medium body, smooth, dry & spicy finish/after

D- another great brew from Anderson Valley, great ESB, highly recommended, great drinkability, delicious

Photo of plaid75
3.43/5  rDev -9.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured a dark copper hue with a one finger creamy white head. There was good retention and lacing.

The smell featured an upfront sweet caramel malt with a troublesome diacytl element.

The taste was upfront swett malts with a touch of diacytl. A decent resiny hop developed toward the end. Dry finish.

The mouthfeel was of average fullness with a dry finish.

Overall a decent malty ESB. I orefer my ESBs a bit hoppier and the diacytl didn't help out either.

Photo of soupyman10
3.8/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a slightly amber copper coor, a little foggy, with a finger of white head on top that dissolves fairly quickly. Nose is balanced; hops and malt both show up, and a hint of saltiness in the background. Definitely bready as well. Nose is good, but mild. Taste is solid ESB ish. Salt is what hits you immediately, and then again in the fairly salty hop aftertaste. In the middle there is that slightly sweeter toffee malt flavor. Not bad. Feel is standard; medium body with solid carbonation. Overall, this is a good one, although the saltiness (kind of a staple for the style, I realize), might limit the drinkability a little.

Photo of Osiris9588
4.2/5  rDev +10.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz brown bottle, no date. Rusty orange color, fluffy white head, decent retenton and a ring of small-bubbled, sticky lace.

Aroma is orange peel, malt, and floral hops. The flavor is malt, orange, some cherry phenols, and a strong presence of alochol--bold.

Medium-bodied and pretty complex, going from bright on the front palate, to a sweet middle act, but the hops are present throughout, yet provide different sensations on the way. Dense but drinkable and unlike any ESB I've had.

Photo of smcolw
3.55/5  rDev -6.3%
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.

Photo of ncvbc
3.9/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a deep golden color with a decent head and medium to lower carbonation. Smell is of sugary caramel malts and citrus hops. Taste is balanced with malts and a little hop bite. Mouthfeel seems good to me. Crisp and smooth at the same time. Medium. Drinkability is good as well. I like Anderson Valley's beers greatly. This one isn't necessarily the best that they have to offer but it's a good ESB.

Photo of Phyl21ca
3.9/5  rDev +2.9%
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.

Photo of EStreet20
3.98/5  rDev +5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 ounce bottle, shaker pint glass.

A - Very light golden color (near yellow) with two fingers of nearly white head.

S - A faint aroma overall. Some sugary malt smell.

T - Wow a much stronger flavor than I expected from the smell. Nice sweet malts coming through, some fruity tastes. Hops make a brief appearance and provide some balancing bitterness. Beer finishes clean. Alcohol is completely masked.

M - Fairly ligfht body. Just the right level of carbonation. A good feel for this flavorful ESB.

D - This beer feels like a session brew and has some nice malt flavors. Careful with its drinkability at 6.8 % ABV.

Notes: My first try of an Anderson Valley brew and a solid ESB with some great unexpected flavor characteristics. I'll definitely check out their other two brews that became available in my local store recently.

Photo of williamherbert
4/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Hazy light orange color. Light specks of carbonation floating up. Nice finger of frothy head. Looks really nice and refreshing. Some light lace.

Nice, balance biscuity malt smell with a sweet flowery hop accent as a nice balance. Both smells are apparent and balance well. Smell is (appropriately) bitter.

Sweet and flowery hops flavor, with an interesting nutty undertone in the dry malt taste. Very English-Ale, but more hoppy than a regular English IPA. Bitter/flowery aftertaste. Bitter malt is dry, not the normal German/Bavarian flavor.

Dry finish, but a "wet" drink. Very clean, no film. Overall, very dry, biscuity and balanced. Bitter/dry malt, sweet hops. Quite good. Really the defnition of what an ESB should be.

Photo of GratefulBeerGuy
3.35/5  rDev -11.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

AP: Semi-cloudy, yellow-hued copper color with medium carbonation that creates a one-finger bubbly and scattered white head that dissipates slowly and leaves a few clumps of lacing behind.

nose: mildly sweet, biscuity malt, hearty wheat and an herbal hop scent overall.

flavor: This is a hearty, semi-sweet, biscuity malt flavor with some subtle red berries-type effect and a VERY subtle herbal and spicey hop note.

Feel: Medium body, crisp and clean with a mild bite and a mild smoothness going down.

DA: This is not my favorite ESB, but it's not very hard to drink either.

Photo of ccrida
3.1/5  rDev -18.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Poured from a 22oz. bomber into a shaker glass, the Boont ESB is hazy burnt orange with a tall, rocky light khaki head, that took a while to subside to a thick skim leaving decent lace. Very nice!
The aroma is pretty grainy, like bread dough, moderately strong and really not that appealing. Maybe I didn't make the best choice of glassware, as this shaker is pretty wide-mouthed, but I really doubt thats it.
After the smell, the taste is a welcome suprise, with better flavor and more depth then I expected. While it's certainly heavy on the grains, nice and bready, there is also a nice balance of fruity esters, some piney flavoring hops and a firm bitter finish, hiding any trace of the ABV. Is this beer awesome? No, not even one of my favorite West Coast big ESBs...but it's certainly not bad, and is well crafted.
The mouthfeel is a bit oily, with moderate carbonation and body.
The is not the most drinkable ESB in my book. It's a bit heavy on the alcohol, even if it is totally hidden, and not so tasty that I just couldn't get enough. Although it's a smooth and easy drinker, the bittering hops build on the tongue, and could have used more aroma to balance them out. All and all, not bad, but not one I'll be buying again most likely.

Photo of wspscott
4.1/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle in pint glass

I am not sure if they were going for a traditional ESB, the bottle says "Extra Special Beer". This is not an English style ESB, it is more of an American Pale Ale. I'm not sure it is extra special but, it is special :)

Appearance: middle of the road pale ale, i.e. amber colored, not very dark
Smell: Not much in the way of smell, even as it warms in the glass.
Taste: Very well balanced between hops and malt, the alcohol (6.8%) does not come though at all.
Mouthfeel: Typical Pale Ale, I am aware of the beer but it is not cloying or thick
Drinkability: This beer is made for summer. At first I thought this is a great lawnmower beer, crisp, nicely hopped, perfect on a hot day. Then I saw the alcohol, 2 of these after mowing the lawn and I am not sure I would be awake for dinner. But, I could drink these by the six pack if I had no where to go :)

All in all, a very good beer

Photo of brentk56
3.43/5  rDev -9.5%
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

Photo of BeerTruth
4.22/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12 oz. bottle poured into a pint glass.

Appearance is a cloudy burnt orange with a generous khaki head. Lacing is quite sticking and remains well throughout tasting. Very clean scent, a little weak but has mild hop aroma with a buttery undertone. Taste was much different than expected. Hops appear powerful in smell, but weak in taste. Malt seems to overpower the flavor of this ESB with a fair hop bite to the aftertaste that remains well after swallow. Carbonation is quite mild throughout tasting. To me, this is a very drinkable ESB at 6.8%. Alcohol is present, but not overwhelming. Very smooth, enjoyable beer. My first brew from Anderson Valley, and I now look forward to trying more in their lineup.

Photo of plaztikjezuz
3.78/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

pours a brilliant copper color with a small off white head.
the aroma is malty, little munich, spicy, hop sack, hint of alcohol.
the flavor is malty, munich, some graininess, the hopsack is very present, grassy, spicy.
this is avery nice esb, i think i will buy it again.

Photo of wagenvolks
3.85/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12 oz. bottle into a tulip glass.

Pours the standard light copper/golden brewwith an off-white head. Transparent with the slightest amount of suspended yeast particles. Fantastic lacing. Smells how an ESB should: pungent piney hops, citrus, and some sticky icky green.

Taste is interesting, with subtle notes of eggplant, metallic hops, and wheat. A tough one to pin down. Mouthfeel is acidic and well-carbonated with an immensely bitter aftetaste (some may go so far as to call it especially "extra" bitter). Bottom line: I'll have this one again at some point in time, but I'm not enamorated with it. Give it a try, it won't disappoint.

Photo of MrMcGibblets
3.48/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

served from 12 oz bottle, appearance is almost like a hefeweizen, light straw and somewhat cloudy, bouqet is excellent, distinct aroma of fresh-baked biscuits, also some honey in the nose, i could smell this one all day, more complex than i can remember here, taste is similar to above, also buttery, some nice lingering sweetness but balanced well by enough hop acids, even though the hops are somewhat understated, not your usual in your face grapefruit/pine hops typical of american micros, body was perfect, mouthfeel smooth and drinkable for a higher alc beer, overall this is an excellent beer, a staple in the fridge.
update: less complex than i remember, buttery, bready malts in the aroma and taste with a gingery bitterness balancing out the light to moderate malt sweetness. simple but sessionable other than that i'd expect more from a beer of this abv.

Belk's ESB from Anderson Valley Brewing Company
86 out of 100 based on 526 ratings.