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Belk's ESB - Anderson Valley Brewing Company

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Belk's ESB
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very good

517 Ratings
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 517
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)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 517 | Reviews: 357 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of Stimack
3.68/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Gave this brew a try last evening. Poured to a clear golden color with orange highlights. Had a smallish off white head that had some retention but left a fair amount of lacing. The aromas of this brew seem to be buttery, sweet malt and a touch of alcohol. The taste seems to have very similar characteristics to the aromas, definite sweet malt tastes. Nice spicy hop taste that seems to help this brew out quite a bit. Also can really notice a strong alcohol taste as it finishes. Not my favorite brew but is pretty solid, not sure if I would get it again.

Stimack, Mar 23, 2005
Photo of oberon
4/5  rDev +5.5%
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.

oberon, Mar 10, 2005
Photo of crookedhalo
3.68/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours an orangy amber color with a rocky beige head. Butterscotchy malt profile with a moderate amount of hops in the aroma. Light floral fruitiness as well. Lots of caramel and crystal malts in the flavor with a transition towards a soft, fruitier, spicy hop finish with some citrus suggestions. Carbonation is average to above average, but good for its style. It's a bit big for its style, too, but pretty drinkable. Not my favorite, but not bad by any means.

crookedhalo, Mar 06, 2005
Photo of rastaman
3.35/5  rDev -11.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Bottle. Pretty tasty ESb. Firm mouthfeel, bready, citric, tangy, resiny hops. Failry english in style. An averagely drinkable, and well made ESB, slightly aromatic American style ale, but true to the style it is generally pretty English in taste, drinkable stuff in the end.

rastaman, Feb 21, 2005
Photo of GeoffRizzo
3.25/5  rDev -14.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Light orange in hue, some sediment lurking slowly; thin, yet bubbly white head. A spicy and hop based nose. A hop blast up front, delicate malt based body, a bit carbonated. Grainy notes with some alcohol offerings, finishes a bit dry, a pretty decent stab at the style, just nothin’ to write mama bout’.

GeoffRizzo, Feb 21, 2005
Photo of Southernbrew
4.22/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a nice copper-orange, nice big, soft head.

Aroma is all about the hops with just a hint of bitterness.

Medium bodied, lots of malt flavor comes first but then a nice bitter flavor comes through as does a bit of a floral flavor. Following the bitterness is the alcohol that does a bit of a warming job. Finishes with a bit of a grain flavor.

Heavy duty ESB, nearly as big as Rogue's Brutal Bitter but in a much different way.

Southernbrew, Feb 11, 2005
Photo of Naerhu
3.58/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Appearance: Beautiful copper semi-opaque body with tight 2 cm creamy head. Excellent lacing.
Aroma: Light spicy hops and creamy malt aroma.
Taste: Long firm bitterness, firm large breadcrust maltiness. Yeasty.
Mouthfeel: Bigbodied for esb, kinda tastes like an IPA
Drinkability: The harsh bitternes brings this beer down a notch and draws it out fo style.

Naerhu, Feb 06, 2005
Photo of twelvsies
4/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This one definately pushes the boundaries of an ESB. Pours a medium amber color with a creamy little head on top. Smells of hop oil and nutty malts, grassy at times and with a doughy bready hint in there. It's pretty malty on the palate although the bitter hops are definately there. Nutty flavor malt blends well with the floral and also citrussy hops. Also has that classic English ESB buttery toffee taste to it, which creates and interesting balance. The one thing I think is the most strange is that the %6.8 percent alcohol, not particularly high, seemed very noticable to me. I usually like that in a beer but it seemed a bit odd here. And believe me, I really like beers where you can taste a kick of alcohol. This really is a pretty big honkin ESB in my opinion. Definately unique and pushes the envelope of this traditional style. I like that in a beer. Go git some.

twelvsies, Jan 19, 2005
Photo of Bierguy5
4/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12 oz. bottle. Pours a cloudy, orange/amber color. Huge thick white fluffy head. The head on this lasted the entire beer, and left a great amount of lace. Slightly grainy nose, with notes of both citrusy hops, and piney hops. Taste has some biscuity maly, but the hops seem to take over quickly. Spicy, and slightly grapefruit like hop flavor, with a good amount of bitterness. Not the ESB I was expecting, but Anderson Valley seems to be all about the hops. Medium body, maybe a bit too carbonated. Overall, a very different ESB than what I was expecting, but it sure was pretty tasty. I didn't think it was as balanced as the label says, but no matter. This is a solid beer.

Bierguy5, Jan 17, 2005
Photo of GreatPondBrewer
3.73/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

The ESB poured a light, and completely clear copper color with a frothy, pinky thick head with a just a bit of lacing to complete the package. The nose was dry smelling with notes of grapes, butterscotch and english hops. The taste was sharp up front with some metallic hoppiness that faded slowly into a more traditional, buttery flavored English ESB. The mouthfeel was properly carbonated without being everly so. Good interpretation of an ESB.

GreatPondBrewer, Dec 19, 2004
Photo of Ego
4.72/5  rDev +24.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

I am an admitted ESB lover. this is a striking attempt by an american brew at an english favorite (fullers, adnams anyone?). The difference here is the hops and carbonation signature. Where a lot of ESBs may seem "flat" to a lot of people this one certainly is not. It has the classic ESB flavour but more bite on nose and pallate, more american I suppose. Excellent lace of head on the glass, smells like it tastes and yet after leaving it out for awhile smells like a clasic brit ESB. Beautiful color, amber/brown mixed hue, though very clear. This is an american take on an english standard. The english types tend to lack the bite this does.. so imagine your sierra nevada pale crashed a fullers party.. and you have this brew. If you leave it out to breathe (for 15 min at least) it settles more into a traditional ESB all around but still has a better hop signature than most ESBs. Hop lovers will love this out of the 12 oz typical bottle as is and immediate, ESB lovers/traditionalists should let it sit for a while in a snifter before imbibing to enjoy it fully. Recommended. (note this is a 6.8% brew... barely noticeable in the taste)

Ego, Nov 21, 2004
Photo of Backer2004
3.48/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

This is THE best looking beer I have ever seen since I began reviewing. The carbonation's like champagne, the bubbles flowed to the top of the glass for the twenty minutes that I slowly consumed. The head also stayed a perfect quater inch until it rested on the bottom of the glass. The smell had a wonderful aroma of fresh hops. After that, everything else could have improved. A little too bitter, even for an ESB. A little flat in term so fo mouthfeel and due to the time it took me to finish, I would have to say the drinkability was below average.

Backer2004, Oct 22, 2004
Photo of oracle
3.48/5  rDev -8.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Beer arrived a fairly deep amber, clear with moderate head with good retention and moderate lacing.

Smell was hoppy with moderate carmelized malts and a musty aroma.

Taste was all hops in the front and all earthy oak in the back. Long long long long long (did I mention it was long?) finish. Half an hour later I could still taste this beer.

Moderately good ESB.

oracle, Oct 12, 2004
Photo of ngandhi
4/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A pretty classic English pale ale for what it's worth. Great spicy hops with a floralness that's accented by some light sugar-in-the-raw sweetness from the malt. The yeast smells classically British -- neutral with some very mild but characteristic spice notes that also compliment the hops beautifully on the tongue.

I've noticed a lot of variance in ESBs -- from mild and ultra-malty to herbal and dry -- and so I'm yet again happy to not be a certified beer judge. And, if I am to fill this self-assigned "common man" role, I've got to accept when a beer is good.

Toffeed oranges that remind me of the one time I used Liberty and Goldings together in a homebrew. Luscious liquid body that thins when needed -- never cloying -- but asserts itself rightfully as something much deeper than some cheap, pale domestic malt.

There's a lot of import to this beer and I mean that in every possible linguistic sense. Light carbonation made up for by the perfect bitter sharpness to cut through what could easily have been very cloying malt. The hops by far end up dominating this brew; try as I might to give this credit as an ESB, it is not.

But that changes nothing about the pure pleasure of Belk's ESB. Certainly a pint of their best.

Relax, relax.

ngandhi, Sep 29, 2004
Photo of WesWes
4/5  rDev +5.5%
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.

WesWes, Sep 19, 2004
Photo of rkhaze
4.38/5  rDev +15.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a slightly hazy golden amber with a big, bubbly and creamy white head. Nice lacing.
Smells of sweet malt, light caramel/butterscotch, mild tropical fruit and a citrusy hop presence.
Taste is the same as the smell and has an excellent balance of flavors. Bittersweet, rich and tangy. Definitly a more muscular version of the style. Great beer.
Medium bodied with a full creamy mouthfeel and great carbonation.
Outstanding drinkability. The 6.8% alcohol is hidden real well.
Debatable if it's a true ESB, but an excellent beer nonetheless.

rkhaze, Aug 24, 2004
Photo of RoyalT
3.9/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance – This is a good-lookin’ ale. The body is a hazy orange and the head was big and puffy, showing exceptional retention and leaving some nice lacing all along the inside of my glass.

Smell – The aroma here is light. I can pick up some bitter grainy notes along with some grassy hops.

Taste – This is pretty damn good. There’s a funky grainy aftertaste that I could do without, but other than that this is a big ESB. The bitter, citrus hops are nicely mixed with a touch of pine and a good, smooth, malty backbone.

Mouthfeel – This one is medium-bodied with a nice, dry finish and some light carbonation that kept things interesting.

Drinkability – A pleasant surprise. I’ve avoided this one for a while because of the cheesy label (“Gold Medal Winner”) but this is a quality Americanized ESB.

RoyalT, Aug 11, 2004
Photo of JMoffatt
3.65/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

First time I have tried this beer and was impressed with the full flavor and aroma. I'm not a big ESB fan, but found this to be both hoppy and malty tasting without leaving an extremely bitter after taste.
I'm also not a big fan of high alcohol beer and do not homebrew my beers just for a "buzz".
This beer, however, is now on my list for something to try again and may change my mind about ESBs.

JMoffatt, Jul 28, 2004
Photo of beernbbq
4/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

My first time with this beer and it is quite enjoyable. Definitely an American ESB, because of its potency but wonderful British characteristics. Pours a clear reddish-brown with noticeable carbonation. I prefer little to no head on my ales these days, but there was nice lacing down the glass once I finished.

Smell is sweet and tart combo of malt and hop. Powerful enough to notice the many aromas but not overwhelming. Taste is pleasurable with a strong malt and floral hops coming through.

Overall, a nice experience and I easily slid into another. Will be a staple in my fridge.

beernbbq, Jul 23, 2004
Photo of BuckeyeNation
3.9/5  rDev +2.9%
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.

BuckeyeNation, Jul 05, 2004
Photo of Mitchster
3.65/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 2

Pours out to a cloudy light copper, forming a robust white head with excellent retention and lacing. Small bits of yeast flitter about, and yeast is left in the bottom of the bottle. Wonderful looking brew. Carbonation is mild to moderate. Aroma is fruity with notes of apples, pale malts, distant English hops, and sweet grain husk. Mouthfeel is soft and smooth with a medium body. Taste begins with a very mild English note of diacetyl, fading into some spicyness from English hops (without much hop flavor), obtrusive alcohol is noted in the middle, a nice pale malt body with some faint lingering cookie-like sweetness...there is a mild herbal bitterness, and in this case, herbal is not very good. The finish is semi-dry and there is a strong aluminum/rust/alcohol esters note lingering in the mouth for minutes after the last drink. Burps taste like lawn clippings.

I really though this brew had alot of promise...it looked great, it smelled good, the carbonation level was spot-on for the style, and then....the alcohol, metallic finish, and overwhelmingly herbal, albeit mild bitterness in the finish ruined it for me. This is a wierd brew. Still, I think ESB lovers would probably really get into this. In general, I don't like ESB's, but this is probably the best one I've had so far. Change the yeast, and they may have a winner.

Mitchster, May 23, 2004
Photo of mschofield
3.58/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours a slightly hazy orange-amber with a three finger rocky light tan head, leaves webs of lace very thick in places.
Spruce & perfum hop aroma with some buttered biscuit.
Taste brings on some malt to balance the hop, herbal, bread, spruce, butter, apple.
Light-medium body, oily bitterness.

mschofield, May 19, 2004
Photo of filabrazilia
4/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a hazy copper orange with a big khaki head that gives way to great lace.

Rich floral hops greet the nose and are joined by a faint malt presence.

Exceptionally bitter blast to the back ot the tongue is matched by a smooth malt balance. This reminds me more of an IPA than an ESB. Very complex and smooth.

This is a creamy beer that is richer and fuller than any other ESB I have tried. There is a sharp bitter finish in the mouth.

This is a very good beer that I could see myself drinking more often.

filabrazilia, May 11, 2004
Photo of HiroProtagonist
4/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Belk's ESB was served from a 22 oz. bottle, with a message under the cap: "call you mother, she misses you". In a pint glass, the beer was an attractive hazy orange-metallic copper hue, and was topped by an ample off-white head. The nose was vibrant and bright, presenting a nice array of resiny and tingly citric hop notes and an underlying warm maltiness. The taste was suprisingly robust, with a lightly tart toffee-ish malt body that opened up with citric hoppy bitterness, which increased significantly in intenisity as the maltiness decreased, ending up with a big and aromatic bitter finish that left lingering resinaceous hop notes. I felt a warming sensation in the tummy as a drank, which suprised me coming from an ESB. The body was very full and rich as well. I found this ESB to be very tasty and full in every regard...quite enjoyable.

HiroProtagonist, May 11, 2004
Photo of DESTRO
3.68/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

pours out a hazy deep copper/orange with a nice thick rocky head. lacing is somewhat sticky yet sparse. aromas of grapes (juice), tea, green olives, sweet malt and a light floral hoppiness. in the mouth it is at first dense and heavy but seems to lighten out a bit and goes down rather smooth. flavors of green apple skins and a sweet malt backbone dominate with a tart bitter hoppiness jabbing in and out. alcohol is evident and adds a bit of character versus making it hard to drink. overall a good beer, strong and flavorful.

DESTRO, May 03, 2004
Belk's ESB from Anderson Valley Brewing Company
85 out of 100 based on 517 ratings.