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Fuller's ESB | Fuller Smith & Turner PLC

1,325 Reviews
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Fuller's ESBFuller's ESB

Brewed by:
Fuller Smith & Turner PLC
United Kingdom (England) | website

Style: Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB)

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.90%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by kbub6f on 07-08-2001

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Reviews: 1,325 | Ratings: 2,824
Photo of johnrobe
3.97/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Medium orange/amber in color with an off-white head leaving a trail of lace. Loads of dark (slightly over-cooked) caramel malt in the nose with pleasant floral hops and some butter. Buttery caramel dominates the flavor (the buttery notes show up more and more as the brew warms up). Floral and tea-like hops balance out the maltiness very well and build on the finish. Nice medium-bodied ale, I could easily drink a few but it's a bit heavy for a session brew.

In all fairness I should add that my sample was way beyond its "best before" date (by about 6 months) and it still kicked @ss. I imagine that a fresher brew would push my review over 4.

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Photo of ElGordo
4.4/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a light amber with a white, foamy head. Aroma of light malt, honey, oak. Wonderful sweet taste - sweet malt, treacle, toffee, and light hop bitterness. Superb mouthfeel - creamy, full-bodied, and all-around amazing. Malt flavor lingers on the palate. The standard for ESBs.

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Photo of brewdlyhooked13
3.46/5  rDev -14.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Appearance - pours with the standard amber-orangish color. Off-white head, a full finger in depth, receding and leaving thick lacing behind.

Aroma - a fairly rough pour yielded a toasty, bready initial vapor, very malty. Reduces to a trace of that, but respectable.

Taste - very malty and toasty, even coffee-like. Tasty stuff. Turns very pleasantly bitter, keeping balance with the malt. Bready notes throughout. Finishes with some toasty, biscuity and hoppy elements and a touch of soapiness as well.

Mouthfeel - a little heavier than average, enhancing this beer's appeal. Decent carbonation, no complaints.

Drinkability - nothing wrong with this beer, but the taste isn't my all-time favorite. I'd pick it over a number of macro brews for a tasty session, though.

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Photo of BeefyMee
3.7/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

12oz bottle

Appearance: Dark amber. Head didn't shape up totally.

Smell: Mostly malt. No hops.

Taste: Big malt all around. Hardly any hop flavor. Some alcohol once in a while.

Mouthfeel: Room for improvement here. A little too thin and bubbly.

Drinkability: I could make a pretty good session out of these.

Beef Notes: I certainly know what to get next time I need a malt fix. I'll probably get this again at some point but I'm in no rush.

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Photo of TerryW
3.73/5  rDev -8.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Clear coppery amber colour. Moderate head that dissapates straight away and doesn't leave any lace. Good colour, but little else.

Aroma is slightly hoppy. Note much of a nose to this one.

Sweet up front from malt. Nice dry hop bitterness that lingers. Bit of an alcohol bite. Nicely balanced and a pleasure to drink.

Worth trying.

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Photo of HardTarget
3.93/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Brown embossed 12 oz. bottle, made in England, with a best before 13/APR/04 sampled 5/FEB/04
Aroma: Biscuit malt base with some hoppy notes. The alcohol really came out as it warmed.
Appearance: Very clear orange amber with a vanilla colored head of multi-sized bubbles that laced like grandma.
Flavor: A very mild overall taste. Subtle. Faint hints of orange and spices, but the malt taste or sweetness was slow to come out. Hops come on strong at the end and leave a lasting bitter, but not overdone, just present. This is a classic British understatement in a beer.
Mouthfeel: Light-medium body with a clean mouthfeel. The beer doesn’t coat, but leaves a crisp aftertaste. It has a nice easygoing texture.
Overall Impression: A tough one to review. I found it to be mild, but enjoyable. Even the bitter is hard to place. Obviously hops, but I’m unable to classify the variety. Character really changed as it warmed. Oddly, I think I enjoyed it more when it was colder. Not a bad beer, but I feel like I’ve “been there done that” now, don’t really need another, although the mild taste does lend itself to being a session beer. If you see it, give it a try, if you don’t, oh well, you’ll live.

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Photo of hollicetales
2.93/5  rDev -27.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

poured a sipid coopery yellow, perhaps i drank the last bit before the keg was kicked for the other review hold this alot better than i do. was very thin and no head....had beautiful color, not much of an aroma....very weak bodied and thin....it did have a decent bite and the after taste was much better than the inital though slightly metallic...nice and bitter.

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Photo of Zorro
3.79/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a clear copper color with abundant carbonation.

Smells malty and clean, doesn't really have all that much aroma.

Tastes of malt and grain has a slightly sweet taste. The bitterness is there in the finish, just about the correct amount, it gets your attention without being a hop monster.

Mouthfeel is good, not a real thick ale.

Very drinkable.

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Photo of smcolw
3.39/5  rDev -16.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Appearance-- Clear, deep bronze with a cream colored head. A continual stream of champagne-like bubbles cascade upward from the bottom of the glass.

Smell-- Very strong caramel aroma; a slight estery aroma is also present. Surprisingly little hop aroma.

Taste-- Strong malt up front with a weak hop flavor in the end. Comes across much more like a mild than a ESB. The aftertaste has a more pronounced hop (flowery) bitterness.

Mouthfeel-- a rich beer with a full body, very "round" ale feel

Drinkability-- This is neither extra special nor overly bitter. Despite being slightly off style, this is a pleasant beer that is easily consumed.

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Photo of WesWes
3.87/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

The beer pours a dark amber color with a thin white lace head. The aroma is good. It boasts of pale and crystal malts and a creamy bitter finish. The taste is decent. It is malty just like the aroma, but the flavor is quite bitter. It has a decent hop flavor and a dry finish. The mouthfeel is good. It is a medium low/medium bodied beer with low/adequate carbonation. This is an above average ESB. It ranks with the best of them; a good sessions ale.

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Photo of BCMan
3.72/5  rDev -8.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

I think my expectations for this beer were really because Fuller's is one of those names that you always her or see. I know very few people that choose it on a menu which I think is a bit strange. This beer poured amber in color and looked basically as I would expect. The nose was rather disappointment because it reminded me a little too much of vinager. Blah! Taste was no surprise either, it was bitter. Overall I enjoyed this beer but am sad to say that I would probably would not choose it from an extensive menu. I believe this beer was chosen for my beer club for the sole purpose of selecting what was thought to be the standard for ESBs.

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Photo of Ieatlambfries
4.33/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I can't believe I waited this long to try this bitter. I've known about it forever. My mistake, because it's great. The appearance is a beautiful copper color with a medium to smallish head. The smell is hoppy, indicative of the taste. The taste is quite hoppy, yet nicely balanced with the malt. I tend to enjoy the more bitter hop filled offerings and this bitter did not disappoint. Mouthfeel was excellent, medium bodied I would say. Very drinkable. In fact I would love to session with this beer. Truly worthy of it's reputation as a classic and a standard.

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Photo of GreenWBush
4/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The English just don't realize how good they have it - Young's, Samuel Smith's, Fuller's - some of the finest.

The ESB is clearly a gold standard by which to measure most quality ales. I remember trying this for the first time years ago and being absolutely shocked by the bitterness. Those days of bitterness super-sensitivity are obviously long past, but this beer is still the Cadillac of its class.

I took my reddish gold nectar from the Victorian pint bottle. I was amazed that this beer's fresh hop aroma survived its long journey.

The taste of the beer is simple and complex all at once. On one hand, you have a beer that is has a freshly baked bread flavor. On the other, the hops are almost overshadowed by malts that are less sweet than they are rich.

Fuller's ESB isn't necessarily super bitter, but its hop bite can clearly be felt all over the tongue. Remember we are talking about UK-style hoppiness, which is a well-rounded flavor instead of a sensation (bitterness).

It is easy to be underwhelmed by this beer. In fact, you can drink one and almost feel like you could've spent your money better elsewhere. But remember, this is a classic. Fads come and go, but after people's tastes evolve towards or away from mega-hopped beer, Fuller's ESB will be available in the most backwood liquor merchant.

I just miss the almost better-than-water cask-conditioned flavor.

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Photo of rajendra82
4.16/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Crystal clear coppery red appearance with a creamy off white head. Effervescent character and lively carbonation lends this beer a slightly rough mouthfeel. Aroma screams of roasted malt goodness and English hops. Tastes dominated by malt with hints of chewy caramel, buttery toffee, lightly roasted nuts, and faint smoked wood. Medium mouthfeel drying on the palette. Understated and graceful hoppyness. Very drinkable beer that embodies quiet elegance and charm.

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Photo of diablo14
4.3/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

one of the worlds best, and the godfather of ESB's. as well, its still the best going around in its class. sets a standard that has never wavered, this brew rightly deserves its reputation as top of the pile.

deep amber color with a thick creamy head and solid bubbles happening. big time malts on the nose with a lovely fruity element and hoppy floral tones. bold malty taste, caramel factors, some zesty dried fruit blasts. full but magnificently balanced and the finish is what really shows where its at. you will not get a better finish on a bitter than you will with this. its firm, slightly dry, but totally complimentary to the rest of the beer. the level of hops in this beer is nothing short of outstanding. a sensation all the way, from the moment it first touches your lips to the second its hitting the bottom.

the muhammad ali of ESB's. without doubt 'the greatest'. nothing more needs be said.

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Photo of CRJMellor
3.85/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a copper-reddish color. Large foam head settles down leaving lots of foamy lace down the side of the pint.
Aroma is sweet malt and carmel with some fruity notes as well. As the beer warms, fruity notes become very prevalent.
Flavor starts with a medium sweet malt and a toffee hint and finishes with some definite bitterness. As the beer warms some dark fruity flavors come through.
Mouthfeel starts moderately sweet but then moves to a gritty, metallic heavy bittering, whihc is not unpleasant
Drinkability - definitely sessionable and has ben done many a time.

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Photo of GuinnessSmurf
4.2/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I have had Fuller's ESB many times on tap before I moved and was glad to find an establishment that offered it in bottle. A bit about the beer:
If you are looking for a bitter beer with minimum fruitiness, this is the way to go. Pours with a beautiful head of tiny to large bubbles. Lacing is appropriate. The taste begins with a mild bitter in the front of the mouth and grows into a warm, rich bitter flavor surrounding the inside of the mouth. Aftertaste is appropriate, but in my case, was usually drowned out by drinking another sip.
This beer is the perfect accompaniment to a spicy meal, particularly well paired with a cup of coffee (brings out the bitterness), and adds a nice contrast to fruity desserts (like pies, tarts, and cobblers).

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Photo of Gasp100
4.2/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a beautiful dark copper, very clear with an off white small head that does not linger. This left a light lacing down the sides of the glass. The smell was malty and sweet, biscuits with a slightly floral aroma. The taste was sweet with a nice bitterness in the finish. This brew was much more crisp and bright than I had imagined. There was a little bit of hops in the end that lingered on. I found this extremely drinkable, and worth the wait to find it in a "sampler" variety --- I only wish I had more than 2. Next time, a case... I am really getting into ESB's and this is the cream of the crop.

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Photo of Naerhu
4.26/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This is quite an exceptional warm flat beer. Rock beautiful head, riotous lace amber body. Redefines smooth.

By far the most complex English beer I have ever had. I jungle of toffee and hops. Tangerine some where in here hiding under the with sweet flavors on a dry beer that ended in an rash but lingering hoppyness. Medium body.

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Photo of merlin48
4.68/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

12 oz brown bottle with "best before 07/June/04". Pours a pristine clear coppery amber with an attractive beige head. Nose is molasses and caramel. Mouthfell is medium bodied and satin. This brew is divine in the mouth. Taste seems a balance of English malts, fruitcake, and a hint of smokiness. Dry bitter finish lets you know there are some hops in the mix. This style is a favorite of mine and this one hits the mark of near perfection. Extraordinary ale!

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Photo of crookedhalo
3.98/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Golden copper color with a beige head that leaves a fair amount of lacing. Caramel malt aromas mixed with a faint diacetyl, buttery nose. Floral Fuggle aroma. Taste is predominantly malty and butterscotchy, but finished with a mild twang of hops. Very well balanced. Clean tasting and wickedly smooth. Velvety to the tongue. Highly drinkable in respect to it's intricate balance.

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Photo of grynder33
4.33/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Blew out of my bottle , but still had a small head, amber brown color. Had a really nice malty grainy aroma. Wonderful malt hop balance in the taste, coupled with a lovely carmel honey sweetness which stayed right to the end. i always thought other Fuller products were overrated but not this one.Could be my favorite non-stout brew.

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Photo of kbub6f
4.1/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

The clear, coppery dark beer sports a yellowy, coarse, bubbly head. Lotsa spotsa lacing. Sweet toffee nose: biscuits, vanilla, tangy. Caramel in the front; fruity, slightly sour, thick middle. Bitter finish with a slight sugary taste. Fruit (sweet apples?) in the finish. Nice grains. This is a nice, sweet, fruity beer with a solid bitter, grainsy finish. Hugely drinkable.

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Photo of marcobrau
3.41/5  rDev -16%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4

A red ale with a bit of toasted malt in the aroma. This ESB starts sweet and ends bitter. As this beer warms up I can pick out a bit of fruitiness and some buttery notes. The fruitiness is mostly up front, with the hops asserting themselves more as it goes on, leading towards a nicely bitter finish, but nothing too powerful. I seem to remember this being a bit fuller bodied in previous tastings and with a bit more complexity. I would like this beer to be bottle conditioned, but it is not, and pours very bright and clear without any yeast.

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Photo of OldFrothingSlosh
4.15/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap at Capital Ale House.

Deep copper in color. Off-white head coats the glass in distinct rings. Aromas are of toffee, caramel, fruits. Very well-balanced hop flavor. I expected a much more bitter flavor, but was pleasantly surprised by how tasty this beer was. Right before the lingering hop bitterness is a hefty dose of caramel sweetness. Aftertaste is all hops, bitter, earthen, grassy. Mouthfeel is very "large" and really infiltrates the palate. Very, very drinkable. I can't believe I've waited this long to try this beer. Thankfully, it's available on tap and in bottles here in town. Very well-done.

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Fuller's ESB from Fuller Smith & Turner PLC
91 out of 100 based on 1,325 ratings.