Dismiss Notice
Get 12 monthly issues of BeerAdvocate magazine and save $5 when you select "auto-renew."

Subscribe now →
Dismiss Notice
Join our email list →

And we'll send you the latest updates and offers from BeerAdvocate, because knowing is half the battle.

Fuller's ESB - Fuller Smith & Turner PLC

Not Rated.
Fuller's ESBFuller's ESB

Educational use only; do not reuse.

1,313 Reviews

(Read More)
Reviews: 1,313
Hads: 2,772
Avg: 4.06
pDev: 16.01%
Wants: 141
Gots: 304 | FT: 0
Brewed by:
Fuller Smith & Turner PLC
United Kingdom (England) | website

Style | ABV
Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB) | 5.90% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: kbub6f on 07-08-2001

No notes at this time.
View: Beers (37) | Events
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters | Read the Alström Bros Beer Reviews and Beer Ratings of Fuller's ESB Alström Bros
Reviews: 1,313 | Hads: 2,772
Photo of JamesMN
3.79/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Best before 3/12/15.

Appearance: Subdued caramel color with brilliant clarity. Some effervescence making its way from the bottom of the pint glass to the thin layer of off-white foam on top.

Aroma: Stone fruits and sweet apricot. Different than I was expecting.

Taste: It starts with a nice blend of lightly bready malt and smooth low end hop bitterness. The hop character comes out more with each sip and reveals sweet hearty fruit flavors, apricot, date, etc. The overall bitterness builds over time and reaches a moderate level, maybe like 35 IBUs. The finish is a little muted but transitions to an aftertaste in which the bitterness builds slowly and then fades along with the fruity hop character. A lot of flavor and never watery, which is impressive at 5.9% ABV.

Mouthfeel: Medium in body with a smooth feel but enough carbonation that it is never tepid. Good drinkability.

Final Thoughts: I had I expectations going in to this one based on Fuller's other offerings. My expectations were met by this ESB. With all the up-and-coming breweries these days it's nice to drink a beer with a history spanning several generations. Would I drink it again? Yes.

 1,165 characters

Photo of gutbucket2
3.25/5  rDev -20%

Bottle. A: amber, quickly subsiding head.
S: plums, raisins, caramel.
T: fruit and caramel, appropriate bitterness.
M: rather thin, plenty of fizz.
O: Could be improved by secondary fermentation in the bottle.

 210 characters

Photo of JTuomi
4.13/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

0,5 l bottle into a pint glass. Clear pale amber color, two finger white head that fades quickly, ample lacing. Smell is light and fresh, malt and caramel with a hint of nut.

Taste is light and crisp, fruity, malty and nutty with some caramel and toffee notes. Floral hops rise up in the end with a slight bitterness to balance the taste. Light body and mouthfeel, stingy medium carbonation, very drinkable.

Overall light but flavorful. I could easily have another after finishing the first one.

 497 characters

Photo of TimZebGir
4/5  rDev -1.5%

A: Pours a clear amber with very thick foamy head that dissipates quite slowly (3/3)
S: Fairly fruity nose with a little bit of alcohol in between roasted malt notes (9/12)
T: Sweet maltiness, almost like a fruity jam, with a bit of toffee and raisin (16/20)
M: Very bubbly and wet with a little bit of dryness on the finish (5/5)
O: A remarkably drinkable beer given how sweet it is. Surely a classic, but I think the hops could have played a slightly bigger role (maybe my subconscious desire for bitter to mean bitter). The after-taste is a treat that keeps on giving. (7/10)

 587 characters

Photo of The_Mad_Capper
4.53/5  rDev +11.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

There's lots of rich caramel in the aroma with a slight tartness akin to molasses or prunes. The crystal clear body is an orange-ish copper with an eggshell-white head. The flavor is primarily bitter and coppery with considerable caramel-like sweetness; the hop flavor is woody, resiny, spicy; some alcohol warming is present; there is a roasty, earthy finish from the malt. There is some alcohol dryness and a slight bite from the mineral texture and carbonation.

A very characterful and sophisticated beer, the aromas and flavors are consistent throughout and all-around satisfying. The structure of the flavor is largely well balanced.

 640 characters

Photo of barczar
3.94/5  rDev -3%

Pours a brilliant deep copper with a lingering frothy cream head. Floral and lightly fruity notes counter a light caramel malt backbone in the aroma. Very perfumey. Flavor echoes the aroma, with a toasted finish, which becomes bitter in the aftertaste.

 252 characters

Photo of bristol2120
3.25/5  rDev -20%

Was motivated to try this after tasting Beer Camp There and Back ESB in order to get a read on what a classic ESB should drink like. Hey, the label even says it's the ESB by which all others are judged.
Poured from an 11.2 oz bottle with best by date of 4/17/15. Nice offwhite head eventually settles down leaving a decent amount of lacing. The beer itself is a very nice deep orange copper. Nose is slightly less prominent than expected. What is there is pleasant enough with malt and hops detectable in equal measure.
Taste has a slight hoppy spiciness to it along with a solid malt foundation. On the negative side, there is also a steady presence of what I can only describe as a "wet dog" character lurking in the background that really takes away from the rest of this beer. I don't have a great deal of experience with this style so I am not sure whether this is a typical trait. Mouthfeel is very smooth with a nice level of carbonation.
Overall, this is a really solid effort that sadly is marred by those odd notes in the taste.

 1,040 characters

Photo of MNAle
4.4/5  rDev +8.4%

Amber color. Pleasing malty aroma. Light carbonation. Slight hop bitterness is present, but this is dominated by the slightly sweet malts. Excellent body. Wonderful bitter, even considering this was the USA import version rather than the cask version. Very nice malty finish with some hops presence. Interesting fact: English Bitter, despite the name, is not particularly bitter. All of the American bitters I have tasted thus far are too hoppy to be a true English-style bitter.

 480 characters

Photo of SHODriver
4.25/5  rDev +4.7%

A: poured into a nonic pint to a clear golden copper hue with a small white head that fades quickly
S: smells of fruity esters, caramel and some juicy hops
T: taste is caramel malts, fruity esters, and some slightly floral hops. swallow is a nice lingering floral bitterness with a little more caramel malts
M: this beer sits at the lighter side of medium on the palate with soft carbonation and a refreshing finish
O: very well made and this beer has no apparent faults. very drinkable and a great example of the style.

 530 characters

Photo of Act25
3.4/5  rDev -16.3%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Other reviewers mostly seem asleep at the wheel on this one, which is supposed to be the ESB standard. It's mid-pack and the ESB style is not my bag anyway. Here goes....

A: Nice color, clear amber like SN Torpedo, but lacking in head, lace, energy, head retention.
S: Lacking also - perhaps my bottle is flagged. Nice balance of 80% caramel malt, English pub style, and 20% hops.
T: Follows smell and there's more of it. But it's basic old ale / strong ale malt but weaker and more tea like, with a weak bitter finish. Flattish flavor arc and feel.
MF: Thin, flattish.

Always ready to try another ESB, but I dont find them particularly bitter or interesting, and I'd move in direction of old ale or strong ale as a preference.

 732 characters

Photo of Svart
4.23/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Served from bottle in a tulip glass. The foam is thick and it looks golden yellow/amber. The smell is very fruity with hints of blackberries, cranberries and a bit of malt. The sip stick to your tongue and has some delightful bitterness, it's has a nice full body and it simple taste a lot of berries, malt and hops in a great combination. I think this ale s one of the best I had in a long time

 395 characters

Photo of BTodd
3.93/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

11.2 oz. bottle poured into nonic pint glass.

A-orange to cherry in color, pouring lively with 1-2 fingers of suds gathering on top and dissipating to a thinner layer of foam in the first 30-60 seconds. Crystal clear with fine bubbles climbing up for minutes after pour.

S-malty for sure, carmel and some spicy, earthiness.

T-classic English maltiness, spicy, with hints of vanilla.

M-low carbonation, finishes pretty clean, lighter than you'd expect.

O-First time having this and it's really pretty good. Whenever I make it to England I'll be comfortable knowing that it's there to catch me.

 598 characters

Photo of seedyone
4.22/5  rDev +3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

March 2014 From bottle at Rattle n Hum, NYC. Beautiful copper clarity sustains a substantial head of sparsely lacing foam. Balance of bitter & sweet keep this on my list of favs.

05/26/12 On tap At Beer Authority , NYC. IMO this is as bitter as I like my beers to be. On tap it's nice & polite. No need to slap me across the face to get my attention, I can be impressed with subtlety and this one did just that.

 412 characters

Photo of Mikus
2.91/5  rDev -28.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Wanted to try this for awhile, as I was thinking of brewing an ESB in the near future. Now I am on the fence again. Poured from a 11.2oz bottle into my tulip glass. Nice appearance with a clear amber body and small, whitish head which left some nice lacing in the glass. Just a bit of hop bitterness (kind of generic hop bitterness) on the nose. It also had a bit of the wet cardboard funk on the nose as well... glad it didn't show up in the taste. They definitely hit the bitterness just right (I like bitter), and the overall taste was just a bit grassy and light. Nice, light, easy-drinking mouthfeel. Quite refreshing to the palate on a hot afternoon. Bit lacking in flavor overall, though I am not sure if this is the style or the Fuller'. From my understanding ESB should be a little lighter and straightforward... what can I say, I am a big IPA fan! This was an ok beer. Probably a nice beer to offer to someone who is not a craft drinker who wants to try something a little different from their everyday BMC beers.

 1,023 characters

Photo of SitkaSteve
4/5  rDev -1.5%

I had this in an American sized pint glass (yes, I know not a true 16 oz like the English) but hey still the same shape).
The appearance was a hazy burnt orange to brown color with a one finger white foamy head that died within about a minute leaving some light lacing here and there sticking nicely to the glass.
The smell had a real deep sweet earthy English maltiness with fairly decent nutty notes.
The taste was mainly the same and it leaves a deep fullness on my tongue which leads to a fairly simple yet smooth fulfilling quality running about my tongue and mouth.
Overall, in my opinion, this sets the standard for ESB's. Of course, I would have this again.

 669 characters

Photo of Modernrickk
3.97/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This is a tasty brew that goes down easy. Has beautiful sunburst color that reminds me of a Gibson Les Paul. Hoppy aroma balanced by a soft caramel smell, soo good. Taste is of malty goodness along with grassy hops. Full of flavors for it's medium body. Low in carbonation but manages to keep a very thin head on top. Overall this brew rocks! I can see myself coming home from a long day of work and having one or two of these pint bottles in a nonic. Definately will be buying this again. Excellent!

 500 characters

Photo of LagerCognoscenti
3.75/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Appearance is amber with an ok thin head and good lacing.

The aroma is of mild English hops and malts. Quite inviting.

The taste is, again, mild English hops and malt with marmalade and honey notes and a bitter but mild finish.

Mouthfeel is medium.

Overall this is a good, well balanced English bitter. It is not spectacular but certainly enjoyable.

My mark out of 100 is 79.

 380 characters

Photo of jsausley
3.85/5  rDev -5.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Poured from a bottle into a Boulevard Brewing Co., Kansas City, MO, pint glass.

A: A rich red-orange amber, translucent. Some carbonation and a nice head. Head quickly fades, leaving no lacing. Very little retaining of the head on the beer's surface. Looks yummy but not rich and full bodied.

S: A wonderful aroma of rich roasted malts with quite a bit of caramel notes, a hint of coffee and a large dollop of honey. Crisp and clean but not sweet.

T: Extremely malty, significant hop bite (it is a bitter!). Somewhat sweet but cleanly so, not overpowering. Lots of molasses, caramel, coffee, nuts and strong roasted malts. A bit of ester perfumey nose once the beer has warmed which makes the beer seem more alcoholic than it should be. I'm not a fan of the perfumey flavor that comes later, so points off from me on that.. Very flavorful and delicious, but best when cold - contrary to the British serving tradition of an ale. I'd order it again.

M: Smooth, clean, crisp hops and low carbonation. Feels good all the way around, cold and warm, but thick enough to be enjoyed slowly..

O: A good beer, worthy of somewhere between a 3.75 and 4.00 on my list. Nothing mind-blowing but if I were in England and saw this guy on draft, I'd definitely want to give it a shot (I feel that some quality may have been lost in bottling and importing).

 1,346 characters

Photo of delta490
4.12/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Poured a clear brown with a short-lived white head. The head lingers on, though, and leaves nice soapy lacing. The aroma is light with malt tones and fruit. The taste, though, is more developed and has a nice interplay of malt (bready and fruity) with a subtle earthiness. The body has a nice full feeling to it and a nice crisp finish from the hops. All in all, a great pint of bitter and example of an ESB. Highly recommended on cask, if you can find it.

 456 characters

Photo of Fatehunter
3.3/5  rDev -18.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Pours a thin head on a clear dark straw colored body.
The aroma is a faint dry malty smell. Nice.
The taste is quite sweet with a chewy texture, some mild bitterness but sweet overall.
The body is heavy with low carbonation.
It's a on the sweet side for me, but not a bad ale.

 276 characters

Photo of Alieniloquium
3.93/5  rDev -3.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

500 mL bottle poured into a straight-sided glass.

Appearance - Deep golden amber body. Nice pillowy head. Great lacing and retention.

Smell - Light grapefruit. Very malty. Caramel.

Taste - Fruity up front. Grapefruit hops. Lots of caramel malt. Fruity and lightly sweet. Bitter hop bite in the back.

Mouthfeel - Easy to drink. Medium body. Well carbonated.

Overall - Solid and flavorful.

 392 characters

Photo of Zach136
4.18/5  rDev +3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

A - Crystal clear, amber-orange body. Off white head OK lacing.

S - Caramel biscuit malt sweetness over light floral hop character.

T - Similar to the nose but much more vibrant. Bitterness is fairly well perceived but not overly astringent.

M - Light bodied, lightly carbonated and highly drinkable.

O - Another archetype from Fuller's. A near perfect pub beer.

 367 characters

Photo of HattedClassic
4.1/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The beer pours some light creamy light tan head that dissipates very quickly. The beer itself is a dark copper brown that is clear. The beer leaves very little, if any, lacing. The beer has a deep luxurious caramel smell with some light hop pine backbone to take the edge off a little and vanilla notes to mix things up. The taste is similar to the smell but with a weaker vanilla profile and stronger hop profile. The hop is bitter and the caramel malt dulls the hops a bit. Low carbonation with a creamy finish. Overall, a great bitter and worth getting again. Very few bitters compare to this one.

 600 characters

Photo of Kuaff
4.36/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Cellar temperature, and in an imperial pint glass, naturally.

A golden-orange amber sort of color here, totally clear, with a one-finger white head that goes away fast.

Its aroma is a light, but very nice one, of caramel, orange, lemon zest, and maybe a dash of vanilla.

The flavor has a real nice little initial citrus bite, with a bit of the caramel coming through in the middle. It finishes outstandingly with a long-lingering bready biscuit aftertaste accompanied by a really clean and crisp, bitter hoppiness. Some of that caramel malt hangs around, too.

I'd have to agree with the label that the ale is full-bodied for sure. It really asserts itself on my palate and stays there, despite the fact that it's somewhat light compared to the imperial insanity being brewed these days.

It's just a ridiculously flavorful and satisfying ale. I can see why it's stuck around as a classic.

 892 characters

Photo of slusk
3.98/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

A: Pours a crystal clear copper with a short light tan head. Head fades to a thin coating that hangs around. a little lacing

S: Bold malty, spicy aroma of candied orange with a mild floral/woody presence. Hops are very subdued.

T: Bright notes of orange and caramel with a bit of ginger and English tea supported by a sweet bread undertone. The hops seem to exist almost completely in the bitterness but come through as a bit of a woody note. Semi-dry finish.

M: Low carbonation with a medium light body and a slightly creamy finish.

O: Wow. This is how an English bitter is supposed to taste. The malt profile is bright and distinct with a well balanced bitterness that tingles the back of the tongue as it finishes. The complexity of this beer allows you to pick out the different ingredients which present themselves in a layered fashion. The low carbonation that is the hallmark of English ales allows you to pick up the complex flavors easily. This is indeed a perfect example of an English session ale. I can and do drink a lot of this beer,

 1,052 characters

Fuller's ESB from Fuller Smith & Turner PLC
91 out of 100 based on 1,313 ratings.