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ESB Special Ale - Ska Brewing Co.

ESB Special AleESB Special Ale

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

308 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 308
Reviews: 173
rAvg: 3.56
pDev: 14.33%

Brewed by:
Ska Brewing Co. visit their website
Colorado, United States

Style | ABV
Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB) |  5.70% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes/Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

(Beer added by: Bitterbill on 10-26-2003)
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Ratings: 308 | Reviews: 173 | Show All Ratings:
Photo of DenverHopHead


3.44/5  rDev -3.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.75

Poured from a can with a best by date of 7/12/14; into a tumbler.
Appearance - a sunset orange with no noticeable carbonation; a medium, foamy off-white head that leaves sticky rings of lacing.
Smell - sweet malts, a shadow of an earthy hop nose.
Taste - some bitterness from the hops up front, but pushed back by sweeter malts.
Feel - light body, with the bitterness from the hops becoming more prominent with each sip.
Overall - not my preferred style, but I like it enough and dig the fact that it is available in both bottles and cans!

Serving type: can

03-31-2014 20:37:30 | More by DenverHopHead
Photo of ZoomanCru


2.41/5  rDev -32.3%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 2 | overall: 2.25

App: Pours a typical amber orange with a thin head that dissipates quickly leaving good lacing. Retention is for the birds, almost completely gone in less than a minute. Some flakes floating around. Not a good a sign, but could be a natural result of can conditioning. Well within BB date.

Smell: Light toasted smell, with a slight cheesey characteristic. Some odd fruit notes like pinapple.

Taste: Mildly sweet and bitter simultaneously with a fair amount of diacetyl butteriness. Tastes a little raw, as though it wasn't fermented long enough before canning. A little astringent, metalic and off tasting on the back end.

Mouth: Thin and a little under carbonated. Swallows dry, but leaves a lingering astringency on the tongue.

Serving type: can

12-16-2013 01:13:30 | More by ZoomanCru
Photo of beergoot


3.69/5  rDev +3.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Solid honey-colored pour; sticky, white head with lacing down the glass. Light, sweet aroma, slightly spicy, slightly fruity. Nicely balanced malt and hop flavor character, closely following what the aroma hints at. Smooth, medium-bodied; clean and dry finish.

A well-balanced, very drinkable beer. Malts and hops mingle well together and offer a delightful, well-rounded beer for those looking for a fuller bodied ale.

Serving type: can

09-22-2013 22:34:12 | More by beergoot
Photo of Stinkypuss


3.74/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Pours a light copper color with a white cap. Aroma of stewed hops, mineral and wet dog. In the taste, toffee, herbal hops, butterscotch. Mild but persuasive bitterness adds a good character to the taste. Medium to light bodied, medium carbonation with good retention. Overall, this is a nice little esb, that actually packs more of a punch than most.

Serving type: can

09-13-2013 22:27:13 | More by Stinkypuss
Photo of tjsdomer2


4.19/5  rDev +17.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.25

Appearance: Excellent white foam disippates into excellent white lacing on top of the beer. Beer is copper like all good ESBs.

Smell: Fruity molasses and caramel. Very syrupy. Heavy notes of vanilla.

Taste/Mouthfeel: Brown sugar in the head. Some raisins and other dried fruit in the background. Finishes with a spicy sizzle of black pepper. Feels a bit flat, but has enough body.

Overall Drinkability: I didn't expect a whole lot out of this, since ESBs normally don't wow me, but I would drink a few of these with no problem.

Serving type: can

06-23-2013 23:34:47 | More by tjsdomer2
Photo of gleemonger


4.58/5  rDev +28.7%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Crystal clear organge yellow color with a super effervescent look and a large creamy white head that dissapates quickly, but leaves a small cap of head throughtout and some good lacing.

Grainy and sweet malts, with not much of a hop aroma. Very English from first impression, as it should be with this one. Light and refreshing smelling.

Like the aroma, very light biscuity and grainy malt taste, not as sweet as I thought it would be. Just a touch of some good citrusy malts to balance it out. Very nice for the style.

Light body with moderately heavy carbonation. Very refreshing and makes me want to sit out by the pool with a six pack of these for sure. Very creamy, which is a nice bonus.

I've come to really love this brewery and this was no disappointment at all, given the subdued nature of this style. They totally pulled it off as far as I'm concerned - it tastes very refreshing and very British from start to finish. I could easily drink this one all day given the desire. I don't understand the low marks on this one, frankly, unless people were just expecting something other than an ESB.

Serving type: can

06-13-2013 19:59:12 | More by gleemonger
Photo of denver10


3.65/5  rDev +2.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Pours an orange golden with a nice foamy cream colored head and decent lacing. Aroma is floral, doughy, caramel, light toffee,a little lemon and a kiss of some grassy hops. Flavor is bready and caramel along with some mildly bitter grassiness and maybe a littler herbal. A crisp, somewhat creamy, medium bodied. Overall, surprised I hadn't rated this prior but at least finally getting around to it. Definitely a solid brew by Ska one of my favorite of their regular offerings.

Serving type: can

06-01-2013 23:58:48 | More by denver10
Photo of BarryMFBurton


3.71/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Craft in a can: the unskunkable beer. Unfortunately, there’s no birthdate on this beer, so I’m still not sure this one is in perfect condition; at any rate, it’s good to see a can of Ska in Indiana.

A: Crystal clear golden-orange, kissed by the light no matter the angle. A rush of fizz produces a meager head of tan bubbles, which disappears almost entirely in a matter of seconds; globs of lacing all the way around.

S: Sweet malts give off a candy-like aroma; with notes of caramel, candy corn, butterscotch, and the unmistakable toffee aroma of Maris Otter all acting in harmonious intensity, there’s no denying that this is a malty, malty beer. Complementing the heavier syrup flavors are some hops: cherry and lemon-lime, adding to the candy character.

T: A strong base of toasted malt, oak, and butter-brown sugar, all reminiscent of autumn food and drink – a distinction cemented by allspice and toffee flavors. This palate is unapologetically malt-forward, relishing in the thick sweetness of such a low alcohol beer. After a fading transition of crisp cereal grain and biting vanilla liqueur, a dry spell comes on, with hops tasting of astringent black tea and catty lemon peel. Finishes in that subtly dry state, but with an air of burnt toast aftertaste.

M: Considering the ABV and the packaging, this has a relatively full texture. While it’s by no means as creamy as a many ESBs, it’s certainly not watery. Low carbonation.

O: An enjoyable can of English-style ale, packing a ton of flavor into just 12 oz. of low-alcohol product. If getting a six-pack didn’t involve crossing state lines, I’d have no qualms about buying a good bit of this.

Serving type: can

05-13-2013 21:05:25 | More by BarryMFBurton
Photo of StaveHooks


3.5/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.75

12oz can served in a Sam Adams perfect pint

A - Pours a clear amber body with fleeting head.

S - Grainy biscuit, cereal malt, red wheat, clean bread, slightly toasted.

T - Follows the nose with cereal grains, lightly toasted caramel, moderate citrus hops wrap around providing a solid bitterness. The grainy malt holds strong against the semi-aggresive hops. Some floral hops and vanilla come out when warmed up. Finishes dry.

M - Creamy carbonation, grainy, wet the dry on the finish. Light to medium body.

A solid all around ESB. Hops are more pronounced than it's English counterparts. The citrus plays off the malt well and makes for a hopped up bready ESB.

Serving type: can

04-07-2013 03:57:37 | More by StaveHooks
Photo of facundoCNB

New Jersey

3.54/5  rDev -0.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

a clean copper pour with a finger of bright white head which left behind some nice lacing and a nice white foamy ring around the rim of the glass. the smell is of malt mostly, tea leaves, slight bitterness reminiscent of grapefruit peel. the flavor, again is mostly malt, not getting much of the bitterness until the aftertaste, but it isn't of grapefruits this time around it is subtle and almost grassy herbal like from the hops. medium in body with mid carbonation. this is a decent esb from ska, i can see this honestly being excellent on cask, however out of a can (which i think is a bit too cold) is not as great as it probably could be.

Serving type: can

03-19-2013 07:26:14 | More by facundoCNB
Photo of jazzyjeff13

United Kingdom (England)

3.58/5  rDev +0.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A 355ml can with a BB of Nov 2012, so it's a little out of date. Picked up from Trembling Madness in York a while back and stored in my garage. Hopefully it's still in good condition - I'm interested to see how an ESB made by a US brewer turns out. Lip Up Fatty...

Poured into a tulip pint glass. Can conditioned. A hazy orange-amber hue with medium carbonation and visible sediment. Yields a decent head of creamy white foam that lasts for a few minutes before settling as a surface layer. Aroma of grainy malt with hints of caramel, fruity ale yeast, faint sugar, earthiness and stewed hops. Slightly sweet, with subtle undertones of pine resin.

Tastes of grainy caramel malt with a dry bitter finish. Notes of caramel, mild brown sugar, fruity ale yeast, subtle pine, earthiness, husks and stewed leaves. A restrained bitterness upon swallowing. Mouthfeel is smooth, tingly and slightly spicy, with decent carbonation and nice body. Somewhat astringent, with an aftertaste of caramel malt, ale yeast and faint pine.

A solid brew that goes down nicely. The aroma and flavour are primarily malt-driven, though a hint of hoppy pine makes itself known. The body is lovely and velvety-smooth. It doesn't quite fit the profile of an English ESB - the malt character is less fruity and complex than it should be and the aromatic hops don't match the style either. However, it is certainly very drinkable and well worth sampling if you should come across it.

Serving type: can

02-03-2013 01:20:52 | More by jazzyjeff13
Photo of kojevergas


2.84/5  rDev -20.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.75

Aluminum can served into a Samuel Smith's conical pint glass in me gaff in low altitude Los Feliz, California. Reviewed live. Expectations are low; I keep trying beers in the style but few impress me.

Served cold. Side-poured with standard vigor as no carbonation issues are anticipated.

A: Pours a one finger beige colour head of fair cream and thickness, and above average retention. Body colour is a clear copper. Translucent. No yeast particles are visible. No bubble show.

Sm: Sweet toasted malts, clean barley, pale malts, diacetyl/buttery notes, and bready grains. An above average strength, appealing aroma.

T: Buttery and sweet, with a nice malt base of pale and light toasted malts. Some fruity character too. Pretty generic for an ESB, but well balanced. Hop bitterness on the back end.

Mf: Smooth and wet. A bit overcarbonated. Too thick. Suits the flavour profile generally well.

Dr: Drinkable but unremarkable. For an ESB, I like it but I doubt I'd get it again. Still, this one of the better Ska beers I've had for the style. Hides its ABV well.


Serving type: can

01-13-2013 12:33:13 | More by kojevergas
Photo of Fatehunter


3.38/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A finger a half of head on a hazy, dark straw colored body.
The aroma is a faint apricot and grain.
The taste has a strong malt presence with a good balance of bitterness middle to end. The finish is short.
Crisp texture with moderate carbonation and medium body.
An enjoyable ESB.

Serving type: can

01-05-2013 02:27:23 | More by Fatehunter
Photo of Ryan011235


2.85/5  rDev -19.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Poured into a nonic pint glass on 11/1/12

Very clear, rustic amber color with a one finger cap of foam. The head doesn't last too long, but leaves swaths of lace along the way.

The aroma is rather fruity with bready notions, too. Raisin bread, figs and hints of fruit cake. Earthy hop overtones. The taste has more of a hop push, but there are is a lot of toasted bread and mild dark fruit tones to off set any bitterness. All in all, it starts to come together with warmth. Mild hop grit on the finish. The feel is medium-light with soft carbonation.

Overall, this has grown on me. I'd like to give a shake on tap sometime.

Serving type: can

11-02-2012 02:16:44 | More by Ryan011235
Photo of NuclearDolphin


3.23/5  rDev -9.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Appearance - Bright Clear Orange with loads of carbonation along the sides of the glass and coming up from the bottom. Head is 1 finger in width and disappears rather quickly. Decent lacing along the sides

Smell - Yeasts, Floral Hops, Malts and Barley. Very simple aroma and not as rich as one might think. That's all there's really to say.

Taste - Floral Hops, Yeasts, Malts, and Barley. I find the flavor to be a bit unbalanced here with the Floral Hops being a bit too strong for my liking compared to the rest of the flavors. Aside from that, it's a normal tasting ESB

Mouthfeel - Light bodied and the carbonation is surprisningly mild and feels rather crisp

Overall - Nothing really special here, but if the Floral Hops and flavor overall had been more balanced out this could've been a really good ESB.

Serving type: can

09-14-2012 04:20:27 | More by NuclearDolphin
Photo of ChiPool


3.5/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from can into Lagunitas mason jar. Best by date is 11/6/12; consumed on 8/30.

I grabbed one of their mixed 12 packs yesterday: first crack at this beer. As this beer is pretty straightforward, I'll keep my review pretty simple. It represents the style well. There is a mild, lingering bitterness that balances bready malts. This is a respectable session ale.

Serving type: can

08-30-2012 16:56:30 | More by ChiPool
Photo of marlinsfan4


3.88/5  rDev +9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Part of a mixed 12 pack enjoyed on the beach in the Outer Banks. A nice solid, all around beer. Medium bodied with some caramel notes and malty sweetness, some decent hop presence upfront with a nice clean finish. Not particularly my favorite style, but this one was pretty well done and well balanced and I would try it again for sure.

Serving type: can

08-26-2012 22:07:22 | More by marlinsfan4
Photo of JuicesFlowing


4.28/5  rDev +20.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a standard pint glass.

The beer is a nice pure copper color. A frothy creamy head stays afloat or a long, long time and recedes to a nice film. Loads of lacing stick to my glass.

The beer smells malty, hoppy, and slightly sweet.

The taste is exceptionally well balanced. Sweet caramel and bitter hops come together for a perfect sweet-tang.

Moutheel is very bitter, slightly dry.

Overall, a deliciously well balanced brew. Maybe the best brew Ska makes. Maybe ...

Serving type: can

08-12-2012 04:07:45 | More by JuicesFlowing
Photo of tdm168

North Carolina

3.98/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A - dark orangish amber with a thick, dense, big, off white head that has great retention

S - bread, birthday cake, sweet, grapefruit, pineapple

T - bread, faintly sweet, light toastiness, faint caramel, pineapple, grapefruit

M - smooth, medium bodied, lightly carbonated, thins out a good deal over time

This is an interesting ESB. It has a rather bready, bold, forward malt character. It has a very citrusy hop character. It's also a bit sweet and not bitter at all. It's incredibly drinkable and incredibly refreshing. This could probably pass for an APA for most breweries. It's worth looking into.

Serving type: can

06-19-2012 22:00:48 | More by tdm168
Photo of bump8628


4/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A nice ESB, definitely Americanized with more aggressive hops a less of the subtle malt depth of the British variety. Pours deep Amber with an off-white head. Big herbal hoppiness, grassy with an earthy note. Nice thick caramel and biscuit malt backbone. Bitter edge on the finish. Another good beer from a can at an even better bar. Star Bar Denver, CO.

Serving type: can

06-15-2012 20:58:38 | More by bump8628
Photo of StonedTrippin


3.48/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

nice beer from ska, pours a really nice caramel color, clear as day, with a one inch thick white head that has some moderate retention ability. looks great in a schooner at euclid hall denver. smells off, kind of vinegary or something, definitely a malty beer, but does not smell too appetizing. flavor is much much better, nice english malt profile, caramel notes and the flavors even of a brown ale, roasty and sweet a little bit. finishes clean. feel was nice, medium bodied with relaxed carbonation. an excellent session ale. overall nice brew, not a huge esb guy, but this was really enjoyable.

Serving type: on-tap

05-22-2012 22:51:16 | More by StonedTrippin
Photo of chugalug06


3.53/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Awesome white foamy head; nice lacing too. Nice clarity in an orange/redish/yellow brew. Looks great!

Heavy malt and light hop. This one could stand to be more hoppy, but it fits the style, just slightly too much caramel.

More hop on the tongue then on the nose... Nicely bitter and perfect carbonation. Biscuit-y, nutty, dry, and slightly sweet. Very sessionable, even at 5.7%. Tons of heavy caramel. Too much malt and not enough hop...

A very solid ESB, it could stand to be more hoppy, but very refreshing and enjoyable nonetheless.

Serving type: can

05-22-2012 03:04:44 | More by chugalug06
Photo of homebrew311


3.35/5  rDev -5.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured into DFH pint glass. Appears a clear orange with 1 cm of white head that dissipates quickly. Decent lacing left behind. The aroma is heavy with earthy hops along with notes of pine and cedar. The taste is somewhat subdued with mild earthy bitterness followed by caramel malts and a bit of sweetness on the finish. The body is medium with moderate carbonation. Overall, there is a decent amount of flavor in this brew but it does not stand out as being particularly tasty.

Serving type: can

04-23-2012 07:46:48 | More by homebrew311
Photo of thydarkprevails


3/5  rDev -15.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

From a can to a duvel tulip. Pours a clear caramel with an inch thick off white head. Average lacing. Aroma is biscuit, malt, and light citrus. Flavor is bitter up front and moves to a bready malty taste. There's some toffee and caramel there as well. Mouthfeel is thin and slightly sticky. Not a bad esb.

Serving type: can

04-19-2012 11:11:53 | More by thydarkprevails
Photo of blackcompg


3.5/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from their 12oz can...

Appearance - Poured nearly 2 fingers of lite golden eggshell head, color of the beer is a brite translucent copper orange.

Smell - Wheatbread, yeast, pears, apples, lite floral hops.

Taste - Much like the nose, litely baked wheat, semi-sweet pears, touch of crisp apples, nice lightly bitter floral hops, and some lite spices like coriander and white pepper.

Mouthfeel - Lighter side of medium, this allows a little bit of the pear sweetness and malts to be appreciated, then almost medium carb cleanses slightly and gives the white fruits some tart crispness and helps to assert the floral hops. Very drinkable.

Overall - The B in this one is definitely for balanced. There are some really nice crisp and refreshing flavors going on here. Looks nice in a glass too, a very good session beer. Get the 12pk can sampler and also enjoy their killer APA, Modus Hoperandi.

Serving type: can

04-13-2012 03:13:22 | More by blackcompg
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ESB Special Ale from Ska Brewing Co.
81 out of 100 based on 308 ratings.