ESB Special Ale - Ska Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
ESB Special AleESB Special Ale

Educational use only; do not reuse.
BA SCORE
81
good

375 Ratings
THE BROS
-
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 375
Reviews: 180
rAvg: 3.57
pDev: 13.17%
Wants: 14
Gots: 26 | FT: 0
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:
Beer added by: Bitterbill on 10-26-2003

No notes at this time.
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 375 | Reviews: 180
Photo of JLaw55
2.5/5  rDev -30%
look: 2.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 2.5

This one tastes like burnt malt and stale hops. The balance is way off.

Will not purchase again.

Photo of Suds
3.72/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

From a can, t his is a pale amber with a very thin, quickly dissipating head. The smell is a nice balance of malt and herbal hops. I love the malt backbone of most ESB's, and this one has a solid malt flavor, but the aroma could be better. The hops form a great balance, and the beer is of medium body. Nice, but not great.

Photo of BrownAleBollocks
3.52/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a mud red color with a one finger meringue color head. Aroma is honey, crackers, and biscuits. Taste follows. Mouthfeel is medium and just ever so slightly oily. Overall an ok esb, although I was hoping for something more like fullers esb.

Photo of Jimmajamma
4.75/5  rDev +33.1%

My favorite esb.

Photo of biboergosum
3.5/5  rDev -2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

12oz can, from a King Soopers in Glendale, Colorado.

This beer pours a clear, medium copper amber colour, with two fingers of puffy, loosely foamy, and bubbly ecru head, which leaves some spooky webbed tree branch lace around the glass as things lazily recede.

It smells of bready caramel malt, a touch of wet biscuity toffee, earthy, herbal, and leafy hops, a bit of somewhat sour orchard fruitiness, and a subtle metallic booziness. The taste is gritty, grainy caramel malt, musty stewed apple and pear, a slightly buttered breadiness, and leafy, weedy, and mildly floral hops.

The bubbles are quite light and mostly just playfully frothy, the body a sturdy medium weight, and generally smooth, however that diacetyl character starts in on the clamminess after a spell. It finishes off-dry, and more generically fruity, than straight-up malty in its sweetness.

Not a bad brew, in taste or in presentation, but I'm not getting enough crisp, biscuity notes, or heightened noble hops, to take this one at its word. More of a typical (if still well-made) American-style amber ale - something I'd like in my corner when taking down a pile o' hot wings.

Photo of cbutova
3.83/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Full notes taken to my phone at Morefield Campground, Mesa Verde National Park, CO.

A- The second ever canned microbrew is poured into a goblet with a fairly clear golden orange body. A frothy white head builds on the beer to a finger. Head retention is decent and a foamy ring stays behind. Lacing is a mix of spots and streaks.

S- Malty overall but the hop presence certainly makes itself known. Toasted, toffee and light caramel malts. Hops lend herbal, grassy and spicy qualities.

T- Lacks the sweetness I find in many ESBs but still packs malt flavors of caramel, toasted nuts, toffee, sweets and cereal. Notes of light fruits, slight raisin and bread throughout. Hops on the back end bringing grassy, spicy and earthy notes. Overall balanced between all of the above with each aspect taking precedence at times.

MF- Fairly light end bodied with a moderately high carbonation. The overall texture is creamy, just a bit chewy and foamy. Finishes with medium bitterness.

Malty but plenty of hops to balance it and at times the hops take over. A nice interpretation of the style with ample malt flavor lacking an overriding sweetness.

Photo of vishneda
3.58/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

An appreciable ESB, even if It is more or less an Americanized version of the style (think a slightly more biscuity and buttery APA with less sweetness and way less hop aroma). This beer is hop forward on the tongue but still balanced. The aroma is to style but a little faint. Color is thinner and lighter than a classic ESB but still a nice hue. The carbonation is nice and bright. I like the beer enough to enjoy it occasionally.

Photo of DenverHopHead
3.42/5  rDev -4.2%
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!

Photo of ZoomanCru
2.38/5  rDev -33.3%
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.

Photo of beergoot
3.68/5  rDev +3.1%
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.

Photo of Stinkypuss
3.7/5  rDev +3.6%
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.

Photo of tjsdomer2
4.19/5  rDev +17.4%
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.

Photo of gleemonger
4.58/5  rDev +28.3%
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.

Photo of denver10
3.67/5  rDev +2.8%
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.

Photo of BarryMFBurton
3.71/5  rDev +3.9%
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.

Photo of StaveHooks
3.5/5  rDev -2%
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.

Photo of facundoCNB
3.55/5  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.

Photo of jazzyjeff13
3.58/5  rDev +0.3%
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.

Photo of kojevergas
2.85/5  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.

C

Photo of Fatehunter
3.36/5  rDev -5.9%
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.

Photo of Ryan011235
2.88/5  rDev -19.3%
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.

Photo of NuclearDolphin
3.23/5  rDev -9.5%
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.

Photo of ChiPool
3.5/5  rDev -2%
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.

Photo of oriolesfan4
3.85/5  rDev +7.8%
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.

Photo of JuicesFlowing
4.25/5  rDev +19%
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 ...

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ESB Special Ale from Ska Brewing Co.
81 out of 100 based on 375 ratings.