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ESB Special Ale - Ska Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
ESB Special AleESB Special Ale

Educational use only; do not reuse.

180 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 180
Hads: 389
Avg: 3.58
pDev: 18.99%
Wants: 14
Gots: 29 | 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: Reviews & Ratings
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 180 | Hads: 389
Photo of tonistruth
2.75/5  rDev -23.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

A- dark straw with a bubbly off white head, good retent and some soapy lacing

S- oily, herbal, fruity (apricot, mango, peach)

T- buttery, herbal, citrus rind, some spicy hop, and a dry herbal finish

M- oily, light body with a dry finish

D- one of ska's better brews (IMHO) but still just decent, not as balanced as im used to ESB's being

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Photo of emerge077
3.63/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Cheers to pmcadamis as the 1st IL BA to review! Never saw this one around Chicago until today, at In Fine Spirits on Clark St.

Pours a bright orange, nice clarity, and a billowing head of foam. It starts foaming right out of the red can. It leaves a sticky ring of lace near the rim of the glass. Head seems to maintain itself well.

Sweet and nutty aroma, it reminds me a little of Thai peanut sauce. Light bitterness and nutty malt in the flavor. Light-bodied and clean, it would probably be easy to have a couple. Lower carbonation, with a nutty residual aftertaste. Aroma was a little metallic at first, but it blew off quickly. It's not bad, but i'm not sure that this is one i'd go for again.

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Photo of pmcadamis
4.45/5  rDev +24.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

A - A big solid finger of creamy meringue froth rests atop this golden bronze amber brew. In fact, this beer is much the same color as the can when not held to the light. It's more gold when in direct light. The head shows some really nice retention and leaves a good deal of lace on the glass. This is a looker!

S - Sweet as hell in the nose! Brown sugar, maple syrup, mandarin oranges with the syrup and can included in the smell.

T - Again, sweet and syrupy. Brown sugar and maple syrup with some mandarin orange hop tones. Starts out extremely malty with a lot of complexity, and it's really hoppy and fruity on the finish.

M - Medium bodied, pretty dry, and conservatively carbonated. The finish is a work of art! The dry grainy and gritty feel is complimented by the smooth carbonation and round but not quite full body. Awesome!

D - I'm in awe of this brew...and it's in a can! A kick ass session brew, and one of the best ESBs I've ever had! Honestly, this may be my favorite session beer of all time...other than Dead Guy.

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Photo of SaCkErZ9
3.88/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from the red, 12oz can, into a pint glass. Bronze colored with a nice, stiff, rocky and dense off white head. Tons and tons of lacing make this one purty beer. Very clear with a bubble racing toward the top once every other second or so.

Aroma was a bit lacking. Musty malt smell with a tiny bit of hop aroma. Not real pleased in this aspect of the beer.

Nice flavors. Caramelly and creamy. Good hop bitterness. Overall, pleasing taste. This is certainly a stellar beer but nothing out of the park or mind blowing. This would be a great beer to take camping in the summer since it is canned and pretty damn tasty.

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Photo of arizcards
3.95/5  rDev +10.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Picked up a single at AJ's in late July for $1.59.

Beer pours a honey amber color with a nice two finger white head that has sustained well. Nose is malty with hints of sweet fruit. Taste is of caramel malts with a hint of sweet fruit lingering in the background finishing with a very light hop. Mouthfeel is light to medium bodied, nicely carbonated and somewhat smooth. Drinkability is good. I am glad i recently picked up a sixer for my next tailgate. This makes for a nice session beer!

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Photo of ByTor2112
4.3/5  rDev +20.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured a nice shade of Orange Blossom Honey with a one finger thick head.
Aroma-clean hoppy nose and this killer whiff of pineapple.
Mouthfeel-Oh yes this is going to be good! Light hoppy flavor with a subtle citrus note and a creamy mouthfeel. Finishes with a sharp bitterness. The malt profile is perfect for an ESB. Not too sweet but its there with a crisp hop bitterness that is not over-bearing. THIS, is Ale! I'm rating this high becuase it smelled and tasted great and is very quaffable! one of the best ESB's I have tried in a good while and Cheers to Ska for canning it!

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Photo of ncvbc
3.98/5  rDev +11.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

An overall good experience from a beer I didn't expect much from. A dark amber in color with a nice head and good carbonation leaving some lacing. Smell was of caramel malts and a slight hop presence. Slightly fruity also. Taste was solid all around. Caramel is again present with a biscuity flavor that is well pronounced. A little bitter hop bite does well to provide good balance. Close to a medium mouthfeel and very good drinkability. I could definitely have a few cans of this one.

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Photo of khiasmus
3.74/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to Kkipple for the can.

A- Pours a hazy amber with a finger of white head that drops to a ring in moments.

S- Balanced towards hops, but with a good malt backbone that supports well, with hints of caramel and a very light breadiness. Somewhat faint aroma, but enjoyable.

T- Tastes like light hop-juice with just a hint of caramel thrown in. Hop flavor dominates, but the faint biscuity tone and caramel malt make it quite well balanced.

M- Medium-light body... perhaps a bit too light. Carbonation is medium-low, and a decent astringency is left behind on the tongue.

D- Quite quaffable. You could drink a LOT of this and still enjoy it. An above average ESB that's recommended. There are much better ESB's out there, but few that are this drinkable.

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Photo of NeroFiddled
4.1/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Ska's ESB pours a handsome amber robe beneath a short head of creamy off-white foam that holds well and leaves some nice patches of lace at the outset of the glass. It's hoppy and malty in the nose with a bit of caramel and some leafy/grassiness, followed by some very pleasant berry-like fruitiness. I wouldn't be surprised at all if they were using the Fuller's yeast strain (White labs WLP002?). In the mouth it's medium-bodied and lightly crisp with a moderate, fine bubbled carbonation (at around 2.38 volumes CO2). The flavor is round, and very well-balanced between delicate English hops and softly caramelish and biscuity malt. But there's also a delicate note of chocolate that gives it quite a bit of charm. It's moderately bitter, and finishes fairly quick and dry with just a bit of leafy, spicy, floral and grassy hops left behind. Very nicely done, and quite drinkable!

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Photo of ClockworkOrange
3.83/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12oz. can into my nonic pint glass. Appears a beautiful golden amber color with about two fingers of off-white foam. The head leaves a small amount of lacing on the glass. Smells of sweet caramel malts, followed by biscuit and fruit (apple) notes. Taste is malty at first, followed by a nice dose of hops, more malts, and maybe some tropical fruit. Medium in both body and carbonation. Thanks to limesmut for this fine beer. It's not too often you see an ESB in a can. I would certainly drink this one again if I have the chance.

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Photo of jwc215
3.83/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Pours amber with a thick head that slowly descends to a thin cover. Some lacing sticks to glass.

The smell is of caramelish sweetness with earthy, buttery, floral/fruity notes.

The taste is of caramel and vanilla sweetness upfront. Earthy, almost woody, bitter hops balance the sweetness. Mildly buttery. Pineapple-ish fruitiness comes forth as drink progresses. Sweet, though restrained by bitterness, esp. in the finish. I was between two scores, but gave it the higher because of the pleasant taste, though I don't know if I would recommend it if someone asked for a good example of the style.

The body is a bit thin, but holds up well enough.

Well, although it didn't shine forth as a great example of the style, there is something about it I found enjoyable.

Thanks to bitterbill for including this one!

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Photo of HumuloneRed
3.88/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Got the beer at the craft brewers conference. 12 ounce can. Pours a clear light copper color with a white head, soapy lacing.
The aroma has light malt quality to it with a slightly grassy note.
The flavor is balanced and drinkable with nice hop and malt flavors. A well made and drinkable beer.

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Photo of Bitterbill
3.91/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This one pours from 12oz can a clear medium gold witha large head of foam that slowly shrinks to a fine layer with some lacing.

The smell has some caramel malt notes with some hoppiness in the background.

The taste on first sip has a strong caramel malt flavour that is sweet but not too sweet. There's also some grain up front with some hop bitterness moving in as I take further sips but the finish definitely ends up on the malty side. The mouthfeel is a bit thin and at times a bit watery but over all, the positives outrank the negatives for me. This is a good ESB.

Bottom line: I've had this one before and I'll have it again.

Edit: A bought another 6er recently and there's some nice fruity tones I did not notice during my original review. I'm guessing that these are fresher samples and man, the fruitiness combined with the delicious maltiness and just a slight bitterness near the finish makes this much more tasty. New scores implemented.

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Photo of ArrogantB
3.03/5  rDev -15.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

12 oz can that I poured into a pint glass. Dark orange color and cloudy. Smell was malty. The taste was metallic, yeasty and not pleasant. The mouthfeel had a grittiness to it that I did not like. I hope this was an old one or something cause it was not good at all.

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Photo of alexgash
3.68/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Nice to see an ESB in a can.

Peachy copper body with a thick, creamy, off-white head that crawls up the glass. Mildly buttery biscuit malt, light apple, and citrusy (orange, lemon) hops. Orange hoppy bitter (marmalade) on toasted bread malts. Pineapple. Slightly chalky and minerally. Some yeasty bread twang going on as well. Finish is drier and tinny with orangy hops and traces of toffee malt. Not bad. Moderate body with a soft feel.

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Photo of Enola
3.63/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This beer is a little weak for the style but still a very drinkable beer overall. The beer is a lighter orange with a fair head and a good amount of lacing. The smell is hoppy and sweet. The taste is subdued hops, as in the bitterness is not overwhelming. A good beer that is quite drinkable. I would have no problem putting back a sixer of these. And come Sunday at the Food City 500 I will likely do just that. It is nice to see some craft beer in cans for sporting events and the like.

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Photo of atsprings
3.7/5  rDev +3.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from the can a cloudy copper brew with a mid sized off white head. Aroma was mild with caramel malt and earthy hops. Taste was also caramel malts and earthy hops, decent balance. The beer is light on the palate with decent carbonation. This is a drinkable beer, but far from the best.

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Photo of biking4beer
3.63/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12 oz can poured into a pint glass.

Pours a 2 finger foamy white head that diminishes but sticks around throughout. Slight lacing. Beer is a light orange color with some yellow tints.

Smells of honey and a very slight orange citrusy hop. Very very slight alcohol after taking a sip.

Taste is pretty balanced. Smooth malts in the front and nice bittering in the end. A touch watery. Slight orange on the tip of the tongue.

Good carbonation. slight oil coats the mouth, but is barely noticeable. Goes down easy. This could become a fall back beer for me since it's becoming more prevalent around here. Definitely a good drinking beer.

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Photo of BeerAmbassador
3.08/5  rDev -14%
look: 3 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Poured a two fingered head but quickly dissapated. Amber hue.

Not much of an aroma. Just a little hops and malt. Maybe a little fruitiness.

Taste is good, although not much hop bitterness. up front malt character, some caramel and other malt flavors.

Pretty good carbonation, nice and creamy mouthfeel. Maybe a little less carbonated than a typical beer but it works in this case.

Very nice drinkability goes down very smooth and definately a good session beer. This is the kind of thing I wouldnt mind taking camping and sitting around the fire with.

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Photo of blackie
3.53/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

appearance: A big, fluffy off white head fills half of the glass when I pour...so I have to wait for it to recede before I empty the rest of the can. Moderate lacing is left behind. The beer is a hazy golden amber in color.

smell: There's a light and fruity grainy sweetness that is opposed by a mild but obvious hop aroma. I'm getting some hints of apricot, honey, and mild green herbs.

mouthfeel: The carbonation is on the low end of the high range, and the body a heavy light.

taste: The grain gives a mild sweetness that is reminiscent of summery fruits...apricot and peach maybe. Little hop flavor, but the finishing bitterness cleans and dries the palate perfectly.

drinkability: Well balanced, as an ESB should be, though a little lacking in character. Still, easily drinkable.

12 oz. can received from Zorro in BCG BIF. I wish more micros around here would can a beer for us outdoorsmen.

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Photo of pentathlete
3.48/5  rDev -2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Cloudy dark orange with a rocky white head that falls to a contoured table of bubbles. Some columns of big bubble carbonation rise slowly up. Smell is a raw perfumey hops, not overpowering, but present before any malts. Smell is initially sweet then gives way immediately to astringent hops. Mouthfeel is a bit thin. Expecting a little more from this, maybe a maltier character to match the vinous hoppiness, yet this is not a hop monster by any means.

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Photo of Zorro
3.53/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a clear amber colored ale with a good tan head.

Smell is lots of roasted malt and caramel with a spicy and herbal hop scent. Faint scent of citrus here too. Spicy alcohol note in the scent.

Taste is a little sweet with a strong vanilla and caramel flavor. Hop flavors take 3-4 sips to catch up with the malt sweetness in this one. Hops are both herbal and citrus in nature here with a woody hop taste at the end. OK bitter in the end but the flavor is really more pale ale than ESB.

Mouthfeel is good.

Not a bad drinker here and one of the few micro-brews that comes in cans especially for camping and the outdoors.

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Photo of benito
1.64/5  rDev -54.2%
look: 2 | smell: 3 | taste: 1 | feel: 1 | overall: 1.5

Here we go with another subpar offering from Ska...

Out of a can, this pours orange with good head and lacing. The bouquet points to carmel overtones as one would expect from an ESB as well as a strong nuttiness. These promising prospects don't see much follow through in the flavor of the beer itself, with is neither hoppy nor carmel-filled, but rather consists of an awkward fizziness and seaweed
taste. The 'bitter' of ESB seems to have been taken a little too literally and punches me at the back of the tongue with each swig, a reminder that this beer both lack flavor and subtlety. I'm left with a bad aftertaste that is the unnecessary result of an underflavored and imbalanced brew.

What would have made this a better brew? ESBs are a style about which I feel rather flexible, but I think that the biggest issue here is the lack of balance between hops and carmel malts. A nice ESB should have a good, sweet body matched with a nice dose of hoppiness: a yin and yang of style that, unfortunately, isn't to be found in this can.

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Photo of UnionMade
3.68/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Clear copper. Thin, receding whitish head. Sticky lacing. Malty aroma, with caramel and some biscuity graininess. Woody, nutty, floral hops, with a touch of pear. Nicely balanced. The flavor opens with nutty maltiness, kinda biscuity and grainy. Mild pear esters, with a sharp, wooden feel throughout. Woody, floral hops in the finish, nicely balanced with the malt. Some caramel sweetness, although the woody, nutty flavor seems to dominate. Nice stuff, well balanced, but I could stand for a bit more ale-like fruitiness. I usually like that in ESB, which is one of my favorite styles. Cool to see good beer in a can.

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Photo of goodbyeohio
4.1/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

super huge thanx to UnionMade for this treat (and Kristi)

brilliantly decorated red can, listing 'love' as a primary ingredient of this beer. ESB in a can. who would've thunk it.

can opens without a sound and the beer pours nice and orange with yellow around the edges, big foamy head that you usually get from vigorously pouring a canned beer. webby lacing. bubbly.

smells very fruity. passionfruit and pineapple here as well as a nice hop addition and slight rindy hint of bitter malt. light mouthfeel and smooth down the throat makes this extremely drinkable, but this beer refuses to suffer from flavor loss.. it's bitter and malty with a very dry, crisp finish. subtler notes of honey and cantaloupe. after drinking, hop oil resin is detected on my cheek walls. the aroma is balanced equally with the flavor as i drink this from an imperial pint. lighter style ESB but that makes this the perfect craft beer for a can. wish i had five more.

looking forward to trying more of these ska beers (and lucky me, i've got a boxfull!)

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ESB Special Ale from Ska Brewing Co.
81 out of 100 based on 180 ratings.