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ESB Special Ale - Ska Brewing Co.

Not Rated.
ESB Special AleESB Special Ale

Educational use only; do not reuse.

179 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 179
Hads: 382
rAvg: 3.57
pDev: 12.89%
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: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 179 | Hads: 382
Photo of Mora2000
3.68/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to blutt59 for sharing this can.

The beer pours a yellow color with a white head. Not quite what I was expecting from an ESB. The flavor is toffee malt with some earthy hops mixed in. The flavor is grassy hops, earthy hops and some bready malt. Medium mouthfeel and medium carbonation. (293 characters)

Photo of Halcyondays
3.79/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

12 oz. can,

A: Pours dark gold/light amber with a soft finger of white head, spots of lace.

S: Very malty, English nose, hint of spearmint from the hops.

T: Strong malt flavour upfront which is then attacked by a lot of American hops. Mint again comes back with some citrus rind, lemon.

M: Soft carbonation, easily quaffable which is good in this style.

D: A solid bitter, pretty much an American Red Ale, OK, but not approaching Fuller's. (444 characters)

Photo of morimech
3.35/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a clear amber with two fingers of white head that had good retention. Not as dark as I would associate with an ESB. The head settles to a thick cap. Heavy lacing is left on the glass. The first thing I noticed about the aroma is the mint. I did not know Galena hops had that characteristic. I also noted some earthiness, citrus, and caramel as well. The flavor is really earthy and bitter. The malt does not give enough input into the flavor. Any sweetness is quickly overpowered by the hops. Not that good of a flavor for an ESB. Not a fan of the single hop profile here either. Good body and a nice soft carbonation that seems really good for the style. This beer nees some tweaking to take into the good category. Still worth a try plus it comes in cans. (763 characters)

Photo of wnh
4/5  rDev +12%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12 oz. can poured into a pint glass.

Pours a crisp, clear, bright copper with a frothy and slightly sticky ecru head.

Nutty on the nose--walnuts, perhaps--with a touch of earthy and leafy hops and just a hint of yeasty funk. Quite a range of malty subtleties, showing caramel, cocoa powder, biscuits, and more. Mild, but smells promising.

Smooth and subtle-but-rich on the palate. Malt dominates, though particular flavors are hard to pinpoint. Finishes dry with a moderate lingering bitterness hinting at dried leaves.

Eminently quaffable. A great session beer. (566 characters)

Photo of Greencoat
2.13/5  rDev -40.3%
look: 2 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 2.5

Can from Chip's in Kill Devil Hills, NC. Pours to a very hazy rusty orange with a quickly dissipating one finger, beige head, Nose is buttery toffee. Weird. While ESB is one of my favorite styles of beer, I can't say that I'm looking forward to drinking this after that smell - there isn't even a hint of hop presence. The hop selection is too citrusy for this style and malt profile. It starts out with a nice bitterness, but finishes too dry for an ESB and has a very watery feel to it. This beer is a mess. From the bizarre nose to downright poor ingredient selection, I would honestly drink BMC over this. It reminds me of my first homebrew. I would not recommend this to a friend. (685 characters)

Photo of tempest
3.43/5  rDev -3.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Picked up a can at Chip's Wine and Beer in Kill Devil Hills. I like a good ESB, but this came off more like a smooth Americn amber. In fact, it reminds me of New England Brewing's Atlantic Amber which is also from a can. It's basically a smooth caramel malt beer that finishes dry and with a moderate spicy hop kick. Nothing really stands out here, but it's certainly not a bad beer. (383 characters)

Photo of MenloBeer
3.62/5  rDev +1.4%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured into a pint glass from the 12oz. can.

A: Medium brown/orange. Small head that dissipates quickly, leaving minuscule lacing.

S: Malt, but not overly so.

T: Bitter, but not as much as I would expect from something with ESB on the label. Malt presence, yes, but not too much. Kind of bland, really. A touch of hops on the back palate.

M: Medium body, not watery. Not oily or slick. This was style points right on.

D: I was expecting more from this beer. I thought I'd get something more in the lines of a English session bitter, but instead I got the American version. So be it. Not too bad. Drank the whole sixer over a few days. A good beer to take with on a hike.

Serving type: can (694 characters)

Photo of JoEBoBpr
3.98/5  rDev +11.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Poured into a pint glass.

A - Pours a nice clear and dark copper color with a thin .5 inch head that is off white and recedes rather quickly.

S - Mild caramel malt sweetness with some nice hop backbone. Slight pine aroma. A bit subdued for my nose.

T - The taste is more like it. Very nice and bready caramel malt flavors show up first. Very delicious malt profile in this beer. There is a nice crisp and dry hop bitterness that shines through the back end of the beer even though all the bready and sweet malt dominate.

M & D - Mouthfeel is very creamy and crisp at the same time with good CO2. The body is light-medium with very nice balance in the flavors. Very drinkable. (680 characters)

Photo of Bierguy5
3.9/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

12 oz can. Pours a clear light copper color. Creamy off white head. Nice retention and lace.

Bread like malt aroma. Maybe even a little doughy. Slight amount of fruit. Floral and herbal hop aroma, however slight.

Soft bready, slightly toasty malt. Some caramel. Fruity undertones, but still clean. Balanced very well with some earthy hops.

Medium body, lower carbonation. I really like this malt character. Nice beer. (423 characters)

Photo of emmasdad
3.05/5  rDev -14.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Poured from the can into a shaker pint. When I popped the tab the beer rushed out of the top and down the sides; WOW, a gusher. Medium gold color with some off-white foam. Somewhat bready and sweet, with no real hop character. Pretty disappointing actually, after some of the beers I've had from Ska. (300 characters)

Photo of JamisonM
2.81/5  rDev -21.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a tulip glass

A: orange copper color off white head and it goes down fairly fast lace on the glass however

S: faint malts faint hops smell is week

T: grainy malts come forward first hops are in the background no kick from this beer it needs more hops! its not bitter at all on my palate

M: mouth is light carbonation medium to high

D: yea its drinkable but why would u want to?

overall: an american bitter should be more bold with hops I did not like this, I sort of think I am being generous with my scores, maybe because I do like this brewery but this beer I wont have again unless they change the recipe, I hope they do! (643 characters)

Photo of TheManiacalOne
3.68/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Acquired from kiltedtxn, courtesy of the Nice Cans BIF so a big "Thank You" goes out to him. Poured from a 12oz can into a US tumbler pint glass.

A: The beer is a light golden brown color, with a large off-white head that fades slowly and leaves a spotty lace on the glass.

S: The aroma is a little faint but contains caramelized malts, and touches of hops and citrus.

T: The taste starts out with mildly sweet flavors of caramel and some citrus that are quickly followed by a hearty malt character and bready flavors of grain and nuts. The hops presence seems a bit subdued but is strong enough to bring some balance. The after-taste is slightly bready.

M: Crisp and smooth, medium body, medium carbonation, finish is clean and dry.

D: Tasty, goes down easily, not too filling, mild kick, good representation of style, while there are better beers in the style this beer is still worth sessionning with for an evening (923 characters)

Photo of NewGeneric
2.99/5  rDev -16.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2 | taste: 3 | feel: 5 | overall: 3

Once again thanks to tweidman420 for the generosity.
Poured into a pint glass.

A: Pours a golden orange color with gold tints around the edges. Minimal head fades quickly leaving behind splotches of thin lacing. Thin, soapy bubbles linger over the entire surface.

S: Not much that can be discerned here. Hints of toffee and malt.

T: Very grain malt presence presides over the entire engagement with this beverage. Some earthy hops make their way to the tongue but then jump back off as soon as they do. Better than the smell, but still not a whole lot going on.

M: At least it comes through here. Medium bodied, bitterness is noticeable, but done right. Slightly slick finish. I really couldn't ask for more here.

D: This one seems like it did not reach its full potential. I would probably drink it over a few other beers I know of, but I will definitely not be seeking it out. (883 characters)

Photo of nickd717
3.26/5  rDev -8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

12oz can from Chip's in Kill Devil Hills.

Pours slightly hazy golden with a gigantic lacey white head.

Aroma is very bready and mildly floral. Decent, but not too appealing.

Flavor is okay, but a little off. Lots of sweet honey and pale malt, maybe a little too much, with light floral hops.

Pretty nice palate, medium-bodied and crisp with a hoppy bite.

Overall though, a middling beer. Not great for the style. Drinkable at least. (437 characters)

Photo of Jayli
3.58/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Acquired this from TheManiacalOne so a big THANK YOU goes out to him!

A: This beer pours a hazy burnt orange color with a one finger of white sudsy head. Head retains nicely leaving ringlets of lacing on the glass.

S: Nose is bready, yeast, grain, caramel malt and a hint of grassy hops.

T: Taste starts with with a caramel and pale malt flavoring that quickly lends in to the bready, toasted flavoring that fills out the middle. Subtle grassy and a hint of floral hops finish out this beer.

M: Light body, medium carbonation, crisp with a clean, dry finish.

D: Goes down easily, decent representation of the style, not a blow your mind away beer, but a nice one to sit with for a bit. (692 characters)

Photo of homebrewhawk
3.68/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz. can served in a shaker pint. Poured a hazy gold with a finger of white head. Sweet malt with some caramel in the aroma. Light to medium bodied. On the malty side with a decent amount of hop bitterness. A bit of sourness that was distracting.
A little hop bite in the finish with some malty sweetness. Fairly easy drinking. (328 characters)

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

Had this brew poured from a 12oz can at the Flying Saucer in Charlotte

This solid ESB from Ska Brewing pours a nice amber with a nice cap of creamy off-white foam that leaves a nice amount of lace. The nose has some caramel sweetness along with some light grassy hop aromas. As you sip this there is a big upfront bitterness that is followed by a strong caramel and roasted backbone. This beer drinks really easily and is nice and sessionable with a respectable 5.8% abv. (472 characters)

Photo of hooliganlife
3.88/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

pours light copper with a nice light creamy head. nice retention, light lacing

up front, floral and biscuit like. after as bit, more malty

nice and sweet. bitterness lingers through out with a nice floral hoppy tone that keeps this fun. has a very english feel to it. not overly bitter and could use a bit more but nice.

light and smooth, light carbonation. body has a bit of bite to it.

i enjoyed this up and down. easy to drink, delicious, and there are just not enough bitters these days. i cannot wait until this comes to MO. (533 characters)

Photo of indiapaleale
3.5/5  rDev -2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pour - peachy brownish-orange, sort of murky and hazy with a tight, thick off-white foamy head.

Aroma - malt extract, yeasty and lemon and/or orange peel. This is a tough beer to really place as far as the aroma goes. Its not overly strong smelling and the aromas I do get are all pretty basic.

Taste - initial tastes are tangy sweet malt, caramel, a bit of orange along with slight hints of oxidized hops. Not too sweet and not too bitter, this one falls right in the middle. Some bready or biscuity flavors are in the finish along with some butteriness.

Overall - A blend of malty sweetness and tangy bitterness this is a very easy drinking option to the all too familiar Amber Ale. Not bad but nothing overly exciting.

Would I buy more of it? - this can came into my hands through a friend in North Carolina. They are yet to distribute their beers up here in Massachusetts. But, if I could buy it I'd probably go with their other canned offering first. (966 characters)

Photo of siradmiralnelson
3.53/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured from 12oz can into Globe glass.

A. 2+ finger head. Golden brown color. Good retention. Thick lacing.

S. Malt, piney citrusy hops. Almost smells like pineapple. Some biscuity malt as it warms. Smells good although I would say it doesn't really smell like an ESB.

T. Taste is pretty much all sweet malt. Caramel malt. Not much hop taste or bitterness. A little bit of the hops come out as it warms.

M. Medium bodied. Pretty smooth. Fairly crisp.

D. Pretty drinkable beer. I think it is somewhat off style, but still good. (531 characters)

Photo of Vancer
3.3/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Good ol' can of frosty goodness. Poured out into a nice Maredsous tulip glass a deep amber with copper edges. Thin tan head.

Woody caramel in the aroma. Changes into a sweet malt with the wood resins kicking in at the finish. Tad harsh drinking brew, not as smooth as I would have liked in this brew, but still a fairly proper balance.

Overall, a decent ESB, and nice to see a canned version of it. But unless I need a can, I'll stick with the local (STL) versions. (467 characters)

Photo of jjayjaye
4.04/5  rDev +13.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

The appearance is on the lighter side of pale amber with a shallow loose white foam head that leaves negligible lacing behind. If your a fan of bitters you'll like this one. It's got the classic ultra buttery big rich caramel malt thing going on. The mouth feel is nicely carbonated, smooth yet on the lighter side of a medium bodied. The flavors mirror the sweetness from the nose and linger appropriately. A real nice drinker and very sessionable at 5.7% ABV. Big thanks to Pops for the opportunity! (501 characters)

Photo of kpoole25
3.1/5  rDev -13.2%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

12 oz can to glass. Orange-copper color, off-white head. Malty nose. Taste wise, it seems to hit the malt and mineral notes of English ESB, but the hops stick out as American style pale ale, it seemed to overpower the mix for me. Fairly drinkable but left thinking there are better alternatives. (295 characters)

Photo of BedetheVenerable
3.88/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Presentation: 12oz bright red can; craft beer in a can! This is one of my first forays into this territory!

Appearance: Nice, slightly hazy dark orange beer, capped with a thick, sticky white collar which soon fades to a thick film.

Smell: Nice mix of bready, freshly-milled grains and (English, perhaps?) hops. This is fairly clean, with not a ton going on, I'm wondering if they perhaps used an American ale yeast versus one from across the pond? As the beer warms, a bit more character emerges, however; now I'm getting some nice toasty/biscuity malt and just a hint of minerality.

Taste: The flavor's more in synch with what I was expecting from this ale; it's got some light, almost crisp, steely caramel malt flavors, supported by a nice light/moderate hop bitterness which is kind of earthy. Also just a hint of butteriness in the background. Not a ton going on, but nice, balanced, and quaffable.

Mouthfeel: On the light side of medium bodied

Drinkability: Pretty high.

Conclusion: Nothing crazy-incredible, but one of the best beers I've ever had out of a can, and a pretty good take on the style to boot. (1,122 characters)

Photo of nc41
3.3/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

I'm not a huge ESB fan but I like SKA products and it was worth a try. I hate breaking it down to the Nth degree, but this is a very solid English style ESB. Looks pretty good, malty nose more so than hops, nicely bitter without stepping up and out of class with the hops. Very drinkable at a sane ABV level, and enjoyable at gatherings where you don't want a mouth slam of hops, and perhaps have to drive and have 3-4 safely. This would make a great beach pool brew IMO. Not being an ESB man I wasn't sure how to rate it at much above average in any category, but I don't believe even beer snobs could really low rate this brew. My preference is for more hops so my prejudice probably shows, perhaps unfairly. (710 characters)

ESB Special Ale from Ska Brewing Co.
81 out of 100 based on 179 ratings.