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ESB Special Ale - Ska Brewing Co.

ESB Special AleESB Special Ale

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

309 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 309
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: 309 | Reviews: 173 | Show All Ratings:
Photo of atsprings

North Carolina

3.73/5  rDev +4.8%
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.

Serving type: can

03-08-2007 02:29:35 | More by atsprings
Photo of biking4beer


3.63/5  rDev +2%
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.

Serving type: can

11-18-2006 04:06:48 | More by biking4beer
Photo of BeerAmbassador


3.1/5  rDev -12.9%
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.

Serving type: can

07-10-2006 05:44:57 | More by BeerAmbassador
Photo of blackie


3.53/5  rDev -0.8%
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.

Serving type: can

01-22-2006 00:28:18 | More by blackie
Photo of pentathlete


3.48/5  rDev -2.2%
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.

Serving type: can

01-06-2006 02:48:00 | More by pentathlete
Photo of Zorro


3.53/5  rDev -0.8%
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.

Serving type: can

11-28-2005 01:29:39 | More by Zorro
Photo of benito


1.55/5  rDev -56.5%
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.

Serving type: can

11-27-2005 18:53:24 | More by benito
Photo of UnionMade


3.68/5  rDev +3.4%
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.

Serving type: can

10-18-2005 17:20:22 | More by UnionMade
Photo of goodbyeohio


4.1/5  rDev +15.2%
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!)

Serving type: can

09-07-2005 14:39:01 | More by goodbyeohio
Photo of russpowell


3.9/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Head drops off quickly, but nice prickly hop taste and malts curl around your tounge, Some citrus hint,but mostly tangy bitterness. Nice tan coloration; some cloudiness, Has a great finshI will happily take cans of this in to the woods & save some weight!

Serving type: can

08-13-2005 06:12:06 | More by russpowell
Photo of Gueuzedude


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

Pours a brilliantly clear red-copper color with a frothy light tan colored head. The aroma is light and spicy with notes of caramel and a bit of herbal/ citrusy hops. The taste is lightly sweet up front, and finishes with a mellow bitterness. This beer is quite light on the palate with a nice balance between a caramel grain note and a bit of spicy hops. As it warms and sits on my palate a hint of toasty malt character begins to develop. This beer is quite the quaffer, and is definitely a session type brew, though I would like to see a just a hint more hop character to balance the malt and a bit more fruity yeast character. Though this is certainly in line with a British Special Bitter.

Serving type: can

07-10-2005 01:51:36 | More by Gueuzedude
Photo of Wolfsdenbrew

New Mexico

3.95/5  rDev +11%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Wow, craft brews in cans...finally!

Nice clear light copper amber hue with a huge off white head, leaves lots of lacing behind.

Hints of sweet malts with caramel and just the slightest hop bouquet.

Very refreshing flavor, light to medium body, crisp and clean, sweet maltiness with a bit of fruitiness, and a nice hop presence to finish this off.

Carbonation level was a bit high for the style but nice for a summer canned beer, would probbly be wonderful in a cask. I will definitely stock up on these cans for the beach trip this summer.

Serving type: can

05-31-2005 18:51:31 | More by Wolfsdenbrew
Photo of Gusler


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

The disembarks the 12-ounce can a cloudless amber with a portly light tan head that is frothy in texture, after its eventual demise the lace forms an obfuscating sheet upon the glass. Nose is fresh fruit, sweet malt, crisp and clean with the start sweet and the malt profile adequate, the top is middling in feel. Finish is mildly acidic and the hops personable in their spiciness, aftertaste is quite dry and long lasting, a decent drinking beer and would make a fine session beer.

Serving type: can

03-19-2005 00:03:21 | More by Gusler
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 Beerandraiderfan


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

A little darker than most esb's I've had this one came in a hybrid orange and dark amber. Caramel and a tiny amount of hops in the aroma.

Taste, pretty good, some bitter and hops, really couldn't differentiate this between an esp and a pale ale. Citrus hop, pale and caramel malt flavor, seems like a pale to me. Very well carbonated. A decent brew, nothing groundbreaking, maybe not dry enough to be a true esb, but I've always found esb's to be like pales with less hops.

Serving type: on-tap

04-28-2011 18:56:15 | More by Beerandraiderfan
Photo of JMad


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

I poured a 12 oz can into a tulip glass (it was the only clean one I had)...

The beer was a copper color with a thin off-white, soapy looking head. It smells a bit sour with hints of lemon and caramel. The taste has a lemony bitterness up front followed by a sweetness that is washed over by a biscuit flavor. There is a pleasant lingering bitterness in the aftertaste. It feels a little watery, the carbonation's ok and the finish is dry. This is an easy drinking beer with lots of flavor. I enjoyed it and would drink it again, it's well balanced and very drinkable.

Serving type: bottle

04-03-2011 03:57:45 | More by JMad
Photo of LittleDon


4.22/5  rDev +18.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

A pint served at Lady Falconburghs's in Durango.

Golden to slightly amber in color. Dense head with good retention and lacing. Aroma is lightly toasted bread with some lactose sweetness. Toasted grain front with light carbonation tingle. Maltly middle with bitter finish. Mouthfeel is a tad chewy, consistent with style. Very drinkable in anything but very hot weather.

Serving type: on-tap

08-21-2010 16:33:02 | More by LittleDon
Photo of rowew


3.8/5  rDev +6.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Presentation: 12 oz can, no date or abv.

Appearance: Orange with a hint of brown, lighter than I expected for an ESB. Average head and retention.

Smell: Fairly subdued - bready malt, just a bit of spicy hops.

Taste: Nice amount of hop flavor, with some malt sweetness to balance it out. very drinkable.

Overall impression: This is a nice camping beer - plenty drinkable, available in cans, but enough flavor to keep it from being boring.

Serving type: bottle

08-27-2009 00:08:45 | More by rowew
Photo of bfields4


4/5  rDev +12.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Large frothy head slowly fades to a lace above a crystal clear amber body.

Pale malty with light fruity and flowery flavors. Nothing too ostentatious.

Malt stays on balance with the nice pale sweetness to complement the fruity yeast qualities and a light floral hops.

Very balanced and drinkable great session beer. Nothing that will blow the beer world away, but a classic stand by that will appeal to everyone.

Serving type: bottle

08-25-2009 04:16:47 | More by bfields4
Photo of mothman

United Kingdom (Wales)

3.2/5  rDev -10.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Poured into Sam Smith Pint Glass

Pours ½ finger of creamy white head. Color is a slight hazyed golden orange. Decent head retention, leaving some nice lace rings.

Aroma: Caramel and bready malts. Some dull hops are present as well. This reminds me a lot of a pale ale. Nothing special going on here.

Taste: I get a lot more hop bite here than I was expecting. Caramel malts and some citrus zest here. Now, it is reminding me more and more of a pale ale.

Mouthfeel: Some bitterness, but fairly smooth. Medium bodied with a well amount of carbonation. Ends with bready malt aftertaste, very dry.

Overall, not a very big fan of this esp. Reminded me more of a pale ale. Not something I would buy on a regular basis, but not something I would completely ignore.

Serving type: bottle

08-12-2009 01:51:07 | More by mothman
Photo of pokesbeerdude


3.9/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Picked up a six pack at a liquor store in Steamboat, CO, around $7.

A: Hazy copper color, aggressive pour yielded a thick rocky head about, two inches thick. Huge clumps of lacing all around the glass.

S: A little light in the nose, a faint hint of pale malt, and a few spicy hop notes. Nothing really else going on here.

T: Nice malt bill, roasted, earthy hop characteristic, really a balanced beer, hints of caramel, and a little bitterness towards the end. Nothing overwhelming, but a tasty beer none the less.

M: Smooth, and creamy, a faint lingering bitterness, but this goes down smooth.

D: A good beer to drink a few of, nice flavors, and not overwhelming. Good beer all around. I enjoy it more out of the can than pouring it into a glass though. I'd recommend it.

Serving type: bottle

02-01-2009 21:19:30 | More by pokesbeerdude
Photo of rtratzlaff

North Carolina

4.1/5  rDev +15.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

An unfiltered amber body with steady carbonation flowing to support a slightly off white head comprised of very small bubbles. It has a nice look in the tulip glass.

Smells are caramel malt with some slight hop character.

Taste is pretty sweet with caramel, fruit, and a mineral like quality to the hop flavors that cleans things up from the malt and leaves one ready for the next sip.

Mouthfeel is light side of medium with carbonation also on the light side.

Serving type: bottle

07-17-2008 18:58:40 | More by rtratzlaff
Photo of Crosling


3.9/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4.5

Light copper.


Juicy and Fruity aroma with notes of flowers, medicine, toasted bread and melon.

This is a pleasant ESB.

Very fruity and well balanced with notes of caramel, herbs and flowers. Nice malt backbone and a nice hop selection.

I like this one.

Serving type: bottle

06-05-2004 05:38:58 | More by Crosling
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ESB Special Ale from Ska Brewing Co.
81 out of 100 based on 309 ratings.