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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 mikereaser


3.03/5  rDev -14.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

A - Pours an amber color with a good 2 inches of foam that quickly faded leaving a little bit of lacing but not much down the glass
S - faint pine hops and caramel malt, but not alot in terms of aroma
T - caramel malts with a piney hop bitterness in the middle, almost a burnt aftertaste to it that leaves me not wanting more, finishing with a bit of a lemon and orange but not very noticable
M/D - light to medium bodied with some nice carbonation. Its still not the most exciting flavor and the burnt taste just makes this one hard to finish. Overall an ok beer but not one i'll search out.

Serving type: can

01-21-2011 05:27:29 | More by mikereaser
Photo of alli4051


3.63/5  rDev +2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12oz can into a SA perfect pint.

Pours dark burnt orange with a slightly off-white head. Head is average sized but dissipates slowly and leaves some chunky lacing. Scent, honestly, there's not a whole lot there, some murky malts but that's all I'm getting. Taste is nicely balanced, pleasantly subtle is how I would describe it. Earthy malt profile with some nice citrusy hop tones up front. On the light side of medium with a clean finish. ESB was a style I never understood, and then it clicked today as to what exactly it was supposed to be and I felt stupid. With my new found understanding of the style this seems to be a good example. Goes down easy and I'm happy to keep throwing them back. Got this in a variety pack and definitely could have gone for more than the four that were in there.

Serving type: can

01-16-2011 06:24:55 | More by alli4051
Photo of jeffaz02t


3.33/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

A: Amber, with an off-white head. Head poured thick, bit dissipated quickly into about a quarter inch of lace. Glass was very clean, but very little lacing.

S: a little pine from hops, and caramel. I have noticed that a lot of their brews have a similar vibe in the malt profile. This is a good thing as it is pretty tasty and provides a good contrast to the hops.

T: The hops come across right away, though not nearly as strong as the smell might suggest. This fades into a caramel sweetness and then into a copper/penny type of aftertaste.

M: On the thin end of medium. Thought it would be a little fuller.

D: Could drink many due to its relative thinness for its style.

Notes: Would buy again in a single can, not in a 6er. Not bad, but not in my top picks in its style.

Serving type: can

12-24-2010 16:51:29 | More by jeffaz02t
Photo of Ego

New Jersey

3.88/5  rDev +9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

picked up some down in the obx...

2 fingers of slightly off white foam, caramel/burnt orange hue, carbonation is active, head retention is good... lacing is spotty, pretty nice looking, you'd bang her... but you're not sure you would date her long term.

almost a little of that euro-heineken stank to it, brown herbal hops, the malt is there but is a touch less sweeter than I expect from this style, some old orange rind smell in there also. interesting but nothing to woo me or boo me.

taste etc...
Fuller's ESB was one of my first loves, and many times I am disappointed by what american brewers do to this style, usually they go over the hop top (while I love mad hops this is not the style to hammer imo), this is an exception, this is an extremely friendly beer for session-ing, it is light without being watery, it has that buttery/caramel hop finish with just some bitterness much like it's english counterparts, this really drinks easy.

if this was on tap at the local pub I would have it, it isn't the greatest beer in the world but man sitting around shootin the shite drinking this and BSing with buds ? this works.

Serving type: can

12-14-2010 03:31:26 | More by Ego
Photo of Lemke10


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

I bought a single can of this from Woodman's in North Aurora, IL for $1.50 in Fall 2010.

Pours a golden amber color as the scent of hops erupt from pouring into a chilled pint glass. Drinking past the decent head there is a semi-mild bitter taste to it. No where near as bitter as an IPA however. A nice hoppy taste that makes this beer fairly decent.

Serving type: can

12-11-2010 06:26:15 | More by Lemke10
Photo of thagr81us

South Carolina

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

Thanks to tr4nc3d for this one as an extra in a past trade. Served from can into a Dogfish Head Signature glass. Poured hazy yellow orange with a minimal white head. Maintained excellent lacing throughout the glass. The aroma was comprised of sweet malt, hops, and a slightly nutty note. The flavor was of only sweet malt and hops. It had a light feel on the palate with mild carbonation. Overall this was a pretty nice ESB. Had a very well balanced flavor and nice aroma. However I feel the flavor and aroma was a little simple and not very complex. If there would have been more complexity to this one it could have been something quite special. Still a nice brew that I am glad I got the opportunity to try.

Serving type: can

11-09-2010 13:06:32 | More by thagr81us
Photo of birchstick


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

A - pours a clear copper color with a billowing white head

S - smells of piney hops and loads of caramel hops. Spot on for the style with a little more hop presence than normal

T - Some caramel and bready malts are followed by a piney hoppy bitterness. I was hoping the smell would translate to the palette a little better (this is way more malt than hop forward), but oh well - this is still very good.

M - big and full and goes down smoothly...nice

D - this is a pretty good ESB. I don't know if I would particularly seek this one out, but I know I will buy it again at some point.

Serving type: can

10-27-2010 00:45:25 | More by birchstick
Photo of dirtylou


3.33/5  rDev -6.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12oz can, mixed 12 pack from Binny's in Schaumburg

appearance: another great pour from a Ska can into an imperial pint - cloudy copper body, fluffy full white head with strong retention

smell: fresh cut flowers, toasted grain, light hops, lemon zest

taste: kind of a flat flavor profile - flowers, sweet malts, grain, lemon, taffy.

mouthfeel: a little dry, medium-light

drinkability: fine

Serving type: can

10-10-2010 23:43:21 | More by dirtylou
Photo of Bizz88


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

This "Four Corners" brew poured a clear medium amber from a 12oz can with a two fingered off white head with some light lacing. Aromas of malt and grains with a touch of hops. A malty citrus on the palette with a bitter metallic finish, good carbonation in a medium body that paired well with a smoked trout pate on whole wheat toast. Yeah right! Decent enuf brew for more than one.

Serving type: can

10-07-2010 18:09:15 | More by Bizz88
Photo of SanDiegoBeerLove


3.5/5  rDev -1.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

12oz can with 1/20/2011 Best Buy date.

A - Amber/Brown color with about an inch of Head that fades leaving a light film.

S - Smell of Caramel, Roses, Lemon, Grass, and much more like Champagne than an ESB.

T - Tastes of dried fruits, Grapefruit, Celery, and Bourbon as it warms up. It tastes more like an Amber but less malty.

M - Medium body, good carbonation, and crisp mouthfeel.

D - A good drinkable beer and glad it is in cans. Good Pairing with saltier foods.

Serving type: can

09-26-2010 22:33:10 | More by SanDiegoBeerLove
Photo of eclaycamp


3.4/5  rDev -4.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Having come away thoroughly impressed with Ska's Modus Hoperandi, I figured I'd try out what I can only assume is their flagship beer in the ESB Special Ale. I appreciate that Ska cans their beers, as I think it's one of the next big trends in craft brewing.

Pours a light caramel color with a crowing head and good clarity. Medium to lightly carbonated. Grainy smell with a mild earthiness. Reminds me of crunchy snack food, like corn nuts or sunflower seeds. Some light lemony hop character is also present in the aroma. Mouthfeel is lightly carbonated and slightly watery. Makes the beer very easy to drink. Taste is primarily toffee malt with some hop bitterness finishing the whole thing. The body of the beer doesn't stand up to the flavor profile. You start drinking the beer and there's this big time rush of malt, but everything sort of caves in on itself and you're left with hop bitterness and not much else. Has a weird sort of mineral and metallic finish.

While this isn't the most mind-blowing ESB I've ever had, it's certainly serviceable and gets bonus points for being canned. If you're determined to try one of Ska's beers, I'd point you towards the Modus Hoperandi, though you could certainly do worse than this beer. It won't blow your socks off by any stretch of the imagination, but it's a serviceable entry into the ESB category.

Serving type: can

09-06-2010 23:13:25 | More by eclaycamp
Photo of tone77


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

Thanks to woodychandler for the trade.Poured from a 12 oz. can. Has a caramel color with a 1/2 inch head. Smell is of hops and grains. Taste is a good balance of malts and hops, some grains. Feels medium bodied in the mouth and has good drinkability. Overall this makes for a good quality beer.

Serving type: can

09-02-2010 14:11:07 | More by tone77
Photo of beer2day

North Carolina

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

Orange pour with thin large bubbled carbonation. Thick, light cream 1.5-finger head. Nice retention and thick, but sparse, clouds of lace.

Malty nose with bread and yeast. Slight orange citrus trace sneaks through.

More malt than bitter here. Bread and light orange marmalade combine for a flavorful glass. Not much in the way of bitters, but very mindful of the English style.

Feel is appropriate, slightly chewy.

Very, very easy to drink.

Serving type: can

08-21-2010 01:42:52 | More by beer2day
Photo of Rayek


3.73/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured into a Nonic.

A: Medium amber with nice clarity and mild carbonation. A dense eggshell head slowly settles to a pillow of foam. Leaves a fair amount of lace.

S: The beer's strong suit. Sweet biscuits and black tea do most of the work. A light amount of diacetyl comes across as being about right for this style.

T: A toasted bread flavor starts things out. A well balanced pepper and black tea bitterness comes on quickly. The beer gets metallic late and finishes with lingering pepper and tea flavors.

M: The medium-light body is slightly dry and slightly over-carbonated.

D: This is a nice beer overall. Not the best ESB out there, but a very easy drinking beer that was quite refreshing after a long mountain hike.

Serving type: can

08-19-2010 04:53:37 | More by Rayek
Photo of Tone


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

Pours a clear, copper color. 3/4 inch head of an off-white color. Good retention and good lacing. Smells of pale malt, pale hops, citrus hops, slight sweet malt, hint of wheat, and hint of spice. Fits the style of an Extra Special / Strong Bitter. Mouth feel is smooth and crisp, with an average carbonation level. Tastes of pale hops, citrus hops, sweet malt, pale malt, and hint of wheat. Overall, good complexity and blend.

Serving type: can

08-17-2010 14:27:59 | More by Tone
Photo of Mora2000


3.68/5  rDev +3.4%
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.

Serving type: can

08-16-2010 23:07:59 | More by Mora2000
Photo of Halcyondays


3.75/5  rDev +5.3%
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.

Serving type: can

08-04-2010 02:39:21 | More by Halcyondays
Photo of morimech


3.28/5  rDev -7.9%
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.

Serving type: can

07-18-2010 18:43:38 | More by morimech
Photo of wnh


4/5  rDev +12.4%
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.

Serving type: can

07-11-2010 19:11:27 | More by wnh
Photo of Greencoat


2.17/5  rDev -39%
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.

Serving type: can

06-29-2010 00:27:59 | More by Greencoat
Photo of tempest


3.43/5  rDev -3.7%
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.

Serving type: can

06-25-2010 01:08:41 | More by tempest
Photo of MenloBeer


3.63/5  rDev +2%
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

Serving type: can

06-08-2010 03:12:15 | More by MenloBeer
Photo of JoEBoBpr


4/5  rDev +12.4%
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.

Serving type: can

06-07-2010 00:09:46 | More by JoEBoBpr
Photo of Bierguy5


3.88/5  rDev +9%
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.

Serving type: can

05-31-2010 18:08:59 | More by Bierguy5
Photo of emmasdad


3.05/5  rDev -14.3%
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.

Serving type: can

05-25-2010 23:12:49 | More by emmasdad
ESB Special Ale from Ska Brewing Co.
81 out of 100 based on 309 ratings.