Lakefront Brewery: Organic ESB

by: BeerAdvocate on 04-18-2007
This week, we’re tasting an organic Extra Special Bitter (ESB), the sixth beer in our exploration of Lakefront Brewery’s variety eight-pack from Milwaukee, WI.

The ESB style hails from England. It’s essentially more aggressive and balanced than the standard bitters (somewhat hoppy light ales) of the UK, both in alcohol and hop character, but it’s not too overpowering. Carbonation is low, and the color range leans toward the darker end of the scale—dark gold to copper. Malts tend to be more pronounced, often toasty and fruity, with maybe some notes of diacetyl. And despite "bitter" being in its name, ESBs are not really all that bitter. The key to an ESB is balance.

Lakefront Brewery Organic ESBLakefront’s Organic ESB is made with organic malted barley (two-row, Munich and caramel) and organic German Perle hops—a spicy, sometimes minty variety. Organic beers are becoming increasingly popular, as more and more people are becoming aware of both health and ecological issues associated with conventional farming. That said, far too many organic brews tend to be boring and second-rate. Perhaps this is due to a lack of variety in organic ingredients available to brewers? We’ll save that discussion for another day. For now, let’s pour a glass and taste this one.

The Taste
The beer pours a hazy amber with red and brown hues, and yields large carbonation bubbles and a thick, tight, foamy head with some stick and retention. Citric aroma, grassy, with hints of lime and a soft, pale malt beneath. Fairly smooth and creamy on the palate, but a bit lackluster with a light carbonation scrub and watery yet even consistency. imageThe hops come in first: a thin, rind-like citric flavor with a faintly perceived saltiness, light herbal notes and a bitter, grassy bite. Malt character and sweetness is pretty bland, with a weak toasty note as the highlight. Finish is drying, with a lingering hop character and sourness that just doesn’t seem right.

Final Thoughts
Our least favorite out of the Lakefront eight-pack so far, and it appears that many reviewers on agree. This is a very weak offering. Unbalanced, out-of-place and overplayed hops, and no sign of a malty backbone—where’s the depth of malt character and sweetness? Definitely not an ESB. Not even close. This beer not only misleads consumers, but also is likely to leave a sour impression on those seeking an organic beer. Lakefront risks giving organics a bad name. Organic ESB is 5.42 percent alcohol by volume.

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