McNeill's Extra Special Bitter | McNeill's Brewery

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McNeill's Extra Special BitterMcNeill's Extra Special Bitter
Very Good
118 Ratings
McNeill's Extra Special BitterMcNeill's Extra Special Bitter

Brewed by:
McNeill's Brewery
Vermont, United States

Style: English Extra Special / Strong Bitter (ESB)

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 5.50%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
No notes at this time.

Added by Bierman9 on 09-03-2001

User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 118 |  Reviews: 94
Reviews by francisweizen:
Photo of francisweizen
4.33/5  rDev +14.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Fresh from the brewery bomber. A grainy biege/tan appearance with an off-white head. The aroma screams fresh biscuity malts, and lovely floral hops from the English countryside. The taste is a nice biscuity malt bonanza up front, with some herbal/floral hops in the middle and a nice boozy flash of spiciness in the finish. The mouthfeel is quite heavy...yet creamy and smooth. The drinkability is excellent as well. One of the best US versions of this style....this one is done right.

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More User Reviews:
Photo of oberon
3.58/5  rDev -5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Poured into a imperial pint glass a somewhat hazed burnt orange with a lage fluffy white head that held clinging to the glass,and never really settled.Light caramel and some toasted bread in the nose,light fruity malt lingered.Fruity on the palate with some caramel sweetness,another ESB that is light in the hops.I like a good ESB,but I like one with a hop profile,this just doesnt have enough of one for me.

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Photo of lordofthewiens
3.95/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

22oz bottle poured in a pint glass. Hazy amber color, thick white head with plenty of lacing. Strong floral aroma, a little bit of caramel. Pretty hoppy taste. The little bit of caramel in the aroma disappeared, leaving just the hops bitterness. Still, not too bad a beer.

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Photo of merlin48
3.34/5  rDev -11.9%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Bomber pours a dirty looking golden brown body with a small beige head. Lots of suspended particles in the body and sediment in the bottom of the glass. Wispy lacing caps an appearance that is lacking for an ESB.

Aroma has floral and spicy hops, backed by bready notes of toasted caramel.

Medium body and carbonation.

Taste is nicely balanced. Spicy and floral hop bitterness all the way through. Toasty caramel and some toffee offer a solid malty balance. A bit hoppy for the style.

Decent ESB, but not one I would want again. I've tried several McNeill's bombers that have been on the shelves of Knoxville's finer beer stores but just haven't been overly impressed.

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Photo of fdrich29
3.72/5  rDev -1.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

This is my first review in almost a year. Amazing how little time for reviewing there is when you work three jobs and planning are planning a wedding. Well I'm down to two jobs and the wedding and honeymoon have come and gone, so here we go.

I love this head. Thick and creamy like a rootbeer float. Head doesn't seem to be going anywhere. Golden amber body wrought with floaty yeasty goodness. (stops to take off sweatshirt).

Smell is yeasty-bready with some hoppiness. Tastes much the same, with some hints of pine. After another sip it seems to be more than just a hint of the pine.

A relatively smooth beer. Goes down easy and is quite tasty. Not one of my prefered styles, but I'd love to get my hands on this from a tap. I could see myself enjoying several at a nice, small, dark pub. Definitely worth a try.

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Photo of rastaman
3.97/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Oooooh yeah. Really liked this. Rich and citric floral hoppyness, some caramelly malt. Bitter, citric finish, quite hoppy, i wish i'd had more of this one, really lovely soft mouthfeel aswell. I also wish i could read the last word i wrote in my notes, but i can't, sorry. (Cask -GBBF 03')

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Photo of guyforget
4.3/5  rDev +13.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

22oz bottle, poured into weizen glass

appearance - cloudy copper, some sediment. thick, puffy head, takes a while to subside. lacing with each sip.

smell - citrus, pine. plenty of aroma coming from the thick head.

taste - citrus, hops, resiny. slight caramel up front gets cut by the lingering bitterness pretty quickly.

mouthfeel - fizzy, lots of carbonation as evidenced by the abundant head. slightly oily finish.

drinkability - very drinkable, not as bitter as the name would imply, at least not as bitter as i was expecting. would drink again.

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Photo of NJpadreFan
3.88/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

McNeill's- ESB

A- Light copper brown/ caramel orange with a good thick billowy white head. Bottle overflowed upon opening. Nice thick sea foamy lacing.
S- Sweet dry cereal grains, Light butter and caramel note with a dry grassy hop finish.
T- Light smooth caramel malts with hints of dry cracked grains. Dry brittle grassy hops have a sweet buttery touch.
M- Smooth light maltiness with a earthy grassy dry feel and finish.

Overall- Easily enjoyable and drank the bomber without hesitation.

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Photo of GratefulBeerGuy
3.7/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

20 oz bomber

AP: A cloudy and thick bronze color with an all white medium size head that's bubbly and displays lasting retention.

Nose: A very aromatic sweet and leafy hop with some yeast and an olive-like sourness. clover honey, jasmine, minty hops and caramel scotch candies.

Taste: A rather bitter, flowery and leafy hop bite at first then turns to a mildly sweet and sour effect not unlike an olive taste. There is also an earthy and herbal malted flavor with dry caramel malt, the hops flavor is unique and delivers decent balance.

MF: Medium body look and feel, lively but also slick from some left over malt which turns thick and substantial on the palate.

DA: a unique and complex ESB without getting too geeky.

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Photo of Sammy
3.6/5  rDev -5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours a nice peachy golden with some head. Significant English hop aroma.It was a nice bitter, grapefruity modified by carmel, with a bit of a background edge. More bitter than balanced. FIne drinking but not the best bitter I have tried.
Picked it up in August, but did not notice it expired in September, but I do not think that would make a significant impact.

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Photo of tempest
2.55/5  rDev -32.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 2 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 1

Picked up a bomber at Abe's Cold Beer for $4.25 and the label tells me this beer is best by the end of October. Seeing this, I assumed I'd have a fresh and tasty beer. This was not the case.

The initial aroma reminded me of Sam Adams Boston Lager for the mix of toffee and spicy hops. Unfortunately, there's a huge, earthy plastic flavor that ruins the beer. There's still a tasty hop finish with a mix of citrus and herbal notes, but the infection, or whatever is going wrong here, has ruined the beer. Drain pour.

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Photo of UncleFrank
3.26/5  rDev -14%
look: 3 | smell: 2 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Serving was a 22 oz bottle from the brewery.
The look is medium dark with a thin head. The aroma is wine like. Not hoppy, not malty, just some alcohol, which should not be there. The taste took my fears away though as a caramel and hops mixed and danced around and battled with the hops being victorious. But the mouthfeel was thinner than I would have liked. I could drink more of this, and will, but not as an ESB.

I must confess I was not impressed by this beer as much as I have been with others, or as much as others who have reviewed it. An ESB will often be estery and somewhat higher in alcohol, but not hugely so. ESB is the "Special occasion beer" It's the beer you serve at your daughter's wedding rather than the one you swill at the pub on the way home from work. A great example is Old Thumper. The McNeil's though, to me, is a pub beer. A very good pub beer, but not to the levels I expected from McNeil's.

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Photo of bewareOFpenguin
4/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bitter, indeed. After I uncapped it and poured into a pint glass, the head occupied 3/4 of the glass. This presented a "waiting" problem as I had to wait for it to settle. Nice darker color, and a great burst of hops. If I didn't see the label. I would have thought I was drinking a West Coast beer. Definitely a good beer.

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Photo of Gmann
3.5/5  rDev -7.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Pours a hazy honey brown color with a creamy tan head that settles into a solid cap. The aroma is of a floral hop with some honey and light caramel notes. The taste is sweet with honey and light caramel and some fruity flavors, which is followed by a floral and light citrus hop. Substantial bready malt. Quite hoppy for an ESB, almost like a dirty AIPA. Moderate to full body with tingly carbonation, not too strong. Finishes with a grassy bitterness. The ESB is good but I didn't find any particular quality great. There are no bad characteristics and this is well made but it didn't wow me.

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Photo of edchicma
4.14/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A bit too much sediment suspended in the pour...but smell made up for it...floral. hoppy...excellent. Taste was cirusy, hoppy and robust...left that great bitter aftertaste. Mouthfeel was dry and sharp....just what I was looking for. Easy on the drinkability side...mmmm I'm still tasting those hops!

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Photo of HonestWeightBeer
4.12/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

22 oz. bomber..

pours a hazy mix of red, orange, and brown tones. Plenty of yeast in the glass, topped with a loose frothy head that drops quickly. Aroma is floral and bitter hops and oils, followed by bready malts. The taste is all ESB, sweet malt backbone followed with a huge herbal/citric, and bitter hop flavor. Medium bodied, medium carbonation, this one is a joy to drink. patchy lacing sticks throughout..

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Photo of philipquarles
3.65/5  rDev -3.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

22oz bottle. Pours cloudy dark copper with a rocky, grey-tinged head that leaves nice lacing. Really interesting aroma with plenty of bubblegum and a lot of floral character. Definite hop presence, with a faint soapy notes that I find a lot in west-coast varietals. The same thing shows up in the taste, along with a crisp bitterness. Again, quite floral, and with some light fruit here. The hops are clearly at the center of this one. Kind of disappointed that there isn't much lightly toasty malt, as I expected to find. Light body. A decent beer, but it's not a very good portrayal of a typical ESB...the "bitter" is taken a bit too literally.

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Photo of OatmattStout
3.87/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Big fluffy head which was over the top. A bit to much priming sugar in this one or maybe poor storage during its travel.

Color was cloudy yellow burnt orange.

Nose was sweet malts with a nice hint of hop

taste was good very nice malt fruit sweetness and swear there is a slight Cinnamon undertone in this one. good juicy hops that are resinous in the after taste.

Well put together brew with very rustic flavor profile.

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Photo of puboflyons
3.88/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

From the 1 pint 6. fl. oz. bottle marked best before the last day of April. Samapled on December 27, 2009. It pours a good looking amber color with excellent clarity considering it is marketed as unfiltered. A frothy, creamy head tops the glass about three-quarters of an inch thick. There is a good amount of clinging lacing on the glass. The aroma is full of floral hops and rather enticing. It is mainly a bitter brew but it is also enhanced by a nice hoppy background. It was an enjoyable brew.

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Photo of Murph
4.13/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pours a nice dark copper with a creamy off white head that leaves huge rings all the way down the glass. Lovely sweet malt smell that is mixed with some citrusy hop aromas. Starts off with some nice rich malt sweetness. The malt flavor, however, soon gets mugged and left in the gutter by the very american hop profile of this brew. Aggressive citrusy, grapefruit hop flavors (cascade??) are strong in the finish and leave a lingering bitterness on the tongue. Creamy and crisp at the same time this brew is very drinkable. Too bitter for the style, but, style aside, this is one damn tasty bier. A hefty thanks to the Bierman for this one.

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Photo of scottg
4.13/5  rDev +9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Pulled from cask into a pint glass at the brewpub.

A clear medium amber color with a one finger white head with solid retention leaving lacing all the way down the glass. Citrus hoppy aromas of grapefruit and lemon with some caramel. Up front grapefruit taste lead to chocolate malt and biscuit middle with bitter chocolate and lemon rind finish. Medium body, light carbonation there is a chalky, mouth coating feel. This is one of those beers you could drink all night.

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Photo of MJR
4.33/5  rDev +14.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Purchased in Boston the weekend of the AoBF...

Appearance: Pours crystal clear with a reddish-amber color with a touch of copper on the edges. It's thick tan head has the consistency of freshly whipped cream and holds like a champ. Lacing decorates the glass like cobwebs in an attic that's been neglected for years...

Smell: The aroma is well balanced between the piney, fresh hops and caramelly, sweet malt. There's a hint of a crackery, bready character that only adds to the richness.

Taste: This brew is painfully close in flavor to Fuller's that's impressive! The flavor is rich with malty goodness that has caramel and toffee, breadiness, and a wonderful estery fruitiness. Bring it all into balance is a healthy dose of fresh English-variety hops. They're fruity and piney, with a slight hint of apricot. The finish is bitter, with a faintly minerally taste and a small swipe of alcohol.

Mouthfeel: Dry and crisp with a medium mouthfeel. The finish gets even drier with a touch of alcohol. Good stuff...

Drinkability: Damn good! While this is a very well done ESB that I could drink several of, it's amount of hops almost borders on being an English-style IPA. The alcohol on the finish makes me think it's a bit stronger than your average ESB, but it would still make a great session brew.

One random note: this brew's yeast sediment matches anything from Belgium! The yeast chunks are huge!

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Photo of u2carew
3.57/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

22oz Bomber consumed on 9/23/09.
A) Pours with a crazy active head - a bit out of control - definitely over-carbonated. The lacing creamy and sticky. Hazy. copper in color.
S) Floral. Orange. Light grapefruit.
T) Definitely bitter with a good balance of malty sweetness. Notes of orange and lemon. Earthy hop notes linger in the aftertaste.
M) Body is just shy of medium and feels a little thin. Fizzy.
D) A decent bitter but over carbonated. Waiting for the foam to settle is no fun.

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Photo of mikesgroove
4.5/5  rDev +18.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I was really, really suprised by this one to say the least. I recieved it as part of a BIF and decided to open it the other night as I was in need of a little hoppy relief. Much to my suprise this turned out to be one of the better of the style I can remember. Served cold and poured into a pint glass.

Brilliant pour, rich amber in color with a good bit of clarity to it. Big head of foamy white lace comes up and over the top nearly perfectly, cratering and sticking to the sides with a wonderful amount of foam. Lively carbonation streaming to the surface all the while. Huge lemon and rich citrus aroma. Pungent and hoppy, really very well put together. Warming brings a subtle balance, but again this was a big, bitter, esb. First sip is medium bodied, clean and crisp with a wonderfully balanced amount of carbonation. Superb balance here. Fresh, crisp notes of lemon and ornage peel undercut a light, but present buttery middle. Smooth, dry and long lasting finish leaves a touch of zest on the tongue and a yearning to go back for more.

Overall, wow. I was not expecting this one to be as good as it was. Simply blown away. I would have no issue with having this one again, in fact I may be on m way to seek it out. Damn fine beer here.

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Photo of sammy806
2.75/5  rDev -27.4%

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McNeill's Extra Special Bitter from McNeill's Brewery
Beer rating: 3.79 out of 5 with 118 ratings