McNeill's Extra Special Bitter | McNeill's Brewery

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McNeill's Extra Special BitterMcNeill's Extra Special Bitter

Brewed by:
McNeill's Brewery
Vermont, United States

Style: 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

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Reviews: 93 | Ratings: 118
Photo of Sammy
3.6/5  rDev -5.3%
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 metter98
3.75/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

A: The beer is clear yellow in color and poured with a finger high white head that died down but consistently left a thin layer of bubbles covering the surface.
S: There are light aromas of citrus and pine resin hops in the nose.
T: The overall taste has a light to moderate amount of bitterness with flavors of citrus from the hops.
M: It feels medium-bodied on the palate and has a moderate to high amount of carbonation.
O: The beer is well balanced and easy to drink.

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Photo of oberon
3.58/5  rDev -5.8%
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 TheManiacalOne
4.25/5  rDev +11.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 22oz bottle into a mug glass.

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

S: The aroma is of grassy hops, honey, citrus, and caramelized malts.

T: The taste is very well-balanced with a strong but not overpowering hops bitterness that complimented nicely by mild flavors of citrus and caramel. The malt character is hearty but not too heavy. The after-taste is slightly bitter.

M: Smooth and very crisp, medium body, medium carbonation, finish is clean and dry.

D: Tasty, goes down easily, not too filling, decent kick, nice representation of style, this very good milder beer with a lot of substance and is worth drinking for a long time.

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Photo of smcolw
4.29/5  rDev +12.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Gorgeous head, nice lace. Orange-amber in color. The negative here is the amount of suspended solid particles in the beer--unusual. Big points for the former; lost points for the latter.

Sweet and bitter in aroma. It's unusual to have this sort of complexity in the nose. The hop is very flowery; the malt is very rich.

This is very highly hopped. The malt is the vehicle to deliver the hop bitterness. Frankly, this is more bitter than the average American IPA--not that I'm complaining.

The flavor is strongly hop--again, very close to an IPA. Looking past the bitterness, the malt is very dry, subtle and easily overlooked. The body is like skim milk and the carbonation is slightly high.

This is a powerful ESB. If you imagine IPA, you'll enjoy this beer. If you prefer ales closer to a mild, this will overwhelm. As a hophead, I enjoy this one very much. There are many interesting qualities that require subtle observance. You may bow your head in prayer now.

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Photo of mikesgroove
4.5/5  rDev +18.4%
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 GarthDanielson
3.83/5  rDev +0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a bomber into a pint glass, the beer pours a slightly hazy, darker orange-brown color, with an unfiltered feel, with a huge, chunky, light, foamy head that starts at a huge profile (about three inches), and slowly settles into a managable inch and a half. Aroma is a tangy sugar malt, with a rich spicing and a slight hopping. The flavor is well blended and balanced, but light. There are mildy sweet overtones of darker fruits (plums, grapes), with an almost wine-like feel. There is the slightest hint of citrus, with a coriander spicing and the slightest dash of dry hops. The beer clings strongly to the glass, and the beer remains a constant medium build throughout. The aftertaste is tangy and citrusy, with a dark sweet undertone and the lightest kick of hops bitterness. The finish is slick and slightly drying, with an oily feel to it, also.

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Photo of tempest
2.55/5  rDev -32.9%
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 WesWes
3.72/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

The beer pours a hazy amber/orange color with a thick frothy off-white head that slowly fades to lacing. The aroma is good. It has a nice pale and crystal malt scent along with nice hop aroma that floral with some grassy notes. The taste is decent. It has a light, pale and crystal malt flavor; dry with a touch of caramel sweetness. The hop character is quite good. It has a refreshing floral character that compliments the simple malt bill. The mouthfeel is decent as well. It is a low bodied beer with adequate carbonation. This is a very drinkable ESB. It's light and refreshing with good hop character.

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Photo of plaid75
3.91/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured a deep hazy copper hue with a huge three to four finger foamy off white head. There was very good retention and good lacing.

The smell featured a spicy hop and a husky grain and some caramel.

The taste was upfront herbal hops with a good spiciness. There was a moderate malt and a biscuity element toward the finish.

The mouthfeel was of average fullness for the style.

Overall a tasty and relatively authentic ESB. Unfiltered and bottle conditioned.

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Photo of puboflyons
3.88/5  rDev +2.1%
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 Jwale73
4.03/5  rDev +6.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22oz. brown bomber served in a Spiegelau nonic. Best before last day of November notched on the label. Pours a semi-hazy orange-copper with a dense, one inch, frothy, cream-colored head embedded with pinpricks. Head slowly recedes, revealing concentric rings of lacing and a thin, consistent cap. Nose reveals earthy, resinous hops and toasted notes. Taste expresses a medicinal quality, as well as some of the toasted notes detected in the nose, some citric acid and the merest suggestion of light, fruity esters. Mouthfeel is medium/light in consistency with a carbonation level that is very lively without being prickly; finish is somewhat dry. Refreshing and quite drinkable. Definitely one of my favorite examples of the style. That said, the freshness of this brew is a major factor in its enjoyability. I reviewed an undated bottle back in 2009 before McNeill's beers hit major distribution and found this bottle far superior. well worth your time if you have the opportunity to sample a fresh bottle or a tap or cask offering.

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Photo of claspada
3.19/5  rDev -16.1%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2 | overall: 3

Pours a somewhat hazed burnt orange with a lage fluffy white head that held clinging to the glass that never really settled. Really overcarbonated to be honest, especially for an English style beer that are typically served on cask.

Aromas begin with light caramel and some toasted bread in the nose, light fruity yeast smells as well.

The tastes begin with light yeasty fruit with some caramel sweetness. It has a light, pale and crystal malt flavor; dry with a touch of caramel sweetness. The hop character is quite good. It has a refreshing floral character that compliments the simple malt bill.

Mouthfeel is affected by the over-carbonation here once again. Too bubbly and lively for the style. I would much rather have a still ESB than one this heavily carbonated.

Overall I had heard good things about this beer but the unbalanced mouthfeel and uninspired flavor profile just didn't do it for me. I like more toasted bready malts and earthy hops with gentle carbonation, where this was more cracker malty and citrus/floral hopped. Too much of an American "interpretation" for my liking.

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Photo of lordofthewiens
3.95/5  rDev +3.9%
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 Gusler
4.12/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Lightly murky deep amber to copper color on the pour, the head cyclopean in size, frothy in texture with the lace so sadly left behind fine clinging sheets. Floral hints up front, malt and quite lemon peel fresh and crisp, a real schnozzle pleaser. Pleasing in its malt sweetness at the start, top middling in feel, finish is spicily hopped, big time carbonation with the aftertaste droughty. "Quaffable", I do like a nice ESB, and this one I "Likes" a lot.

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Photo of Durge
3.91/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A very cloudy amber color with an amazingly big, thick, near oatmeal colored head and gobs of lacing. The aroma suggests mildly tart apple and slightly caramel yeast. Fairly tame but doesn’t hurt anything. The flavor jumps out with a nice big bite of lemony hop and sweet tea, yeast and peppery rye bread. This is an interesting blend and particularly impressive as a cask. You can tell this is a tried and true brew though it’s my first meeting. It’s perfectly “carbonated” (though it’s a cask ale) with a fine tingly feel with a thinly medium body that hints at glassiness except for the liveliness within. It’s very drinkable and keeps the taste buds interested throughout with a tart apple/citrus bite that blends so nicely with the grainy nuances. This is highly recommended if you make it to McNeill’s.

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Photo of Gmann
3.5/5  rDev -7.9%
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 francisweizen
4.33/5  rDev +13.9%
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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Photo of Bierman9
3.71/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Outstanding look to this baby.... Lovely amber color, and a HUGE, frothy head! Unreal! Head lasted all day, and left great lacing. Good hop hit in the nose, very grapefruity and pleasant. It felt fairly smooth on the tongue, but lacked a bit in the body department. Decent overall flavors....some malt to start, but mostly a grapefruit flavor, which lingers a while. Fairly straight-laced... not bad....

overall: 3.9
appearance: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | mouthfeel: 3.5 | drinkability: 3.5


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Photo of Reagan1984
2.66/5  rDev -30%
look: 3.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Replacing a lost review from the data crash...

Sorry it won't be as detailed. Just the highlights.

Visual - Orange/Amber Good Clarity, no visible carbonation. Fairly aggressive, creamy head. Nice Lacing

Aroma - Somewhat floral. Lemon/Citrus Toasted Malts.

Flavor - Much more lemon citrus than I had imagined. Light toasted malts, bread. Slight yeast tone.

MF - Medium/light Body. Mild carbonation.

Drinkability - Hop profile/Lemon nature diminishes drinkability a bit.

Not sure I'd visit this beer again.

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Photo of LilBeerDoctor
3.06/5  rDev -19.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Bottle. Pours a clear orange with a HUGE foamy white head. Aroma of sweet light malts, floral hops. Flavor is sweet and puckering up front with a fruity (like fruit punch) finish. Slightly astringent with malty cereal graininess. I'm not really a fan of the McNeills house flavor, which seems to be present in all their beers. This isn't too bad, but it isn't too good either.

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Photo of Flounder57
3.53/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

I finally had the chance to purchase this bomber at Atlas in Quincy. I poured the beer into an English style pint glass.

Appearance: The beer is an copper/dark amber color. The two fingerthick foamy head is formed and goes down to a small head. This will lead to a considerable amount of lacing. There is also a little bit of carbonation towards the top of the glass.

Smell: There is a sweet malty scent with some hints of citrus and toast.

Taste: Malty, citrusy, and a bit of bitterness.

Mouthfeel: There is definitely some nice carbonation that tingles throughout my whole mouthm and the beer goes down smoothly.

Drinkability: This is an easy drinking beer. I could have another, but couldn't see myself drinking a sixer of these if they were available. Very decent beer to add to my list.

Overall, I was very pleasantly suprised by this brew being that its my first from mcneils. I would buy this beer along with my other bitter IPA's. I good compliment to the mixture of beers I purchase every once in a while.

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Photo of UncleJimbo
4.15/5  rDev +9.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

22 oz bomber, purchased at the brewpub.

This ESB poured a hazy, amber color with creamy, white foam that settled to a thin coat which clung and left some lace on the glass. The smell was malty with a hint of yeast. The taste was malty with a dry maltiness. There was a touch of yeast flavor and a very modest hop bitterness blended in. The mouthfeel was dry and malty with medium body and modest carbonation. The malt and hops lingered in the finish. This was a very smooth and easy-drinking ESB.

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Photo of merlin48
3.34/5  rDev -12.1%
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 msubulldog25
3.91/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to Pamola, this 22 oz. bottle came westward to Oregon. Emptied to a regular ol' pint glass.

A: Wow, a gargantuan tower of creamy khaki-colored foam - broad bubbles, rocky fluff, speckled lace. Lots of carbonation, many vigorous streams cutting through a lightly hax]zy copper-orange ale.

S: Has the aroma of a fairly average Pale Ale: sweet caramle, good citrus fruit, herbal hops.

T: A bounty of citrus (orange, grapefruit) and a heavy dose of herbal/green hops. Packed full of flavor, the juicy orange and green hops burst from the glass.

M: Generally smooth. Medium mouthfeel that grows bigger, transcending a mere 5.5% abv. Really seems heavier/weightier than the moderate ABV listing lets on.

D: Likable, easy enough to drink. A good ESB that captures the balance that should be a goal of those attempting the style...certainly worthy of a try.

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McNeill's Extra Special Bitter from McNeill's Brewery
3.8 out of 5 based on 118 ratings.
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