McNeill's Extra Special Bitter | McNeill's Brewery

BA SCORE
85
very good
118 Ratings
THE BROS
-
no score
Send samples
McNeill's Extra Special BitterMcNeill's Extra Special Bitter
BEER INFO

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

BEER STATS
Ratings:
118
Reviews:
93
Avg:
3.8
pDev:
12.11%
 
 
Wants:
1
Gots:
4
For Trade:
0
User Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
firstprev| 51-75 | 76-100 | 101-125  | next → last
Ratings: 118 |  Reviews: 93
Photo of mydeadguy
4.12/5  rDev +8.4%
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..

 416 characters

Photo of Rastacouere
3.9/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Light bronze body, bottle-conditioned with tons of sediments. Light beige head, big and medium lasting. Very citrusy aroma: grapefruit, orange, peach, lemon) but also a great malt counterpart of molasses and toffee by masses.. Palate is also very citrusy with a very direct bitter bite, quite citric/tart like a mild grapefruit juice, lemony. Not quite up to the superb aroma in my opinion. Medium bodied with just the right carbonation. Quite an extreme rendition of the style which you can't help, but appreciate.

 515 characters

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.

 485 characters

Photo of rastaman
3.97/5  rDev +4.5%
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')

 289 characters

Photo of UncleFrank
3.26/5  rDev -14.2%
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.

 927 characters

Photo of PatandDavid
4.38/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Good stuff. Cloudy and like brewed tea in color. Faint bitter hoppy smell. The head disapated quickly, but still left me with nice lacing at the top of the glass.

Carbonation is very pleasant, feels like millions of tiny bubbles. Medium bodied, with a well rounded mouthfeel...no thin notes here, but not heavy either. Nice base of malt, the finish is dry and slightly hoppy.

This could turn into my new favorite style of beer. One gets a lovely aroma of hops. The taste is bursting with hop goodness, but not of the extreme, in your face style of over hopping. I would get this again, and again, and again. Pat

 617 characters

Photo of jcalabre
2.64/5  rDev -30.5%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Split this with herbjones at a mini southern california get together. This was a dissappointing brew. It's not an ESB. It's more like a west coast IPA. Hoppy, Hoppy, Hoppy. No Malts at all. It's hazy golden golored with a huge hop aroma. I'd rate it higher if it were supposed to be an IPA

 289 characters

Photo of MJR
4.33/5  rDev +13.9%
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 ESB...now 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!

 1,428 characters

Photo of TXHops
4.02/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

My second McNeill’s brew and now expectations are higher, since the Amber Ale was excellent! The ESB pours the color of strong iced tea with a creamy, sheeting head of foam. The same super-fruity aroma reminiscent of Juicy Fruit that I found in their Amber is in the ESB as well. I love that smell!! It’s an aroma I come across infrequently, but regularly in the craft beer world and I’m beginning to wonder if it’s a standard yeast bank yeast. It’s no Wyeast 1056—too much estery goodness…

On first sip, this ESB is the most Fullers-like of any ESB I’ve had and reminds me how annoyed I was that Redhook called the now “Amber” ESB for so many years…. The big caramelly malt flavor is readily available up front (though this offering is fresher than any transatlantic-shipped Fullers I’ve ever tried), followed a freshly-malty, bready roundness. This malt-accented (crystal, it seems) doppelganger even fades into the patented Fullers ESB bitterness—almost astringent, and then not. The best part of the beer is probably the split second between the caramel flavor and the bitterness when that fruitiness suggested in the nose briefly asserts itself before yielding to the bitterness of the hops.

Just as in the Firehouse Amber, I’m able to taste the flavor of the inside of a malted milk ball in the finish of this beer—you know, malt! Yeah, but it’s more than malt—it’s like a malted milk shake, or at least the actual malt powder used to malt up a milkshake. Actually, that’s it—it tastes like dried malt extract for a moment in the tail: very unusual, but not at all unpleasant.

Let me re-iterate: this is the most Fullers-esque ESB I’ve ever tried. Great attention to detail by the folks up in Brattleboro, Vermont. I’ll take a few possible points away for allowing the beer to be so bitter in the finish, and not that hoppy. The hops are definitely present, but the finish settles into a one-dimensional bitterness, just like McNeill’s Firehouse Amber. Personally, I’d prefer more hoppiness and less mouth-corner-lingering bitterness. Still, this was a tremendous ESB and have I mentioned that it tastes like Fullers? Just a little less caramelly…

 2,188 characters

Photo of purplehops
4.38/5  rDev +15.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

McNeill's ESB pours a hazy deep copper red with a light tan head that is volcanic and frothy. It doesn't really leave lace on the glass it leaves a coating on the glass. Aroma is a smack of floral hops followed by a big malt nose and a hint of citrus. Taste starts with assertive caramel and pale malt flavors and then a good dose of spicy and citrus hops. This is followed by apple, mace, and pear flavors blending with the sweet malt and citrus hop flavors. The finish is slightly dry while maintaining a great balance of malt sweetness and hop bitterness with citrus flavors. Aftertaste is a desire for more. A lingering citrus and pale malt blend with a wee bit of pucker. Mouthfeel is refreshingly bitter with a medium to medium-heavy body and all the carbonation you could ever want.
Overall a great bitter. Hoppy, malty, thirst quenching, and it taste great! What more could you want. One of Vermont's best.

 915 characters

Photo of marc77
4.39/5  rDev +15.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Hazy tawny bronze hue. Thin, soapy off white head manages loose lace. Dark caramel drizzled grapefruit upfront in aroma along with mellow hints of burnt biscuit and faint butterscotch. Fruitiness is mild and pleasant, being comprised of subtle ripe pear and red grape. Enticing and well rounded aromawise. A snap of toffeeish dark caramel sweetness in flavor is quickly superceded by assertive, lingering citrus pith like hop bitterness. Fruitiness, of a fructose rich dried date nature, accentuates the initially overshadowed caramel malt presence, lending balance mid palate. Mild diacetyl surfaces late along with judicious grainy whole wheat biscuit, lending an agreeable bread and butter contrast to the hop bitterness late. Moderately bodied, with the well calculated attenuation and usage of caramel malts facilitating a dextrinous smooth mouthfeel that assuages any hop astringency. Finishes with lingering hints of singed cracker and juicy citrus. A delicious ESB with a firm malt backbone and well hopped American flare. Please send some to Kansas.

 1,058 characters

Photo of scottum
4.68/5  rDev +23.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Pours a brown amber with a nice head. Bitter and hoppy. Nice breadlike malt balance. Better on cask, but the bottled version is damn fine. My favorite ESB. A very solid English Style Extra Special Bitter. Much better than Fullers. This one is actually bitter. Good mouthfeel. Makes ya want more and more.

 304 characters

Photo of bewareOFpenguin
4/5  rDev +5.3%
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.

 323 characters

Photo of paceyourself
4.23/5  rDev +11.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

The pour from my bomber produced hardly any head but the foggy amber color was enticing. Malty sweetness gets met by a strong citric bitterness. It has a dry finish and is a very drinkable ESB. A ton and i mean a ton of sediment from my last pour of the bomber surprised me. This was my first brew from McNeill's and now i can't wait for my next.

 346 characters

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.

 457 characters

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

309

 497 characters

Photo of Murph
4.13/5  rDev +8.7%
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.

 647 characters

Photo of John
4.4/5  rDev +15.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

What we have here my friends is one highly hopped ESB bordering on being an IPA. I'm not complaining mind you, in fact this stuff's right up my alley. Pleasantly balanced with the right touch of malt. I could down several of these with ease.

 241 characters

firstprev| 51-75 | 76-100 | 101-125  | next → last
McNeill's Extra Special Bitter from McNeill's Brewery
3.8 out of 5 based on 118 ratings.
  • About Us

    Founded in Boston in 1996, BeerAdvocate (BA) is your go-to resource for beer powered by an independent community of enthusiasts and professionals dedicated to supporting and promoting better beer.

    Learn More
  • Our Community

    Comprised of consumers and industry professionals, many of whom started as members of this site, our community is one of the oldest, largest, and most respected beer communities online.
  • Our Events

    Since 2003 we've hosted over 60 world-class beer festivals to bring awareness to independent brewers and educate attendees.
  • Our Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.